Republicans and Federalism

Many people of late have suspected that Republicans, now that they have power in the central government, have abandoned federalism (federalism being the philosophy of government that legislative power for as many issues as possible be devolved to the most local unit of government possible).  The recent abortion bill passed by the House seems to confirm this:

The House passed a bill yesterday that would make it a federal
crime for any adult to transport an under-age girl across state lines to have an
abortion without the consent of her parents.

When selling federalism in the past, Republicans have argued that federalism better protects individuals and their rights, because it creates competition among states.  Individuals and businesses fed up with bad legislation in one state can move to a more favorable climate.  Now, however, the Congress is stepping in to limit free movement between states to prevent individuals, in this case teenage girls, from shopping for a better regulatory climate.  What's next?  Preventing businesses from moving across state lines to a state with lower taxes?

By the way, there is a lot of sloppy thinking in the debate on parental notification for teenage abortions.  In this debate, the legal or moral status of abortion is nearly irrelevant.  Underage children are special class of citizen who are not yet acknowledged by the law as being able to make certain adult decisions.  Already we regulate and restrict underage decision-making on driving, drinking, smoking, voting, etc.  All of these are perfectly legal activities that we don't let teenagers do at all.  So even if abortion is entirely legal and Constitutionally protected, it can still be both legal and ethical to place restrictions on it for minors -- remember that voting, and to some extent drinking due to the 21st amendment, are Constitutionally guaranteed activities we legally deny teenagers).  Heck, most states have parental permission laws for teenagers to use tanning salons, which is certainly a much more trivial activity than getting an abortion. 

I am not an expert on abortion law, but my memory is that the Supreme Court ruled that abortion parental notification and permission laws are Constitutional if the law includes an option for the girl to override her parents veto through the judiciary.  I have always argued that we should place an additional proviso in the parental permission laws, one I think both sides of the abortion debate might accept -- if a parent refuses to allow their daughter to have an abortion, then the girl's parents must adopt the baby and be ready to raise it themselves. 

One Comment

  1. Max Lybbert:

    I could be wrong, but a law like this could only be enacted at the federal level.

    The merits of the law are still up for debate, but if such a law is justified, then this is the right level for it.