Sarah Palin and Joe Biden Diverge on Abortion in Katie Couric Interviews

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Oct 2, 2008   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Sarah Palin and Joe Biden Diverge on Abortion in Katie Couric Interviews

by Steven Ertelt Editor
October 2
, 2008

Washington, DC ( — As Sarah Palin and Joe Biden, the vice-presidential candidates prepare to debate each other tonight, diverged on the issue of abortion in interviews with Katie Couric. Palin said the high court shouldn’t have allowed an unlimited abortion right while Biden caused concerns for pro-life advocates with his views.

The Supreme Court relied on the privacy right in its Roe v. Wade decision and others, but Palin told the CBS News anchor that the court went too far.

Palin says the high court should have left the abortion issue to the states — where most of the nation protected the life of unborn children prior to Roe.

“I think it should be a states’ issue not a federal government-mandated, mandating yes or no on such an important issue,” she said. “I’m, in that sense, a federalist."

“And I believe that individual states can best handle what the people within the different constituencies in the 50 states would like to see their will ushered in an issue like that," she added.

Meanwhile, Biden said he thinks “the liberty clause of the 14th Amendment . . . offers a right to privacy" that allowed for an unlimited right to abortion.

Biden also claimed the court’s decision in Roe was "as close to a consensus that can exist in a society as heterogeneous as ours" with a middle of the road ruling on abortion. He ignored the fact that the Supreme Court’s decision in the Doe companion case essentially allowed abortions for any reason throughout the entirety of pregnancy.

Ramesh Ponnuru, a pro-life writer with National Review, said the "excerpts from Couric’s interviews give me more concerns about Biden than Palin."

"He seems to be under the impression that there’s a ‘liberty clause’ in the Fourteenth Amendment (he has talked about it in Supreme Court confirmation hearings too)," Ponnuru says. "He misdescribes what Roe held. He seems to believe that Roe has been good for social peace and that this alleged fact justifies it as constitutional law."

Some observers are trying to point out a discrepancy between Palin’s pro-life views, including her opposition to Roe, and her favoring a privacy right.

"Now it is certainly and obviously true that the Constitution protects privacy: What else do the Third and Fourth Amendments protect, for example?" he writes. "There is nothing incompatible with either a pro-life point of view or originalism with saying that the Constitution protects privacy. "

Kathryn Jean Lopez, the editor of National Review online, points out that both Samuel Alito and John Roberts, two judges seen as friendly to the pro-life side, said they believed in a "right to privacy."

Meanwhile, pro-life Justice Clarence Thomas’ opinion in Sternberg v. Carhart reveals why this isn’t inconsistent with a right to privacy.

"Abortion is a unique act, in which a woman’s exercise of control over her own body ends, depending on one’s view, human life or potential human life," Thomas wrote. "Nothing in our Federal Constitution deprives the people of this country of the right to determine whether the consequences of abortion to the fetus and to society outweigh the burden of an unwanted pregnancy on the mother."

"Although a State may permit abortion, nothing in the Constitution dictates that a State must do so," Thomas concludes.

That’s a conclusion both Palin and John McCain appear to adhere to.

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