Walter Dellinger

Recent Articles

Should We Compromise on Abortion?

Many commentators are saying that "extremists on both sides" in the abortion debate need to compromise. But a close analysis of current proposals shows that even "moderate" restrictions impose real harm on many women.

The Supreme Court's 1989 decision in Webster v. Reproductive Health Services has turned abortion into a central issue of majoritarian politics: more than half a million Americans have rallied in the nation's capital in the past year to assert strongly that the right to abortion be upheld or restricted. Many prominent commentators are concluding, however, that the "extremists on both sides" must yield to the quieter voices in favor of moderate solutions and legislative compromise. That view, it seems to me, is profoundly mistaken. The calls for compromise are appearing with increasing frequency. Historian Fred Seigel, for example, writes in a recent issue of The Atlantic that the abortion issue "pits advocates for women's rights against proponents of fetal rights on an issue that cries out for the compromise heartily desired by the vast majority of the American people." Once the "true believers" on each side have exhausted themselves, William Safire writes, the sensible "pro-compromise...