Patterico's Pontifications


The Power of the Jump™: The Importance of O’Connor’s Departure

Filed under: Abortion,Dog Trainer,Judiciary — Patterico @ 3:34 pm

(Note: “The Power of the Jump”™ is a semi-regular feature of this site, documenting examples of the Los Angeles Times’s use of its back pages to hide information that its editors don’t want you to see.)

Why is it important that yesterday’s L.A. Times editorial on Justice O’Connor laughably stated that she was in the majority in every 5-4 decision last term?

Because the paper is trying to gin up hysteria over her retirement — especially on the hot-button issue of abortion — giving cover to the inevitable opposition of Democrats to any reasonably conservative replacement. This was obvious in the headline that screamed across yesterday’s front page:

Justice O’Connor Retires; Direction of Court Now Hangs in the Balance

Make no mistake: this is all about abortion — and the beginning of the article is consistent with the idea that O’Connor’s retirement could spell the end of Roe v. Wade, and the beginning of back-alley, coat-hanger abortions:

WASHINGTON — Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman to serve on the Supreme Court and its decisive voice on such critical issues as abortion, affirmative action and religion, announced Friday that she was retiring.

Her husband, John, is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, her friends report, and O’Connor said in a brief statement that she needed to spend more time with him.

O’Connor, 75, often has been called the most powerful woman in America because of her influence on the high court, and her surprise departure gives President Bush a chance to reshape its direction.

It will mark the first vacancy on the court in 11 years.

Activists on the right and left were preparing for what could be an epic summerlong battle over her successor. The president’s staunchest supporters want to eliminate the right to abortion, which the departing justice has helped to maintain.

This slippery language is accurate, to be sure — Justice O’Connor was the Court’s “decisive voice” on abortion, and she has “helped to maintain” the right to abortion — but it conveys the impression that her replacement by an opponent of Roe v. Wade will mean the end of the constitutional “right” to abortion. The intrepid reader who turns all the way to Page A24 will see things a little differently:

Today, the basic right to abortion has a 6-3 majority in the Supreme Court. In recent years, however, the court has split 5-4 on whether states can outlaw a midterm abortion procedure that critics call “partial-birth abortion.” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who joined O’Connor in the 1992 decision, believes states can regulate abortion by banning certain procedures, including this one.

Give the paper credit for telling us the truth — but subtract most of that credit for hiding it on page A24, where most readers will never see it.

As the article finally tells us on the back pages, Justice O’Connor’s retirement alone cannot possibly mean the end of the basic right to abortion. But her departure may prove decisive to a woman’s sacred right to have a doctor puncture the skull of her mostly-delivered baby with a pair of scissors and suck out its brains with a suction catheter. There may not be as many 5-4 decisions with Justice O’Connor in the majority as the L.A. Times editorial board thinks, but the partial-birth abortion decision Stenberg v. Carhart is one of them.

Leftist fanatics truly believe that if women are deprived of this cherished right, our Republic will collapse. Never mind that opinion polls consistently show that a majority of the American public opposes this horrific procedure.

In the final analysis, this is what the fight over Justice O’Connor’s replacement will be about. Sure, we conservatives all want judges who support federalism, free speech rights, property rights — judges, in other words, who base their decisions upon a text-based reading of the Constitution. But all of that is going to get swept under the carpet during the upcoming battle. The real issue is: does the doctor get to stab the baby in the skull or not?

Don’t look for anyone to put it as crassly as I have, of course — but trust me. That’s the subtext of everything you will hear during the approaching fight.

So remember as we hear the inevitable handwringing over Roe: it’s not about Roe. It’s about Stenberg. As yesterday’s L.A. Times article demonstrates, the media isn’t going to go out of its way to make that point clear — but it’s the truth, nonetheless.

13 Responses to “The Power of the Jump™: The Importance of O’Connor’s Departure”

  1. Watch for the “we’re just one vote away from losing the right to choose” lie to go by the wayside, followed by the equally misleading but technically true “we’re just two votes away from losing the right to choose, and George Bush is about to appoint two Justices” half-truth.

