Sunday, July 03, 2005

Let the confusion begin

The BBC has begun its coverage of the Supreme Court vacancy, with articles here and here, along with a list of possible successors to fill Sandra Day O’Connor’s seat. Within that list there is a hint that the BBC does not understand one of the most fundamental issues which makes the vacancy such a source of political controversy…abortion. In its profile of potential nominee Emilio Garza, the BBC says:

But his candidacy will not be welcomed by liberals who fear he is likely to support a change in laws protecting abortion rights.

He has in the past suggested he would vote to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v Wade ruling that legalised abortion.

And he has also suggested that abortion regulation should be decided by state legislatures.

First of all, there are no “laws” protecting abortion rights in the US. There is only a Supreme Court decision (which itself is founded upon other Supreme Court decisions) and the Supreme Court does not make laws, or at least, according to the Constitution, they are not supposed to make laws, nor are they allowed to “change” laws. That power lies with legislatures, not courts.

Second, the word “also” suggests that advocating abortion regulation at the state level is distinct from advocating the overturning of Roe v Wade. But there is no “also” about it. Whether or not state legislatures can Constitutionally regulate abortion was precisely the issue decided by Roe v Wade. In arguing that Roe v Wade should be overturned, one is necessarily arguing that responsibility for regulating abortion lies with state legislatures.

A fundamental lack of understanding of the very heart of the abortion issue does not bode well for the BBC’s coverage of either the Supreme Court vacancy or, in particular, the special interest uproar that will inevitably grow once Bush nominates someone. Expect to see the BBC make of mess of it.


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