Two years ago in this space I described a genial dinner party that ended on a sour note. A Christian friend shocked me by promoting abortion as a solution to ghetto poverty. At that time, I warned readers that just such sincere, well-meaning people would start us down a slippery slide into a culture of death. Little did I realize how quickly that slide would become a free fall. In a mere 24 months, an extraordinary shift has occurred that pushes us beyond abortion, beyond even the broader life issues, and into questions of whether we can maintain public order in a free society.

The shift was precipitated dramatically and unexpectedly by the Supreme Court's 1992 ruling Planned Parenthood v. Casey. Initially, both sides felt it was a middle-of-the-road decision. Pro-lifers were glad that the Court allowed states to impose some reasonable limits on abortion; pro-choicers that the Court reaffirmed the basic holding of Roe v. Wade.

But as the smoke cleared, it became obvious that the battle lines had shifted decisively. First, in Roe the Court had based abortion on the right to privacy, a right found nowhere explicitly in the Constitution-making the decision vulnerable to reversal. But in Casey, the Court transferred abortion from an implied to an explicit right—the right of liberty found in the Fourteenth Amendment—making the decision almost impossible to reverse.

Second, Casey opened the floodgates for euthanasia and other life-and-death issues. In pinning abortion to liberty, the Court defined liberty in the most sweeping terms conceivable—including, the majority said, "the most intimate and personal choices a person may make in a lifetime, choices central to personal dignity and autonomy."

Last May, U.S. District ...

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