Jan. 22, 2013
President Reagan said it well: “abortion is a wound in America’s soul.” He said that in his State of the Union Address (1986). He was the first and, alas, the last president to speak thus of this terrible wound. I remember that speech well. It thrilled me to hear the president I served speak so tenderly, so sincerely of this momentous issue.
President Reagan knew that millions of Americans tune out to politics. But if they pay attention to anything in the year, it’s likely to be the State of the Union Address, or the Inauguration. So he used these high state occasions to appeal to Americans’ consciences. He attacked no one. He condemned no one. But he spoke the truths that we all know.
The late Arlen Spector called the Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade (1973) a “super precedent.”
Whatever that means, it suggests that the Court’s diktat must be irreversible. Precedents of the Court, after all, are overruled every session. Spector might have agreed with radical Lawrence Lader.
This co-founder of NARAL wrote that “abortion is central to everything in life and how we want to live it.” Lader understood that the sexual revolution required some sacrifice. And the sacrifice of millions of unborn children was preferable to any limits on the sexual license he and his followers demanded.
Perhaps even worse than the vacuous opinion of Harry Blackmun in Roe was the plurality opinion of the Supreme Court nearly twenty years and thirty million lives later. In Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992), the Supreme Court poured salt into the wound Roe had inflicted. The three-judge plurality wrote: “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.”
Justice Antonin Scalia is right to ridicule this as “the sweet mystery of life” passage. Has there ever been a sillier notion jumped-up and paraded as constitutional dogma? Of course we can define the mystery of human life for ourselves. But has that ever been understood to imply a right to take lethal action against others based on our self-defined right? You may have liberty to define yourself as the new Emperor Napoleon, but if you undertake to invade Russia in winter, you might just be restrained.
Reaffirming Roe in Casey, the Court ordered us all to pipe down and obey. Later that year, Bill Clinton was elected president. Columnist Charles Krauthammer, ordinarily a wise man, pronounced the pro-life movement dead. Political contention over abortion was over, he intoned.
Not so fast. For the past twenty years, the conflict over abortion has intensified, if anything. Even Hillary Clinton was led to say abortion is “wrong.” (Newsweek, October 31, 1994). She was then trying desperately to save the Democratic majority in Congress. It didn’t work. Since that time, of course, she has spared no effort to advance this wrong thing at home and around the world.
Feminist Naomi Wolf conceded that the pro-choice side had failed to consider the spiritual side of abortion. She quoted her friends being pursued by “the baby furies.” And recently, in TIME Magazine, no less, Joe Klein noted that “sonograms have made it impossible to deny that that thing in the womb is a human being.”
Abortion was wrong for Hippocrates before the Christian era. This pagan philosopher knew that the direct taking of innocent life was and always will be wrong. It violates the natural law that is said to be written on the hearts of men. Thucydides anguished over his beloved Athens and its democratic decision to destroy unoffending Melos. He knew this homicidal act would stain Athens’ memory to the latest generation.
Abortion contradicts our founding documents and perverts our understanding of them. Lincoln described the Founders’ basic premise: It was their enlightened belief that “nothing stamped in the divine image was sent into the world to be trod upon and imbruted.”
Roe and its progeny violate the fundamental precepts of the great religions. Those who claim to be a religious coalition for abortion rights must answer a basic question: Shall we do unto others that which we would never wish to be done unto us?
Nothing in modern American life has been so destructive of our Union as Roe. Governments are instituted among men to secure our inalienable, God-given rights. By making government a party to the destruction of human life, we undermine the very reason for its existence. Fifty state laws were overturned by Roe. In every one of those state laws, the abortion provisions were a part of the homicide code. The authors of those laws knew something about government and human life that the moral relativists of the 1970s and today blandly refuse to acknowledge.
On this dread fortieth anniversary of infamous Roe v. Wade, I remember Marilyn, our church organist. Marilyn was as apolitical as you can get. She led the children’s choir and gave us many a beautiful Christmas program of angelic voices. After Bill Clinton was elected president in 1992, she told me she and her children had stayed up all night—weeping.That’s because she and her husband had adopted these wonderful kids. She knew that the election of a pro-abortion president would mean no good for America’s future. I couldn’t agree more.