Saturday, January 22, 2005

Roe Anniversary Reflections: The Right to Talk ... about the Right to Life

This night I write on the issue of abortion. I hope these thoughts are received in the spirit in which they are intended, for I have learned that this most-contentious issue is indeed viewed differently by people of goodwill. I understand this, and even though the Supreme Court has essentially barred the subject from any meaningful legislative debate, we must still discuss it. Ironically, Roe v. Wade means that the nation must confront the issue even more.

It is indeed true that the views of most pro-lifers stem from their religious views. This is nothing new, and it certainly shouldn't disqualify the views from getting a hearing in the public square. What is not understood is that the other side also draws its firmly held convictions often from its view of God and morality, as well. The question then is: Who is right? As for me, I believe that life begins at conception and that every human life is sacred. This belief has been cemented by watching my four children grow inside of my wife, feeling them move inside her, seeing them on film before they were born, and being there in the delivery room when each was born. Life is a miracle, a precious gift. Some of you don't agree that life begins at conception, and I understand that. I respect your right to hold that belief.

However, do people who call themselves "pro choice" respect my choices and beliefs on this issue? I haven't met many. And does our political system respect those who hold pro life views? Sadly, it does not.

My pro-life views stem from my Christian faith. You need not share my faith to respect the pro-life position, however. You certainly need not share my faith to at least acknowledge that the issue is worthy of discussion and debate. There is much to be said for allowing our legislative process to address the issue of abortion.

Roe v. Wade: Judicial legislation inside a constitutional mirage

Abortion rights were certainly not intended or contemplated by the framers of the Constitution. I have heard a number of constitutional scholars discuss the issue, and I have never heard one argue that abortion rights were intended by the framers. Indeed, all of the states outlawed the practice when the Bill of Rights was ratified. Further, all of the states continued to forbid abortions when the 14th Amendment (through which the Bill of Rights has been subsequently applied to the states) was ratified. In fact, the absence of abortion rights in the Constitution led the Supreme Court to incredibly resort to looking to the "penumbra" of the Constitution to find this right. Roe v. Wade is a terribly-written opinion that amounts to seven justices forcing their view of abortion rights upon the nation as a whole. The decision further created a collision course for itself, as the Court found abortion rights in the "penumbra" only until an unborn child is "viable". Medical science thus will eventually all but eradicate this "right".

Pro-abortion constitutional scholars sheepishly and understandably defend only the result of Roe. Further, all who support Roe as a matter of constitutional jurisprudence must do so only by viewing the Constitution as "living and breathing". In other words, the inanimate Constitution "lives" or changes to fit the views of those who would not afford the same right to the unborn. Abortion rights as a matter of constitutional law cannot be defended in an intellectually honest manner. Let's face it: Abortion rights advocates didn't like what the Constitution said. So, they ignored the Constitution and said it "breathes" or changes to suit their legislative predilections. Roe is the Dred Scott of the 20th century; it amounts to systemic suicide in which the judicical branch unconstitutionally seized power from the legislative branch. As such, Roe has spawned all manner of legal and political problems. For one thing, it stands the legal system on its head.

Should the innocent get the benefit of the doubt?

Our legal system is predicated upon granting the benefit of the doubt to those accused of a crime. Indeed, those who face the death penalty are given, in fact, every possible chance and benefit of the doubt. This is as it should be. That is, we want to to do our best to ensure that we don't condemn an innocent person to death. So, we on occasion err on the side of the guilty to protect that one potential innocent person. In the case of the unborn, you and I must admit that we honestly can't say exactly how God views that little being. As previously stated, I have my thoughts. You have yours. But since we don't know on this side of heaven, innocent life should always get the benefit of the doubt. Why do we give criminals the benefit of the doubt but not the unborn? How can a criminal's rights be treated as sacred when life is not?

Roe has poisoned American politics

Through Roe, the Supreme Court has injected a poison pill into American politics that can not be digested. In Roe, the Court nationalized its view of abortion rights. As a result, Texas and California were decreed to, a practical matter, view this issue the same. New York and Georgia were declared ideological clones. This is the practical result. As we know, however, the nation has diverse and strongly-held views on this subject. Abortion is a 50-50 issue. It is certainly no more a violation of conscience for a woman to be unable to have an abortion in a particular state than for the residents of a state to be forbidden from protecting innocent life. The question is: Whose conscience is being violated? As a result of the abortion pill being put in the stew of American politics, each presidential election features a debate (albeit generally shallow) on the subject. The issue is part of each presidential election and the partisans all line up on their respective sides, but nothing changes because the Supreme Court does not change.

Abortion has led to the politicization of the judiciary

The judicial branch of the federal government was intended to be exempt from political pressures. Hence, federal judges are not subject to elections and serve for life. Now, with abortion and the potential review/limitation of Roe, each judicial nominee is subjected to a rigorous screening process that in fact focuses on one central issue: Is that judge pro-life? This is wrong, but this what the systemic suicide of Roe has wrought. So, now we must ask: Can a practicing Catholic judge be confirmed to the federal bench? If not, why then can a Unitarian be confirmed? Or a liberal Methodist?

So bad is the political polarization that the Democrats will not even let a pro-lifer speak at their national convention. Republicans at least tolerate different viewpoints on the issue. Yet, the truth is that a pro-abortion rights Republican can not make it through the primaries. Of course, if abortion rights hadn't been declared sacred by the Supreme Court, the political parties would be freed to address issues such as national security, economics, and the like. This is how our founders envisioned the national political debate. Smart men, they were. A national debate on morality and religion every four years will drive a nation to drink, so to speak.

The social infrastructure is in place to help women and welcome the unborn

Virtually every one agrees that abortions should be "rare". At least that's what people say. If so, then no one should object as we try to limit the number of abortions. Adoption is a real option that offers hope to the birth mother and the adoptive parents. The truth is that there are very few, truly "unwanted" children. Untold thousands of couples wait for many months to adopt a child.

Also, crisis pregnancy centers are flourishing, providing real help and support in a non-judgmental environment. For many years, abortion-rights advocates said that women with unwanted pregnancies had no options. This criticism has led the pro-life community to respond. This is critical, because most women have abortions because they think their lives will essentially be over if they have an unwanted child without the means of supporting the child. We in the pro-life movement do such women a disservice by preaching to them about the sanctity of life. The best thing for such women is to provide them with the hope of options and help in the case of an unwanted pregnancy. That is, women need to be shown that there is hope for their lives and there are options other than abortion. This has happened on a massive scale as crisis pregnancy centers are now available in virtually every area of the country.

Abortion rights advocates have effectively conceded this debate

People who argue exceptions (i.e., "back alley abortions" and rape/incest) to make a rule are in trouble in a debate. And any time some one comes up with an excuse to take a subject off the table completely, you know their argument is in real trouble. As mentioned above, almost all abortion rights advocates have conceded that abortions should be "rare". Abortions are not a good thing. Why? Well, our conscience tells us that abortions should be rare because they end an innocent life and alter another one forever.

Some people want the opportunity to continue the practice. I want the opportunity to at least be heard on limiting it. We should at least be able to have the debate. How can abortion rights be sacred if life is not?