This year's race for the Presidency may be close and contentious, but it's over for me personally. You see, I made up my mind a long time ago and I only needed a limited amount of verifiable information to make my decision. Oh, sure, I'll pay attention to the rest of the campaign. Objectively speaking, this is an historic race that will be fascinating to watch. America is on the verge of electing a black President for the first time in its 232-year history. This is also the first election in 80 years in which a sitting President or Vice-President isn't running, so the next administration will truly represent change, no matter which candidate gets elected. I'll even work for the candidate of my choice because I believe in political activism and the electoral process. As far as my vote is concerned, however, it's signed, sealed and delivered. You see, there is an issue which for me is non-negotiable and you cannot spin it, soft-pedal it or make it more palatable with lofty words or calls for unity of purpose. That issue is abortion. People in politically correct circles groan when they hear a declaration like that. "It's a wedge issue," they complain. "It's divisive (or polarizing -take your pick)," they fuss. "There are more important issues for us to deal with than abortion," they grouse. "Single-issue voters are simple-minded," they sniff. I'll forgive the arrogance and condescension of such statements for the moment and respectfully explain that my pro-life beliefs are the result of decades of soul-searching and study. The act of abortion itself is heinous but what it says about us as a society ought to shake us from our moral slumber.
Our Founding Fathers through the Declaration of Independence institutionalized a principle that has been the bedrock of our democratic republic and a challenge to the world for over two centuries - the principle of unalienable rights. The adjective "unalienable" means "incapable of being repudiated or transferred to another; not capable of being violated or infringed; belonging to a thing by its very nature." Unalienable rights belong to us by our very nature as human beings and bestow dignity and equality upon all of us.
Think then upon these words: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." It isn't happenstance that the first unalienable right listed is the right to life. It is the wellspring from which flows all the other rights to which we are entitled. Up to this point in world history, monarchs and people of power and privilege determined whose lives had value and whose were not worthy of protection. Your station in life determined your value as a human being. The words of the Declaration of Independence rang out like a bell shattering the quiet night, proclaiming to tyrants and despots around the world that all life is sacred and no man is greater than another. From that moment forward, the American journey, indeed the journey of all mankind, would be toward the realization of the ideal "that all men are created equal" and all are entitled to life without exception.
We've seen what happens when one group of human beings declares that another is not their equal and therefore their lives do not have the same value. Slavery and institutionalized discrimination, lynchings, the Holocaust, the killing fields of Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda, Darfur - all of these atrocities have at their root a repudiation of the unalienable right to life that is the birthright of all human beings.
The right to life cannot be selective or subject to the judgment or opinion of others - otherwise, it isn't an unalienable right. The moment we say, "Everyone is entitled to life except...," we have opened the door to unspeakable atrocities. The right to life must be universal if it is to be nonretractable.
Human beings, however, are adept at rationalizing inhumane behavior - Read "The Eight Stages of Genocide" to understand more fully why the Founding Fathers were deliberate in declaring the right to life as primary and universal. You'll note that one stage is practiced consistently by pro-abortion forces here in America - dehumanization. It's almost as if they are thinking, "If the right to life is the birthright of every human being, then let's do everything in our power to convince society (and ourselves) that the unborn child isn't human at all." That is why they are so reluctant to use the words "child," "baby," or "person" to describe the unborn human. It's a "fetus" or "embryo" or some other cold, clinical term that relegates the conceived person in his or her earliest stage of development to a collection of cells no more significant than the skin we scrape off after a bad sunburn. Senator Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic nominee for President, uses the term "previable fetus" because, in his own words:
"...whenever we define a previable fetus as a person that is protected by the equal protection clause or the other elements in the Constitution, what we're really saying is, in fact, that they are persons that are entitled to the kinds of protections that would be provided to a - child, a nine-month-old - child that was delivered to term."
I remember as a teenager reading pro-abortion literature showing drawings of the human being at an early stage of development alongside drawings of other animals at similar stages of development, the inference being that they all looked the same. "But they're not the same," I remember thinking angrily, wondering how the pro-abortion advocates could be so cold-hearted. Left to follow nature's course, only one of those infants would grow to be visibly recognizable as a human being. A prominent black minister highlighted dehumanization in a 1977 essay and drew a parallel between abortion and racial discrimination:
"Another area that concerns me greatly, namely because I know how it has been used with regard to race, is the psycholinguistics involved in this whole issue of abortion. If something can be dehumanized through the rhetoric used to describe it, then the major battle has been won...
