- The Washington Times - Monday, January 23, 2006

As pro-lifers hit Constitution Avenue yesterday for the 33rd annual March for Life, there were — and are — reasons for optimism. In time, President Bush’s prediction “We will prevail” from Manhattan, Kan., yesterday could be right, if current political winds are any indication.

Public opinion is the ultimate reason for optimism. While a slim majority of Americans support Roe v. Wade, a great majority detest the free-abortion culture that Roe has fostered and are increasingly supportive of restrictions. Most prominently, they detest partial-birth abortion; they support parental-notification statutes; they support waiting periods and spousal notification as well. Public support for Roe is in all likelihood a reflection of the predominant view that a Roe repeal would equal a total ban.

But since the fig leaf of Roe’s poor legal reasoning is coming off even in solidly pro-choice corridors, the time could be coming in the next several years for Roe to be reconsidered. Roe “overreached,” law professor and liberal icon Cass Sunstein said this fall. “A bad decision is a bad decision,” wrote columnist Richard Cohen of The Washington Post. This is to the good, at least insofar as it shows pro-choicers are detaching their policy concerns from a poorly reasoned decision that happened to reach the outcome they preferred.

In the meantime, state lawmakers are stepping into the gap with the many state-level restrictions to emerge the last several years. Lawmakers in South Dakota, Indiana and Ohio have proposed mostly symbolic bans on abortion; in many other states the march for partial-birth abortion bans and other reasonable restrictions continues.

Then there is Judge Samuel Alito. Judge Alito said he would “keep an open mind” on abortion as he tiptoed around the subject in his recent confirmation hearings. No one can or should make predictions about how the judge will rule, but pro-lifers can only have the highest hopes for a solidly conservative jurist with his track record. It remains to be seen whether the Roberts court will right the wrongs that Roe created, but the chances this time are better than any in recent memory.

The technology points in that direction: Advances are pushing the date of viability ever earlier, a fact likely to limit Roe’s applicability and a reason to rethink the law in light of changed circumstances.

“This is a cause that appeals to the conscience of our citizens and is rooted in America’s deepest principle,” the president said yesterday. “And history tells us that with such a cause we will prevail.” The chances that this is actually true are perhaps greater today than at any time since 1973.

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