Eric A. Johnson


This article explores the possibility that harm to the fabric of society provides the best justification for some statutes that prohibit otherwise harmless conduct. This article considers three illustrations: first, the incest statutes, which, even in progressive states like Alaska and New York, prohibit a wide array of basically harmless conduct; second, a Massachusetts statute regulating the use of human silhouettes in target practice; and finally, legislation that would prohibit the medical procedure known as "partial-birth abortion.'" After discussing these illustrations, there is a close analysis of the general argument for the preservation of moral reaction patterns. The ultimate validity of the laws in question, particularly the ban on partial-birth abortions, involves considerations well beyond the scope of this article.