The Indiana Court of Appeals rejected Attorney General Todd Rokita’s attempt to rush the Hoosier state’s draconian new abortion ban through the judicial branch as fast it raced through the legislature.
Regardless of where the state’s courts ultimately land on the question, it was the right decision. Haste may not always make waste, but it also rarely leads to wisdom.
There’s more than enough anger on both sides of this divisive issue.
Those who fervently oppose abortion see it as a great moral wrong, the taking of a human life before it even has a chance to begin. They pressed for years to overturn Roe v. Wade with the ardor of crusaders, because that is how they saw themselves and their cause.
Those who support reproductive rights view the question of fundamental human autonomy. If a woman cannot control what is done with her body, they argue, what can she control? To strip her of the power to make such decisions doesn’t just strip her of basic rights but of any sense of self-determination.
These two positions seem irreconcilable.
And perhaps they are.
That often is the way it is.
Contrary to the ideologues on either the left or the right, the toughest questions in life are not the ones in which we must choose between right and wrong, but rather between right and right. The hard calls occur when we must elevate one dearly held principle over another—when we must prioritize our values.
Such disputes always generate noise, as this one has. Because both sides feel, with some reason, that they have right on their side, they tend not to listen and often resort to shouting their arguments.
The noise surrounding abortion has drowned out a fundamental truth regarding the issue. That truth is that the majority of the American public—including the majority of Hoosiers—don’t line up with either of the extremes in this fierce political and cultural debate.
The polls show that most people in this nation and state want abortion to be safe, legal and less common than it now is.
In other circumstances—or with any other issue—numbers such as these would suggest room for compromise and maybe even a path to consensus. We could preserve a woman’s right to choose while offering her great support should she choose to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term.
But that hasn’t been possible in this instance.
In part, that’s because our institutions have failed us. That has elevated the levels of rage accompanying a dispute that already is home to too much anger.
Worse, it’s undermined our faith that we even can address, much less resolve, the thorny issues that confront us.
The U.S. Senate under the leadership of then Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, tore up and rewrote the rules regarding Supreme Court appointments, then tore them up and rewrote them again, just so he could pack the high bench. The three newly appointed justices to the court who provided the deciding votes on overturning Roe at the very least misled the Senate and the country about their stances on abortion law so they could secure their seats on the bench.
And when the Supreme Court ruled and tossed the issue back to the states, Indiana’s lawmakers spent less time weighing the consequences of changing what had been settled law for a half-century than they normally devote to determining which toppings they want on a pizza.
Nowhere in this headlong rush was there any room for wisdom.
But the Indiana Court of Appeals may have found that room. The appeals court may have allowed Indiana’s judicial branch to do what courts and judges are supposed to do—balance interests, deliberate on questions of fundamental rights and weigh right against right.
And maybe restore some faith in our institutions.
It’s not an easy job.
But someone must do it.
Indiana’s judicial branch is as good a place as any to start.