Russell and Duenes

Oliver Wendell Holmes: “Three Generations of Imbeciles are Enough”

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I’ve been following the fracas over the Obama Administration’s Health and Human Services (HHS) Mandate a bit and came across this piece by Francis Beckwith. The piece is striking for its legal analysis, on one level, but even more for the way it teases out the implications of the Obama Administration’s logic on this issue. Beckwith imagines the future and what an American president in, say, the year 2025 might advocate by way of a policy argument that follows from our current Administration’s argument:

Although America’s president in 2025 fully recognizes reproductive autonomy, he also knows that the right of privacy, as the Court said in Roe, does not mean that one has “an unlimited right to do with one’s body as one pleases.” Thus, the president orders the secretary of Health and Human Services to fine any and all women $4,000 for each pregnancy she carries to term after the third one. (For equal-protection reasons, the man who sires the child will have to pay half). And, of course, “free abortions” will be provided by the government for those who do not want to pay the fine. The future president notes in his public comments that these citizens are free to believe or practice anything they want religiously, and to have as many children as they choose to have. However, to possess such liberties under the law does not relieve one of having to pay one’s fair share in a pluralistic society in which we all must participate in the burden of justice. Or as Justice Holmes would have put it: “It would be strange if the government could not call upon those who already sap the preventative health care of others to make some small sacrifices. Three delivered infants is enough.”

Impossible, you say? Read Beckwith’s little piece and you may change your mind.



Written by Michael Duenes

February 28, 2012 at 7:42 am

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