Nice post on PBA. I especially like your reply (in the comments section) to readers who champion the Enyart piece. Like you, I am not impressed with his take. The biggest problem is he attacks a strawman. Almost no pro-life leader I know ever said the PBA ban, by itself, would reduce abortions. Rather, we supported it because 1) It puts important premises into our legal system that need to be there for future legislation, and 2) It's a great public education tool that brings home the inhumanity of the abortion act. Both those things are needed if we are to progress further.
Regarding #1 above, the three most important from my perspective are these:
A) For the first time ever since Roe, the Court upheld a law which restricted abortion, though I agree the law does little to protect unborn children right now. Still, the upholding of ANY restriction is an important first step legally. Prior to 1998, 30 states passed laws prohibiting PBA. In all but two states, federal judges threw out the restrictions as unconstitutional. Now, with this most recent SCOTUS decision, state lawmakers will once again be emboldened to propose new limits on abortion.
B) The upholding of the ban suggests the right to an abortion is not absolute, nor can it be supported as such by appealing to the Constitution. That sends an important message to state legislators around the country.
C) For the first time, the Court upheld a bill that did not contain a "health" exception. (The bill had a "life" exception--a very different thing.) Thus, the Court chipped away at the ruling in Casey, Carhart, and Roe/Doe. Perhaps even more importantly, the Court rejected the "possible worlds" argument put forth by pro-aborts. That argument simply said that if ANY possible (not plausible) objection could ever conceivably be raised regarding the Constitutionality of an abortion restriction, that restriction should be thrown out. Up till now, that's exactly what the federal courts have done. Not any more. That's a nice step forward for our side. (Hadley Arkes says more about that in his excellent NR piece.)
Regarding #2, our opponents hate PBA legislation precisely because it works against them, not for them. They've said so from the start of the PBA debate. Pro-abortion columnist Anne Roiphe writes: "The anti-abortion forces will again display horrible pictures of the technique, which they call partial-birth abortion. Although few in the abortion rights movement take this approach seriously, it has emotional resonance and erodes public support for all abortion." (“Moment of Perception,” New York Times, September 19, 1996.)
She's not the only one to fear the visual impact of the debate. "When someone holds up a model of a six-month-old fetus and a pair of surgical scissors, we say 'choice' and we lose," writes feminist Naomi Wolf. (“Pro-Choice and Pro-Life,” The New York Times, April 3, 1997.) Later, in a 1998 article in George Magazine, Wolf states: "The brutal imagery, along with the admission by pro-choice leaders that they had not been candid about how routinely the procedure was performed, instigated pro-choice audiences' reevaluation of where they stood." As a result, "the ground has shifted in the abortion wars." ("The Dead Baby Boom," George Magazine, January 27, 1998.) Cynthia Gorney, author of Articles of Faith, a book about the abortion wars, says that serious damage has been done to the pro-abortion side. "One of the dirty secrets of abortion is it’s really gruesome, but nobody would look at the pictures. With partial-birth, the right-to-life movement succeeded for the first time in forcing the country to really look at one awful abortion procedure." (Cited in Larry Reibstein, “Arguing at a Fever Pitch,” Newsweek, January 26, 1998.)
The quotes from Wolf, Rophie, and Gorney are critically important. The abortion rights people are conceding their weakest point and we should listen. They are terrified of any debate over abortion procedures. That's not the ground they want to fight on. (If anyone doubts abortion-choicers hate anything that visualizes abortion, look no further than Serge's recent debate in KC.)
If Enyart, et al, haven't seen "Amazing Grace" (the story of William Wilberforce), they should. There's a great scene where Wilberforce wines and dines some members of parliament, then takes them on a cruise up the river to see a slave ship. The sight and smell were revolting and sickened everyone. Though his incremental approach had years to go before achieving ultimate success, Wilberforce's visit to the slave ship--a modest first step that didn't save one slave that day or even the next--eventually helped right the British Ship of State.
I think we're doing the same thing here with PBA.