Betteridge’s Law states that questions in headlines can usually be answered with a no. The more sophisticated version being an injunction to headline writers to not write headlines that can be answered with a no. This being something the subeditors at The Guardian have forgotten:[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Could abortion become illegal in America? All signs point to yes[/perfectpullquote]
The correct answer is of course no.
To understand this it is necessary to grasp the current situation. Through the 1960s and into the early 70s various states changed their laws upon abortion. It’s not enumerated in the Constitution as something that is for the Federal Government to deal with, it is therefore a state preoccupation. Somewhere like New York State had a modus operandi not dissimilar to today’s in fact. No, not exactly the same and all that but not hugely dissimilar. It was certainly more liberal than some European countries are today.
Then came Roe v Wade. Which, by finding a constitutional reasoning around abortion, made it that national matter, not a state one. The details remain at state law, sure, but the general presumption must be that it is allowable. It’s a right, see? A constitutional one.
This is important, Because reversing Roe v Wade would not mean making abortion illegal. It would simply return it to being a state matter, not a constitutionally protected right, and the law would be whatever it is that states – presumably democratically implementing the will of the people of that state – decide it should be. As the article itself says:[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]It could say, for example, that states can decide for themselves whether to ban abortion. This would radically change the legal landscape almost overnight, as blue states would act to protect abortion access, while red states would act to further restrict or prohibit abortion altogether.[/perfectpullquote]
No, leave aside all our varied views on abortion itself, whether it should be legal or not and so on. The correct answer to that question in the headline is still no, isn’t it?