Real support for the troops

Readers want to help the sailor’s wife pay the government back for the abortion the courts say the government shouldn’t have paid for. But the government may not actually be out to collect the money.

Several generous readers of this post wrote to ask about donating to a fund to pay the $3000 the sailor’s wife now owes the Federal government for the cost of terminating her anacephalic pregnancy. I have to say I prefer this Blue Team version of “supporting the troops” to the official White House version.

A call to the Northwest Women’s Law Center, which is represnting the woman in the case, turned up one piece of definite good news and one piece of possible good news.

There has definitely been an outpouring of such offers.

Moreover — this is the possible good news — it’s not yet clear that the government intends to actually collect on the judgment. It may be that the Justice Department was concerned more with the precedent than with the money, and that no one wants to demand the pound of flesh.

If the government does come after the money, the NWLC will contact those who have voluteered to give. I’m now on that list, and will pass the word along.

Footnote It seems to me there’s an interesting legal and ethical question here, one with Constitutional aspects. I argued in my earlier post that the Justice Department and the DoD could reasonably have forgone the appeal, even if the lawyers there were convinced the lower-court decision was wrong. But now that they’ve won, that money belongs the government. Does — or should — any official have the discretion, after the court has ruled that the sailor and his wife have to pay the money back, to say “Never mind”?

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com