Calabresi nails it

Matthew Hoy
By Matthew Hoy on October 3, 2007

In an article earlier this week in the Wall Street Journal, Northwestern University law professor Stephen Calabresi makes the point that those who disdain the legal principle of "originalism" when it comes to interpreting the Constitution in favor of "evolving standards of decency" are a bunch of hypocrites.

For starters, the long-accepted rule for interpreting legal texts is to construe them to have the original public meaning that they had when they were enacted into law. This is the way we interpret statutes, contracts, wills and even old Supreme Court opinions.

No leftist ever says of Roe v. Wade: Let's let President Bush's lower court judges construe that opinion in light of the "evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society." Leftists and indeed all non-originalists would be utterly outraged if this were to happen.

In fact, much of the complaining by the left about the Supreme Court's decision last spring to uphold the federal partial-birth abortion statute was that it was not a faithful effort to apply the Court's abortion precedents as they had previously been understood. Many on the left claimed this was a profound threat to the rule of law.

In fact, based on public opinion polls, if abortion law were based upon the public's opinions and attitudes, the "procedure" would be severely curtailed in the vast majority of the United States.

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