Abortion is not something to discuss in polite company. Unlike a good, clean murder committed from natural motives such as revenge, envy, and greed, abortion is something slimy, more like a sex crime. Many parents must be tempted, from time to time, to commit mayhem upon their offspring. Such feelings are natural; but women who have abortions are killing their babies so that they can have more sex. As murderesses, they are no more reprehensible than women who smother their crying babies in the crib, but they are a lot more disgusting.

There are some extraordinary circumstances when a normal (non-Christian) woman might seriously consider killing a child—to save her own life, to save the child from suffering or disgrace—but those circumstances do not come up one out of a thousand times in abortion cases. Ask an elderly obstetrician how many times he has had to advise a family to choose between the mother’s life and that of the child, and he will probably tell you “Never.”

Another reason not to talk about abortion is that there is little room for polite disagreement. People either know it is wrong, or they do not, and those who write legal briefs, judicial decisions, and philosophical articles defending the slaughter of the innocent are worse than the butchers who make their living as abortionists or the sick and evil women who kill their babies.

With the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Nebraska v. Carhart, we have finally reached the point where even ordinary people understand what only the wise (e.g., C.S. Lewis) knew 50 years ago, and only the intelligent grasped in 1965, when the Supreme Court ruled, in the Griswold case, that women had a right to privacy that included a right to contraception.

It is worth pausing a moment to reflect on Justice William O. Douglas’s important contribution to the destruction of the Constitution. In order to discover a pretext for protecting homicide. Justice Douglas had first to invent a constitutional right to privacy. His tortured reasoning in Griswold makes amusing reading for people interested in the criminal mind. Since the Third and Fourth Amendments, for example, go beyond mere questions of quartering troops and search and seizure to protect our privacy behind closed doors, and since the Fifth Amendment ensures our privacy by guaranteeing the right not to testify against ourselves, then the entire Bill of Rights more or less can be construed—by various vapors, emanations, and penumbras —to give us the right to practice contraception and to commit murder so long as these activities are carried out in the privacy of our own bodies. It is really very simple. If the government cannot quarter troops in our homes, God and nature cannot quarter a baby in a woman’s body.

Douglas’s arguments do not hold water, either constitutionally or logically. Both contraception and abortion were regarded as sinful and immoral throughout most of Christian history, and a putatively Christian state has the power to pass statutes consistent with the moral code of the overwhelming majority. Of course, some laws (e.g., against theft and murder of fellow citizens) are more or less universal, but many derive from specific moral codes. To seduce a stepmother was a capital crime in Roman law, which also acknowledged a father’s right to execute a grossly disrespectful son.

Christian states, although they have inherited much of the Roman law, impose a different set of moral prohibitions—on gambling and prostitution, for example, and on infanticide—while the legal systems of Christian British nations, in affirming human dignity, have gone still further in protecting the rights of citizens against the usurpations of government. Although it is not true to say that the Constitution and Bill of Rights are explicitly Christian documents, they are inconceivable in any context but that of the Anglo-American Christian traditions in which the Framers lived. Abandon the Christian basis of our law, and you will soon find yourself debating such questions as whether property is theft or when life begins.

To advance their bogus arguments, the infanticidal justices have had the predictable recourse to obfuscatory research and irrelevant statistics. Read the footnotes to Nebraska v. Carhart and you might think that Stephen Breyer or his clerks knew something about embryology, when they cannot even grasp the simple fact that the human embryo is human. In Roe V. Wade, Justice Douglas pretended to believe that there is some kind of moral difference of opinion over infanticide, and in writing for the majority. Justice Harry Blackmun waded through mountains of completely irrelevant information about the gestation period of human infants. Why? Because in medicalizing this very simple moral question, Blackmun and Breyer are able to throw dust in the eyes of ordinary people who might otherwise know what a baby is. Opponents of abortion have all too often taken the bait, confining their fighting to the technical lines laid down by the infanticide lobby.

Moderates (as well as many supposed hard-liners) apparently did not get the point, preferring to distinguish contraception (bad, maybe, but not real bad) from abortion, and late-term abortions from those performed before the fetus begins to look very human. This was the gist of a key part of the Casey decision in 1992, which while pretending to criticize Roe, actually buttressed its essential provisions. While the majority in Casey was congratulating itself for clarifying the standards for viability and the “undue burden” that could not be put on women seeking an abortion. Justice Scalia was openly contemptuous of their bad logic and incomprehensible, pettifogging distinctions: “It is difficult to maintain the illusion that we are interpreting a Constitution, rather than inventing one,” he wrote.

The Casey standards were more or less ignored by Justice Breyer, writing for the majority in Carhart, and although Justices Rehnquist and Thomas expressed their unhappiness with this about-face. Justice Scalia could not help pointing out the fundamental mistake made in Casey, though the tone of his dissent is more one of melancholy resignation than of the fire of defiance. While Justice Scalia is sometimes criticized for his lack of civility, it is actually his forbearance that is hard to decipher. I frankly wonder how a man of his caliber can remain in the same room with Sandra O’Connor without gagging.

If Griswold and Roe are constitutional fantasies, Nebraska v. Carhart might have been drafted by the great Marquis de Sade himself Agreeing with their decision in Casey that the state may regulate or even proscribe abortions performed after viability has been reached, the majority went on to argue—encouraged by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists—that a state imposes an undue burden on a woman by outlawing specific methods. In other words, states can pass laws against homicide, but they may not forbid stabbing or shooting per se.

The argument over viability now looks, in retrospect, to have been an aesthetic, rather than a legal or moral, position. The dishonest term “partial-birth abortion” cannot conceal the reality. What the Nebraska law forbade is infanticide, defined simply as when a physician “partially delivers vaginally a living unborn child before killing . . . the child.” The ghouls on the Court apparently believe that, as long as a baby has a little toe in contact with his mother, his murder may be treated as abortion.

Where in a nation of 270 million people did we find five specimens like Stephen Breyer, Sandra Day O’Connor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, John Paul Stevens, and David Souter? Justices Breyer and Ginsburg we can blame on Bill Clinton—although it was that staunch pro-life Republican, Orrin Hatch, who went to bat for the latter in the Senate. I’he rest are Republicans. Justice Stevens is a Ford appointee; Justice O’Connor is a Reagan pick; and that “confirmed bachelor,” Justice Souter we owe to George Bush (although he had been vetted by Reagan’s staff). The Republicans not only saddled us with Justices O’Connor, Souter, and Stevens (to say nothing of that limp rag, Justice Kennedy), but they refused to take a principled stand against Clinton’s disgraceful appointees. Let us remember this the next time our Republican friends argue that we have to elect George W. Bush president to make sure that “conservatives” are appointed to the Supreme Court. There are dozens of reasons to prefer George W. Bush to Al Gore, but the opportunity to pack the Supreme Court with pro-life strict constructionists is not one of them.