"...That is why the Constitution called us three-fifths human and then whites further dehumanized us by calling us 'niggers.' It was part of the dehumanizing process. The first step was to distort the image of us as human beings in order to justify that which they wanted to do and not even feel like they had done anything wrong.
"Those advocates of taking life prior to birth do not call it killing or murder, they call it abortion. They further never talk about aborting a baby because that would imply something human. Rather, they talk about aborting the fetus. Fetus sounds less than human and therefore can be justified."
This 1977 essay by the Reverend Jesse L. Jackson is a powerful, personal and compelling argument against the evil of abortion. Regrettably, it is little more than a link on the World Wide Web since even the Rev. Jackson has succumbed to the temptations of political power and rejected his once deeply held pro-life position. Nat Hentoff, a nationally known authority on the Bill of Rights who is also pro-life, asked the Rev. Jackson, who he said helped him to become pro-life, whether or not he had second thoughts about his reversal on abortion. Rev. Jackson said he'd get back to him on that question; that was in 1992. To this day, he's not heard from him.
Those who decry the pro-life position as the imposition of one's religious views on another are also mistaken. Do I believe life is sacred? Absolutely. Is my belief influenced, either in part or entirely, by my faith? No doubt. Do you need to believe in a God to believe that every life is sacred? Absolutely not! Mr. Hentoff is an atheist Jew and a left-wing civil libertarian, and he sees no conflict between his beliefs and a pro-life stance:
"Yet being without theology isn't the slightest hindrance to being pro-life. As any obstetrics manual -- Williams Obstetrics, for example -- points out, there are two patients involved, and the one not yet born 'should be given the same meticulous care by the physician that we long have given the pregnant woman.' Nor, biologically, does it make any sense to draw life-or-death lines at viability. Once implantation takes place, this being has all the genetic information within that makes each human being unique. And he or she embodies continually developing human life from that point on. It misses a crucial point to say that the extermination can take place because the brain has not yet functioned or because that thing is not yet a 'person.' Whether the life is cut off in the fourth week or the fourteenth, the victim is one of our species, and has been from the start."
The liberal orthodoxy on abortion puzzles some veterans of the 1960's anti-war movement, who see the killing of unborn persons as a moral wrong on the same plane as capital punishment, euthanasia and war:
"Some of us who went through the anti-war struggles of the 1960s and 1970s are now active in the right-to-life movement. We do not enjoy opposing our old friends on the abortion issue, but we feel that we have no choice. We are moved by what pro-life feminists call the "consistency thing" -- the belief that respect for human life demands opposition to abortion, capital punishment, euthanasia, and war....It is out of character for the left to neglect the weak and helpless. The traditional mark of the left has been its protection of the underdog, the weak, and the poor....The unborn child is the most helpless form of humanity, even more in need of protection than the poor tenant farmer or the mental patient."
Mary Meehan's views echo what I emphasized earlier - the right to life must be universal or it will be manipulated by man to serve ignoble purposes. Ms. Meehan wrote these words in 1980 for a liberal publication called the Progressive, and the magazine was flooded with angry correspondence from most of its readers for publishing such "right-wing propaganda" - never mind that the person who articulated the position that respect for human life begins at conception was a card-carrying member of the left and had probably done more to earn her stripes than many of those who complained so bitterly.
In fact, the left's white-hot hatred for anyone who counters their pro-abortion orthodoxy belies their purported devotion to tolerance and choice. Mr. Hentoff highlights this contradiction, referring to the pro-abortion advocates as "pro-choice bigots." Indeed, the Republican Party, often painted as the party of intolerance, can name many prominent "pro-choice" politicians among their number, including Rudy Giuliani, Christine Whitman, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Condoleeza Rice, Tom Ridge, Arlen Specter, Susan Collins, and Olympia Snowe. How visible are pro-life Democrats? Senator Bob Casey, Jr. of Pennsylvania is probably the most well-known, and when his father, the late Governor Bob Casey, was denied a speaking role at the 1992 Democratic National Convention because of his desire to promote a pro-life plank in the party platform, the episode became a cause-celebre for pro-life advocates. At least four of the "pro-choice" Republicans named previously were given speaking slots at various Republican conventions. Former Congressman Tim Roemer of Indiana was a candidate for the Democratic Party leadership post now occupied by Howard Dean but the pro-abortion forces in the party made it clear that he was an unacceptable choice. Roemer lashed out angrily, accusing his opponents of "negative campaigning and litmus tests." "Don't litmus-test me," he proclaimed. "Republicans have a "big tent" - why can't we?" Regrettably for his candidacy, he got his answer and dropped out of contention for the chairmanship of his party.
