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Note from the editor: Our series and the candidates

Today’s installment of our series on American values at the heart of the presidential campaign highlights two long-running debates and one emerging one. For the paper’s editorial board, abortion and capital punishment are not close calls: We steadfastly champion the right of women to have abortions, as we have since Roe vs. Wade was first handed down in 1973, a 7-2 decision written by one appointee of Richard Nixon (Harry Blackmun) and under the chief justiceship of another (Warren Burger). On that January day, we declared the ruling “sensible…persuasive by both its historical and legal arguments.” And though some of Roe’s legal reasoning has frayed over time, we stand by our original appraisal.

Our death penalty views evolved more slowly. This paper supported capital punishment back in its most conservative years, but by the time the California Supreme Court struck down the penalty in 1972, we hailed the court’s "persuasive clarity and wisdom." Over time, we have refined our thoughts on capital punishment, which we now view as the exercise of extreme and unwarranted state power. The libertarians among us are outraged by that alone. For those less bothered by state power, there are also the inequities in the death penalty’s application and the thin evidence of its deterrent effect, both of which fuel our belief that capital punishment is impractical and immoral and should be abolished.

But those are debates on familiar ground, and we face new questions at the same time that we revisit old ones. Advances in genetic and reproductive biology have expanded the range and meaning of the debate over the government’s role in protecting and taking life. As we argue today, our next president needs to do more than master the historic debates over abortion and capital punishment. He or she must advance a compassionate and scientifically sound program for guiding the national conversation on what life may become.

We’ve yet to hear that from any of the candidates. Fortunately, the campaign is just beginning.


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" …Ron Paul's support for a reversion to state authority on the matter. While that last idea is tempting for its potential to remove this intractable issue from national politics, the threats to women's free exercise of the right to abortion remain too numerous for us to trust in a federalist solution. "

So obviously federalism isn't so much a principle as a sometimes-convenient tool in the pursuit of chosen outcomes. You don't want it currently because you want the existing abortion rights regime to continue a while Huckabee doesn't want it because he maintains that a law to stop abortions entails a fundamental right to the unborn worthy of federal protection. But Huckabee's stand puts him at a place where his goal is undermined by status quo. It not difficult to imagine the Times becoming born-again federalists if the alternative was a nation-wide ban on abortion.



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The Opinion L.A. blog is the work of Los Angeles Times Editorial Board membersNicholas Goldberg, Robert Greene, Carla Hall, Jon Healey, Sandra Hernandez, Karin Klein, Michael McGough, Jim Newton and Dan Turner. Columnists Patt Morrison and Doyle McManus also write for the blog, as do Letters editor Paul Thornton, copy chief Paul Whitefield and senior web producer Alexandra Le Tellier.

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