The old trope is not whether we legislate morality, but whose morality do we legislate. The question is pertinent in regards to the issues we deal with at The Interim like abortion, the family, homosexual rights, and religious freedom. At Intercollegiate Review, Amelia Sims addresses the issue in a short post entitled, “Is not legislating morality an option?” And of course the proper response is that virtually all legislation, even taxes and treaties, are legislating some sort of morality. If the advocates of laws did not think they were promoting good or outlawing bad, why would they bother with the law? As Sims puts it, “Rejecting one dogma means accepting another.”
Noting that every law has a moral basis, Sims says:
Behind each political view lies a world view and an idea of how the state should employ its power to enforce their vision of the common good.
The good in questions transcends passing fads, idiosyncratic preferences, or even values. The political power’s authority to pass laws accounts for the side of human nature that must be tempered and restrained while holding that some wrongs are so fundamentally reprehensible that they demand a robust legislative response.
Not every virtue must be upheld in law. Not every vice must be banned. But some things are “so fundamentally reprehensible” as to require more than moral suasion to nudge people to do the right thing, or at least to stop them from easily doing the wrong thing. Abortion — the deliberate killing of an unborn child — would be one of those acts that are so evil that it calls out for a law against it.