    Xrlq (158f18)

  2. L.A. Times: Up or Down Votes for All

    Today’s L.A. Times has two editorials on Sandra Day O’Connor and the upcoming judicial confirmation battles. The first editorial is a rambling puff-piece, which exaggerates O’Connor’ moderating influence on the court by claim…

    damnum absque injuria (38c04c)

  3. “Note: “The Power of the Jump”™ is a semi-regular feature of this site, documenting examples of the Los Angeles Times’s use of its back pages to hide information that its editors don’t want you to see”

    do the editors also do layout?

    actus (3be069)

  4. do the editors also do layout?

    Do the editors decide what goes in the first 5 paragraphs, and what goes in paragraph 36?

    Patterico (756436)

  5. Heard an interesting comment on one of the news programs, I believe it was from Mort Kondrake, that if Justice O’Connor were being nominated for the Supreme Court today with only the background of cases that she brought with her for her original nomination, that she would be considered far too conservative and far outside the mainstream by the democrats. Interesting how she’s “grown” over the years, isn’t it?

    Harry Arthur (b318a5)

  6. I think it’s pretty funny that liberals are mentioning how much they like O’Conner now and how she has been on their side recently for alot of 5-4 votes. I wonder if they liked how she voted on Bush v. Gore 🙂

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    Allan Bartlett (4499d5)

  7. Democrat Nomination Translation Table

    WHAT THEY SAY  WHAT THEY MEAN "the freedoms this country was founded upon"  abortion "a voice of reason and moderation"  supports abortion "embodies the fundamental American values of freedom, equa…

    The Interocitor (ca7e8c)

  8. “Do the editors decide what goes in the first 5 paragraphs, and what goes in paragraph 36? ”

    sure. I didn’t know they did layout though. Do you really think the article conveys the impression that abortion will end RIGHT NOW if we get another Scalia/thomas/rhenquist? In your bolded part, it just says the supporters want to end it, and o’connor helps to maintain it.

    I think the help is a pretty good verb. It doesn’t really imply that it will go away without her, but it does tell us that we are going down that road.

    actus (3be069)

  9. sure. I didn’t know they did layout though.

    Actus, I don’t think you actually are as dense as you are pretending to be. So cut it out.

    If the editors can decide what goes in the first 5 paragraphs, and what gets buried in paragraph 36, they don’t have to do layout. Meaning your comment about the editors doing layout was 100% pointless.

    Patterico (756436)

  10. It’s good rhetoric, Patterico, but in a deeper sense it’s wrong. I don’t think abortion in itself is important to the left at all. To the left, abortion is just a tool to help them gather allies against the moral conservatives who so strongly oppose their real goal: totalitarian socialist rule.

    Abortion, like gay marriage, unions, affirmative action, and other “leftist” issues are just ways to get people who normally wouldn’t have anything to do with the fascist left to ally with them for self interest.

    The real issue in the battle over the Supreme Court is over whether an elite minority shall be allowed to rule. Abortion is just a distraction.

    Doc Rampage (47be8d)

  11. abortion will end RIGHT NOW if we get another Scalia/thomas/rhenquist? If Roe was overturned tomorrow it would not cause “abortion to end right now” in any way, shape or form, it would simple send the issue to the state legislatures to be decided democratically by the people of the several states. What a concept.

    Harry Arthur (b318a5)

  12. If the people of the country so overwhelmingly support “the right to choose” as its supporters constantly remind us, then I would suggest they would be elated to see the issue back in the state legislatures where the people who so “overwhelmingly” support this “right” would make it law.

    Harry Arthur (b318a5)

  13. Great piece. Thanks!

    I don’t think abortion in itself is important to the left at all.

    There’s some truth to this statement, but it’s missing an important point.

    You might ask yourself why “free love” has always been at the top of the radical agenda, for example, among the French Revolutionaries.

    When liberals equate abortion with “choice” they are making a fundamental point: they believe humans are radically autonomous individuals–that we should be able to do whatever we want no matter if it harms ourselves or others. (If you wanna confuse them, i.e., make them think, ask them if a person should be free to sell herself into slavery. Good fun.)

    Policies like “free love” and its corollary of legal abortion, are so intimately connected to radical autonomy that they can truly be said to be fundamental to the current political divide. The liberal position on these issues is virtually identical to allegiance to a self-created moral order that has no room for others, let alone a transcendent Creator.

    Real Physics

    Meta-jester (78d10a)

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