Analysis

Sanders: I’d use Justice Department “to go after” state pro-life laws

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In a bid to counteract Hillary Clinton’s narrative that she’s the one true pro-abortion candidate, Vermont Senator and Democrat presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has offered his most aggressive promise to abortion fans yet.

On Monday, he essentially told MSNBC’s Chris Hayes that he would use the power of the presidency to disenfranchise pro-life voters at the state level…

[I]t is no secret that in states all over this country, in a dozen different ways, there are governors and legislatures who are trying to make it impossible for a woman to control her own body. I will use the Department of Justice to go after those states in every way that I legally can. I believe that in the United States of America women have that right to control their own body[.]

I find that, I must say, completely hypocritical for my Republican colleagues who tell us every day how much they hate government, how they want to get government out of our life, but they think that local state and federal government have the right to tell you and every woman in America what she can do with her body. That is hypocrisy.

The second part of that statement is a cheap attack Sanders has hurled repeatedly throughout the campaign, but while it might amuse his groupies jonesing for a quick hit of smug superiority, all it really does is display the shallowness of his arguments on the issue.

For what feels like the millionth time, banning abortion is not telling someone what she can do with “her own” body; it is telling someone she cannot kill someone else. There is no hypocrisy here because protecting the individual from violence is the most elementary of the core functions limited-government advocates want to limit government to!

As for the first part, it may not be news that Sanders’s 100% pro-abortion position calls for effectively blocking the states from making any meaningful pro-life policy decision—he supported multiple federal bills that would do just that and would nominate activist pro-abortion judges.

But Monday’s declaration is a new low because he’s promising to disenfranchise us without even the pretense of doing it on the authority of anything but his own will. Activist judges would have to be confirmed by the Senate before disenfranchising us. Congress would have to vote on the Freedom of Choice Act or the (Orwellian-named) Women’s Health Protection Act.

But of course, leaving it in the hands of that pesky “democracy” thing isn’t quite assuring enough for the abortion lobby’s tastes; there’s a reason why Barack Obama never made good on his promise that signing FOCA would be one of his first acts as president, even in the early years when he had a Democrat majority in Congress.

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So Sanders has decided to simply ignore the federal government’s legislative and judicial branches and use the Justice Department to veto whatever state decisions that he dislikes. That would be an affront to Constitution’s purpose of limiting the federal government to “few and defined purposes” while letting the states decide for themselves “all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State.”

The federal government is only supposed to step in when a state’s laws are violating the Constitution. At best, Sanders can claim the precedent started by Roe v. Wade gives him the power he’s claiming here, even though Roe is legally indefensible.

But putting that aside, the Supreme Court has also upheld a variety of the very laws Sanders is talking about suing, including parental notification, a variety of regulations on the abortion procedure, limits on taxpayer funding of abortion, waiting periods, and informed consent. Further, SCOTUS has expressly affirmed that states have a limited interest in regulating abortion not only in the interest of maternal health, but also fetal life.

For instance, SCOTUS expressly affirmed in Planned Parenthood v. Casey that states have a “legitimate interest in assuring that a woman’s consent to an abortion be fully informed,” which “is not a large burden” and is “clearly related to maternal health”; that a “waiting period helps ensure that a woman’s decision to abort is a well-considered one, and rationally furthers the State’s legitimate interest in maternal health”; that parental consent requirements exercise a state’s “important and legitimate interest in the welfare of its young citizens, whose immaturity, inexperience, and lack of judgment may sometimes impair their ability to exercise their rights wisely”; and even that states have a valid “interest in preserving unborn life.”

So by hijacking the Justice Department to take by force what the people won’t give him, Bernie Sanders would not only violate the Constitution itself, but even the pro-life decisions that the modern legal consensus admits belong to voters and their elected officials. If protecting one “right to choose” requires taking so many choices out of democracy’s hands, then maybe it’s time to give up the label “pro-choice.”

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