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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

States' Rights, Not Yours

Reading a Salon piece about why women have 2nd trimester abortions, this part really struck me:

The anti-choice movement’s attempts to cut off the supply of abortion is also all but guaranteed to make these women’s lives more difficult. The governors of Pennsylvania and Virginia, for example, are currently weighing prohibitive regulations on abortion clinics on medically irrelevant factors — based on the width of clinic hallways, for example — that would effectively shut down most of those states’ clinics. A similar law is being challenged in Kansas.

The assault on reproductive freedom is an insidious state phenomenon even more than what we've seen at the Federal level.  And that makes a great deal of sense.

Between our Founding and Civil War, slavery was an issue dealt with primarily state-by-state.  During Jim Crow, the cry of States' Rights was the justification for enshrined racist policies.

More recently, we've seen workers' rights attacked in Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana.  Even if DOMA were repealed today, the majority of states not only define marriage as one-man/one-woman, but have marriage equality bans in their constitutions.

Perhaps it's just my perception, but it has always seemed to me that people focus so much of their concern about tyranny on the Feds that they forget just how dangerous the States can be, even as they provide their own checks and balances on national government.  As Madison said when introducing the Bill of Rights during the First Congress:

The words, "No State shall pass any bill of attainder, ex post facto law," &c. were wise and proper restrictions in the constitution. I think there is more danger of those powers being abused by the State Governments than by the Government of the United States. The same may be said of other powers which they possess, if not controlled by the general principle, that laws are unconstitutional which infringe the rights of the community...it must be admitted, on all hands, that the State Governments are as liable to attack the invaluable privileges as the General Government is, and therefore ought to be as cautiously guarded against.

One hopes he was right several years earlier when writing Federalist 10:

The influence of factious leaders may kindle a flame within their particular States, but will be unable to spread a general conflagration through the other States...A rage for [any] improper or wicked project, will be less apt to pervade the whole body of the Union than a particular member of it; in the same proportion as such a malady is more likely to taint a particular county or district, than an entire State.

But if you have a well-coordinated operation like conservatives have for the past few decades, wherein they started by taking over school boards to influence the basic things our kids learn about civics, rights, and whatnot, control enough statehouses, etc, and yeah, then they can reach critical mass to degrade individual liberty.

I am cautiously optimistic that we can do the same thing to beat back the tide.  I think we've seen some successes lately on many fronts that we can build on.  There's a lot of work to do...


December 21, 2011 | Permalink


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