Category Archives: Op-Eds

Alabama IVF Ruling: When The Law Has A Personal Problem

Riddle: When is a frozen embryo actually a can of worms?

Answer: When the Alabama Supreme Court issues its ruling in LePage v. Mobile Infirmary Clinic, Inc., allowing the parents of several such embryos, created through in-vitro fertilization, to proceed with a wrongful death lawsuit after those embryos were accidentally destroyed.

You’ve probably heard at least two things about the ruling:

First, that it creates big issues for the continued use of IVF to help parents with fertility problems have children, with clinics fearing litigation or even prosecution if they offer the service.

Second, that the court includes religious sentiments and Bible citations on the santctity of life.

Both of those things are true, but they miss the point. The ruling doesn’t hang on those sentiments or citations. It hangs on the plain text of “black-letter law.” As the opening paragraph of the ruling’s “Analysis” section notes:

“The parties to these cases have raised many difficult questions, including ones about the ethical status of extrauterine children, the application of the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution to such children, and the public-policy implications of treating extrauterine children as human beings. But the Court today need not address these questions because, as explained below, the relevant statutory text is clear.”

The justices’ hands were tied. The law said what it said, the law meant what it meant, and their job was to uphold it, not rewrite it or create exceptions to it: “Judges are required to conform our rulings ‘to the expressions of the legislature, to the letter of the statute,’ and to the Constitution , ‘without indulging a speculation, either upon the impolicy, or the hardship , of the law.'”

What — who — is a “person” or “child” deserving of particular rights and protections?

As a philosophical topic, that question quickly becomes interesting and highly debatable.

As a political and legal question, it’s likewise highly debatable and any answer produces controversial consequences.

LePage v. Mobile Infirmary Clinic, Inc. ain’t the first judicial rodeo on that question.

In Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decided to cut the baby in half — or, actually, in thirds — Solomon-style, allowing abortion on demand in the first trimester, regulation in the second, and prohibition in the third. It reversed that framing in Dobbs v. Jackson, leading inevitably to the current case.

But let’s look a lot further back to see how contentious the question is. Try this one on:

“[Black people were] a subordinate and inferior class of beings, who had been subjugated by the dominant race, and, whether emancipated or not, yet remained subject to their authority, and had no rights or privileges but such as those who held the power and the Government might choose to grant them.”

That’s from the Supreme Court’s 1857 ruling in Dred Scott v. Sandford, a ruling which was only subsequently and slowly modified.

Tough questions create hard cases, which in turn make for bad law — which then gets dropped in front of courts to make sense of … if they can.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.


Return of the “Student Loan Forgiveness” Vote-Buying Scheme

On February 21, the Biden administration announced a new $1.2 billion round of student loan forgiveness, with president Joe Biden personally notifying the 153,000 beneficiaries by email.

“I hope this relief gives you a little more breathing room,” Biden wrote. “I’ve heard from countless people who have told me that relieving the burden of their student loan debt will allow them to support themselves and their families, buy their first home, start a small business, and move forward with life plans they’ve put on hold.”

Coming atop more than 3.9 million previous recipients, that 153,000 may not seem like a lot, but let’s consider two other numbers.

In the 2016 presidential election, Donald Trump  beat Hillary Clinton with 304 electoral votes to her 227 — but by a total of less than 80,000 individual votes in three very close states (Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin).

In 2020, Biden coasted into office by beating Trump 306-232 in the electoral college. As in 2016, though, three key states (Arizona, Georgia, and Wisconsin) delivered that victory by a razor-thin popular vote margin of less than 45,000.

Biden’s hoping for “breathing room,” all right — but more for himself and his party than for those student borrowers.

Borrowers aren’t unimportant, of course. But Biden isn’t really looking at 153,000 borrowers. He’s looking at 153,000 VOTERS.

Plus a previous 3.9 million.

Plus all of those voters’ parents, spouses, children, and other loved ones who probably like the reduced monthly hit on their household incomes.

Like previous rounds, this latest write-off is a $1.2 billion campaign expenditure, one that doesn’t have to come out of the Biden campaign’s $56 million in cash reserves, or be raised with  donation drives.

Those of us who don’t have student loan balances hanging over our heads might not like it that much, but we probably won’t remember, remember on the 5th of November quite as bitterly as the beneficiaries will fondly.

And before we get temporarily outraged, it’s probably worth considering how OUR votes are bought.

They’re bought with “stimulus” checks.

They’re bought with farm subsidies.

They’re bought with government paychecks (including at second hand through contractors in industries ranging from “defense” to “infrastructure” and beyond).

They’re bought with newly created, or increased, “benefit” payouts of all kinds.

We’re all of us getting bribed, all the time — with our own money and with money from other Americans.

We’re supposed to remember the bribes we get, forget the bribes others got, and vote accordingly.

And we probably will.

Thus endeth the lesson.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.


Russia: Why Navalny, and What’s Next?

Vladimir Putin and Alexei Navalny. Graphic by krassotkin. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.
Vladimir Putin and Alexei Navalny. Graphic by krassotkin. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

On February 16, the Russian Federation’s Federal Penitentiary Service announced the death in custody of a prisoner at its FKU IK3 “corrective colony.” The prisoner — one Alexei Anatolyevich Navalny — “fell ill after a walk, almost immediately losing consciousness,” according to an official statement, and could not be resuscitated by medical staff.

US president Joe Biden’s blunt statement fairly summarizes western regimes’ political responses to Navalny’s death: “Make no mistake, Putin is responsible for Navalny’s death. Putin is responsible.”

Navalny spent the final years of his life in and out of prison.

According to the Russian regime, he was incarcerated for crimes ranging from embezzlement to fraud to money laundering.

According to his supporters in Russia and elsewhere, he was a political prisoner whose anti-corruption work and campaigns for public office represented a threat to Vladimir Putin’s rule.

Maybe he was one or the other, or both, or neither. But I’ve always found his status as a darling of western Putin opponents puzzling.

Navalny’s rise to prominence in Russian politics came from his support for a Russian nationalism to the right of Putin’s, starting with his advocacy of the 2006 “Russian march,” an annual far-right gathering banned that year in Moscow, and his opposition to freedom of immigration to Russia.

He supported Russia’s intervention against Georgia on behalf of, and supported Russian recognition of, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, in 2008.

As late as 2012, at the height of his public influence, he preached that “Russian foreign policy should be maximally directed at integration with Ukraine and Belarus.”

His stated views moderated later on, but seemingly more as a function of courting western support and styling himself “the anti-Putin” than as a genuine change of belief. There’s no particular reason to believe that, had he replaced Putin as president at some earlier point, we’d have seen much difference in Russian foreign policy going forward.

Which of course, tells us nothing about whether he was 100% genuine political prisoner, or 100% criminal con man who cast his prosecution as political persecution in an effort to avoid punishment, or some mix of those things.

But it does raise the question of why the US regime chose him as the face of a nascent Russian opposition to support in its foreign political meddling. Were there no other opposition figures with more personal credibility and with, or willing to adopt, sufficiently “pro-western” views? Was it just about who could be most loudly “anti-Putin?” Inquiring minds want to know.

I don’t welcome Navalny’s death. I don’t welcome anyone’s.

But I do hope that a genuine, organic, anarchist or near-anarchist political opposition, rather than yet another west-backed ringer, can fill the vacuum his death leaves.

We could use such an opposition in America, too.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.