The solution is federalism.
Look, everything simply CAN’T be made a matter of universal civil rights. We pick and choose our rights all the time, and we enforce some more highly than others. Even the obvious rights– like speech, press, assembly, guns, etc.– are adjudicated and modified at multiple levels of government.
The abortion debate, much like the gay marriage debate, suffers when it is included in the “end all, be all” civil rights debate of racial and sexual equality. When all behavior is examined through the prism of racial and sexual equality, then any newly-considered “rights” become not only necessary to establish, but *imperative* to do so.
After all, if a “woman’s right to choose” is a right like gun ownership, than it can be modified, restricted, and regulated at state and local levels. But if it’s a right like “blacks and women have the right to vote,” then it becomes not only a requirement to defend, it becomes a requirement to enforce on all jurisdictions everywhere.
For America may tolerate an Alabama that loves its guns but a New York City that doesn’t, but no one could brook black Americans being segregated in Alabama but free in New York City.
Yet, that’s what the far wings of the abortion crowd insist upon. As long as abortion is legal anywhere, the Religious Right will not rest, because it’s seen as a moral issue, not a governmental issue. Conversely, if even an Alabama were to ban abortions, the pro-abortion Left would raise hell– the law would not be just an affront to pro-choice Alabamans, but seen as Jim Crow, “separate but equal” reincarnated.
Still, Saletan is correct– it’s the same damn debate, election after election. No one will ever ban all abortions, and no one will ever allow abortions without any restrictions whatsoever (at least not when they have a choice). The fight is always at the margins, always waiting for this mythical day when the Supreme Court has enough votes to finally settle the issue for all time one way or the other.
The way the GOP moves beyond abortion– while still remaining a pro-life party– is by embracing federalism as the highest of principles. That’s the most just solution to *all* of our social problems. Change the culture of the electorate by changing our arguments: you want abortion to be legal? Fine, you can have it legal– if you vote for it in your state. You want gay marriage to be legal? Fine, you can have it legal– if you vote for it in your state.
If South Dakota votes to ban abortions, then tough– let Planned Parenthood buy plane tickets for South Dakotans who want to get abortions.
If Massachusetts votes to allow gay marriage, then tough– gay couples wanting to marry can move there, heterosexual people who don’t want to be around gay married couples can move.
The tragedy is in making *every* American suffer those in the minority.
By fighting for federalism, the GOP can kill *three* birds with one stone: enable the Religious Right to gain local victories they could never gain on a national level, attract new voters on the Left who can gain local victories they could never gain on a national level, and finally, support conservative, limited government values.
Bottom line: *federalism* is a human right.