Peggy Noonan Don't Know Nothin' 'Bout 'Bortin No Babies!
“Welladay!” she sighed. The interviews for a new houseboy went poorly, and it had Peggy Noonan, longtime sister in good standing of the Sacred Order of Ladies Drink Free Night, in a doozy of a funk. She found herself spending hours pacing her drawing-room in her dressing gown and slippers, listening to recordings of her dear friend George Will reading his meandering writings on baseball, letting his atonal voice wash all her stresses away.
“Ah, George,” she said, remembering a long-ago evening at a little Georgetown bistro, a few bottles of a ’47 Chateau Lafite Rothschild, a stroll among the monuments, a bowtie that he would not take off even in the shower. “Such lovely memories, such lovely times.”
And then her mood darkened. “Before these times,” she hissed at the empty room. “Before some scheming sharpie befouled our beloved Supreme Court and democracy itself!”
Justice Samuel Alito’s preliminary opinion being taken from the court, without permission or right, and given to the press was an act of sabotage by a vandal. It hardly matters whether the leaker was of the left or right. It reflected the same spirit as the Jan. 6 Capitol riot—irresponsible destructiveness. As the book has been thrown at the rioters, it should be thrown at the leaker.
“Peggy!” a voice boomed. She looked up, heart in her throat.
“Lord?” she said.
“Close!” The voice was in the hallway. She stumbled, blinking, from her dimly lit study to behold a sight. No, the Lord was not speaking to her; it was her portrait of Robert Taft.
“Peggy,” the great Ohio senator said again. “I am as great an institutionalist as ever strode the marble halls of our fair Washington, and even I can tell the difference between a mass riot that threatened the pillars of democracy and a small and likely legal act of norm-breaking, the details of and reasons for we are far from learning. Both other branches of Congress leak like the Arizona on December 8, the Supreme Court can handle a decision creeping out a month early. It’s a political institution and like it or not, this is politics, not a seminar on criminal justice at the Ave Maria School of Law. Chill out.”
Yes, there were plenty of people the past 50 years who used “the issue” to accrue money and power. But this long life tells me the overwhelming majority of people held their views for serious reasons. They sincerely saw the prohibition of abortion as a sin against women; they sincerely saw abortion on demand as a sin against life.
“Ah, what is better for democratic legitimacy than for the Supreme Court to vote based on vibes,” the Taft portrait said. “People sincerely believe lots of things! I sincerely believed the Nuremberg trials were a waste of time and Harry Truman liked to secretly wear his wife’s dresses, but I was only actually correct about one of those.”
Why? Because all the other decisions were about how to live, and Roe was about death.
“Lord almighty, woman,” Mr. Taft exclaimed. "If we’re talking about allowing people the freedom to decide when and where and with whom to have children and shape their entire existence, then Roe is very much about how to live. Many people have in fact shaped their lives around this ability for half a century, it has become fundamental to the ordering of American society.”
“I honestly can’t believe they pay you for these insights,” the Taft portrait added with a sigh that caused the ground in Dayton to rumble.
Justice Alito seems to echo this thought in his draft opinion, which would turn the questions of legality and illegality over to each state. This is not a solution to the issue, it is a way of managing it - democratically.
Some states, New York and California for instance, have already passed their own liberal abortion laws. Some states, such as Texas and Utah, will ban most or all abortions within their boundaries. It will be uneven, a jumble. But the liberal states will have their liberal decision, the conservative states their conservative ones, and that is as close to resolving the dilemma as we, as human beings in a huge and varied nation, will get.
“For the love of Pete,” the Taft portrait growled, and was it her imagination or the painkillers she was liberally mixing with her gin that was causing the senator’s face to turn a deep shade of red as his blood pressure shot up? “There is a whole argument going on here about enumerated versus unenumerated rights in the federal constitution that you are completely ignoring to justify this cheap, backdoor shot at banning abortion in probably half the states. Are you trying to make my portrait melt?”
I am pro-life for the most essential reason: That’s a baby in there, a human child.
She listened carefully, but all that came from the Taft portrait was a wet strangling sound.
Advice now, especially for Republican men, if Roe indeed is struck down: Do not be your ignorant selves. Do not, as large dumb misogynists, start waxing on about how if a woman gets an illegal abortion she can be jailed. Don’t fail to embrace compromise because you can make money on keeping the abortion issue alive. I want to say “Just shut your mouths,” but my assignment is more rigorous. It is to have a heart.
“Peggy, I beg of you,” the Taft portrait moaned. “Get out every once in a while and go visit the state legislatures in places like Louisiana and Oklahoma. This misogynist train has long left the station. For God’s sake, Louisiana’s new bill would make it illegal to terminate an ectopic pregnancy. Perhaps instead of a new houseboy, you could hire a researcher or even just some Twitter rando who keeps up with the news?”
Use the moment to come forward as human beings who care about women and want to give families the help they need. Align with national legislation that helps single mothers to survive. Support women, including with child-care credits that come in cash and don’t immediately go to child care, to help mothers stay at home with babies. Shelters, classes in parenting skills and life skills. All these exist in various forms: make them better, broader, bigger.
“My…my God,” the Taft portrait wept. “Have you even spoken to another Republican since 1989? I’m just an oil portrait hanging in an old drunk’s musty and darkened hallway, and even I know Republicans are about as close to embracing such policies as Glenn Miller is to crawling out of the English Channel and singing ‘WAP’ with Cardi B. You can’t seriously believe this has a chance in hell of happening. I’d say please stop insulting your readers, but I think they read you to be insulted.”
Democrats too. You have been given a gift and don’t know it... The gift is that if, as a national matter, the abortion issue is removed, you could be a normal party again…You could be something like the party you were before Roe: liberal on spending and taxation, self-consciously the champion of working men and women, for peace and not war. As you were in 1970.
“Nineteen-seventy!” The Taft portrait wobbled and jittered and threatened to fall off the nails securing it to the wall. “I’m a Republican and even I find this condescending. Did you miss what I said about people having reordered their lives around the freedom of choice Roe has granted them for half a century? How greatly society itself has been reordered since then? Would you suggest all the Democrats start wearing mood rings and reading Shogun while they’re at it?”
And if Roe is indeed overturned, God bless our country that can make such a terrible, coldhearted mistake and yet, half a century later, redress it, right it, turn it around.
“Do you know what I’m not seeing here, besides an honest admission that somewhere between one-half and two-thirds of Americans do not want Roe overturned no matter how much you pretend the Democratic party is some minority outlier,” sighed Mr. Taft, who now had a strand of love beads painted around his neck for some reason. “Any wrestling at all with the can of worms that about a zillion legal observers have pointed out this ruling would open with regard to other past decisions that were based in the right to privacy found in Roe. Worms like gay marriage, gay sex, interracial marriage, the right to use contraception. Worms like authorities prosecuting women for murder when they miscarry, which, contra Megan McArdle – and don’t get me started on her – does happen. My God in Akron. I never thought I’d say this, but at least when Manuel was here you were still occasionally coherent.”
Then with a loud whoosh, the Taft portrait burst into flames. As the fire consumed its frame and its edges singed and curled, Peggy thought she could hear the old stentorian Midwest voice begging her to let him burn. She was sorry to see Mr. Taft go. Perhaps she would give George Will a call.
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