January 29, 2009

HEART OF THE DIVIDE:

Our Struggle for the Soul of our Nation (Robert P. George, January 22, 2009, The Public Discourse)

In the name of a generalized "right to privacy" allegedly implicit in the Due Process Clause of the Constitution's Fourteenth Amendment, seven justices created a license to kill the unborn.

These men probably had no idea that they were unleashing a struggle for the soul of the nation. Five had been appointed by Republican presidents -- two by Eisenhower, three by Nixon. Four of these five were regarded as "conservative," "law and order" judges: Warren E. Burger, Potter Stewart, Lewis F. Powell, and Harry Blackmun. All no doubt believed that legal abortion was a humane and enlightened policy, one that would ease the burdens of many women and girls and relieve the enormous cost to society of a high birth rate among indigent (often unmarried) women. They seemed blithely to assume that abortion would be easily integrated into the fabric of American social and political life.

They were wrong on all counts.

They were wrong about the Constitution. As William H. Rehnquist and Byron White, the two dissenting justices in the case, pointed out, it is absurd to claim that a right to feticide follows from the constitutional injunction that "no state shall deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law." If the Constitution can be read to imply anything about abortion, it is that unborn human beings are, like everyone else, entitled to "the equal protection of the laws." At a minimum, Roe and Doe were an outrageous usurpation of the constitutional authority of the people of the United States to shape law and policy through the institutions of representative government.

The Roe justices were also wrong to imagine that legal abortion would prove to be enlightened or in the slightest respect humane. On the contrary, the policy imposed by the Court has proven to be an unmitigated disaster. In the thirty-six years since Roe and Doe, abortion has taken the lives of more than fifty million unborn victims -- each a distinct, unique, precious human being. It has done immeasurable moral, psychological, and sometimes physical harm to women who are so very often, and in so many respects, truly abortion's "secondary victims." It has corrupted physicians and nurses by turning healers into killers. It has undermined the moral authority of the law by its injustice. It has abetted irresponsible -- even predatory -- male sexual behavior. Far from reducing the rate of out-of-wedlock births, particularly to poor women, illegitimacy has skyrocketed in the age of abortion. Now the abortion license has metastasized into widespread elite support for deadly embryo experimentation and even, in my home state of New Jersey, to the express legalization of the horrific and grisly practice of fetal farming -- the creation of human beings by cloning or other processes for the purpose of harvesting their tissues and organs at any point up to birth for experimentation and transplantation.


The justices were wrong, moreover, to suppose that America, as a nation, would learn to live with the abortion license. A notable effect of the Court's rulings was to energize the grassroots pro-life movement that had come into being a few years earlier to resist legislative efforts to liberalize state abortion laws. In the beginning, the movement and its leadership were largely Catholic. The mainline Protestant churches, if they concerned themselves with the issue at all, positioned themselves on the pro-abortion side. At a decisive moment, however, the Evangelical community became fully activated in the cause. Today, a common commitment to defending the unborn is at the heart of an unprecedented Catholic-Evangelical alliance that extends beyond abortion to issues of sexuality and marriage, education, welfare, crime and prison policy, international human rights, and the place of religion in American public life. Great Evangelical leaders such as James Dobson and Charles Colson stand arm in arm with their Catholic brothers and sisters in defending the right to life of every human being, irrespective not only of race, sex, and ethnicity, but also of age, size, stage of development, and condition of dependency. It is this alliance that stands in the gap today in the fight against cloning and embryo-destructive biomedical research.

Abortion and embryo-destructive research are at the heart of the divide between the nation's major political parties. When Roe and Doe were decided, many Democratic Party politicians -- and even some notable liberals -- were outspokenly pro-life. Teddy Kennedy, Jesse Jackson, Dick Gephardt, and Al Gore, for example, publicly proclaimed their commitment to defending the unborn against the violence of abortion. Soon, however, the number of pro-life Democrats began to dwindle and pro-life liberals became an endangered species. Some, including Kennedy, Jackson, Gephardt, and Gore, defected to the pro-abortion camp, evidently for political reasons. People of firmer conviction found themselves in many cases carried by the force of conscience out of the Democratic Party and into the Republican fold.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at January 29, 2009 10:03 AM
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