The Supreme Court itself has already endorsed limits after 24 weeks, the point at which a fetus is considered to be viable outside the womb, putting it squarely alongside public opinion.The best way forward would be to pass legislation to this effect.But there is no chance of that, because the two sides are farther apart than ever, with some pro-choice groups arguing that abortion is an absolute right that cannot be restricted under any circumstances, and their pro-life opponents retorting that all abortions are acts of murder.
The shift to the extremes has been most noticeable among Republicans.Marco Rubio, who currently looks a good bet to win his party's presidential nomination, is in favour of any law that promises to reduce the number of abortions, even one without exclusions for rape or incest.In the past four years state legislatures have put in place 231 restrictions on abortions—more than in the whole of the previous decade.
To make abortion safe, legal and rare remains a good aim for America's laws.But closing legal abortion clinics does nothing for safety, whatever the proponents of the Texan law claim.If such restrictions are adopted more widely, abortion will, in practice, become illegal in many places, leading to the return of dangerous, clandestine procedures.
It will not necessarily become rarer.Whatever the law, abortions will be carried out.The appeals court which upheld HB2 earlier this year acknowledged as much when it wrote that Texans who wanted an abortion could in future drive to New Mexico.Factors other than its legality are more important in lowering the abortion rate.
Between 2002 and 2011—just before some states began to pile on restrictions—America's abortion rate dropped by 14%, largely because the rate of teenage pregnancy fell.That nine unelected justices can do a better job of reflecting what America, in aggregate, favours than thousands of elected politicians in Washington or state capitols—as they did when ruling for gay marriage—is a painful indictment of American politics.It is nevertheless true.Despite the reaction it will provoke, the court should strike down HB2.