Double Standards

John Leo:

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Justice Antonin Scalia, in his Roper dissent, tossed a grenade at the American Psychological Association on grounds of double standards. In an abortion case before the Supreme Court in 1990, the APA said a "rich body of research" showed that by age 14 or 15 people are mature enough to choose abortion because they have "abilities similar to adults in reasoning about moral dilemmas." But the APA's certitude of the strong moral grasp of young teens apparently evaporated just in time for Roper, in which it told the court that minors just aren't mature enough to be eligible for the maximum penalty faced by adult killers.

Teen decisions. Planned Parenthood adopted a more comic double stance on abortion: Young girls are fully capable of choosing to abort without informing their parents, but they could not enter a Planned Parenthood pro-abortion poster contest without parental approval. The fine print on the contest said, "Children under age 18 must have a parent or legal guardian's permission to submit designs." No, you wouldn't want young teens making drastic poster decisions without input from Mom or Dad.

The Republican threat to invoke "the nuclear option" to break the Democratic filibuster over judicial nominations has brought a mother lode of double standards. For example, law Prof. Erwin Chemerinsky of Duke coauthored a strong antifilibuster law article in 1997 when Republicans were obstructing Democratic court nominees but a strong pro-filibuster argument to meet the current debate.

Many newspapers thundered against the males-only membership policy of Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia, which is private, but remained silent about recent discriminatory policies at public institutions, such as a New York City public high school for gays and bisexuals, "Third World" student centers for nonwhites, and women-only lounges like the one at Boalt Hall, the law school of the University of California-Berkeley.

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