Conservative firebrand Ann Coulter describes abortion as the "sacrament" of the left and the Roe vs. Wade decision "its Holy Writ." It is clearly a litmus test that all who aspire to political leadership in the Democratic Party or a federal judgeship must pass. Even a minister like the Rev. Jackson discarded his divine role as a defender of the sacredness of human life for worldly influence in the political realm. Yet, as political science professor George McKenna points outs, even the most ardent defenders of abortion have trouble calling it by its name:
"Abortion today is as American as free speech, freedom of religion, or any other practice protected by our courts. With this difference: unlike other American rights, abortion cannot be discussed in plain English. Its warmest supporters do not like to call it by its name. Abortion is a 'reproductive health procedure' or a 'termination of pregnancy.' Abortion clinics are 'reproductive health clinics' (more recently, 'women's clinics'), and the right to obtain an abortion is 'reproductive freedom'...
"...A counselor at one of the clinics complained that the media kept referring to her workplace as an abortion clinic. 'I hate that term,' she declared. At the end of the piece she suggested that her abortion clinic ought to be called 'a place of healing and care.' President Bill Clinton's 1993 health-care bill would have nationalized the funding of abortion, forcing everyone to buy a 'standard package' that included it. Yet nowhere in the bill's 1,342 pages was the word abortion ever used...
"...Why, in a decade when public discourse about sex has become determinedly forthright, is abortion so hard to say? No one hesitates to say abortion in other contexts--in referring, for example, to aborting a plane's takeoff. Why not say 'abortion of a fetus'? Why substitute a spongy expression like 'termination of pregnancy'? And why do abortion clinics get called 'reproductive health clinics' when their manifest purpose is to stop reproduction? Why all this strange language? What is going on here? The answer, it seems to me, is unavoidable. Even defenders and promoters of abortion sense that there is something not quite right about the procedure...Clinton himself, who made no secret of his support for abortion during his 1992 campaign, still repeats the mantra of 'safe, legal, and rare' abortion. Why 'rare'? If abortion is a constitutional right, on a par with freedom of speech and freedom of religion, why does it have to be 'rare'?
"...If one abortion is not a bad thing, why are many abortions bad? What is it about abortion that is so troubling? The obvious answer is that abortion is troubling because it is a killing process. Abortion clinics may indeed be places of 'healing and care,' as the Planned Parenthood counselor maintains, but their primary purpose is to kill human fetuses. Whether those fetuses are truly 'persons' will continue to be debated by modern scholastics, but people keep blurting out fragments of what was long a moral consensus in this country. Once in a while even a newscaster, carefully schooled in Sprachregelungen, will slip up by reporting the murder of 'a woman and her unborn baby,' thus implying that something more than a single homicide has taken place. But that 'something' must not be probed or examined; the newscaster must not speak its name. Abortion has thus come to occupy an absurd, surrealistic place in the national dialogue: It cannot be ignored and it cannot be openly stated. It is the corpse at the dinner party."
Professor McKenna states in his article that "only one other institution in this country has been treated so evasively, and that is the institution that was nurtured and protected by the government during the first eighty-seven years of our nation's existence: the institution of slavery." The use of Sprachregelungen, the "convention of speech" agreed to formally or informally by the media and politicians to discuss disputed or sensitive subjects, was a salve, as the Rev. Jackson highlighted in his 1977 essay, to the consciences of those who advocated and practiced slavery.
Given the equivocation and ephemisms used to describe both slavery and abortion, there is a perverse harmony in the fact that today's abortion statistics reflect a disproportionate impact on the black community. Black women in the U.S. are five times more likely than non-Hispanic white women to have abortions even though they comprise only about 13 percent of the female population. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that almost one in every two black pregnancies end in abortion. The entire black populations of Oakland, Atlanta and Washington, D.C. still wouldn't equal the number of black babies killed by abortion in one year. With Planned Parenthood placing the overwhelming majority of their abortion clinics in minority neighborhoods, 1,300 black babies and over 700 Hispanic babies are sacrificed daily. Pastor John Piper wonders why blacks don't see the extermination of black children as a racist act, perhaps not in intent but in result:
"Call this what you will—when the slaughter has an ethnic face and the percentages are double that of the white community and the killers are almost all white, something is going on here that ought to make the lovers of racial equality and racial harmony wake up."
Francis Beckwith, professor of philosophy and church-state studies at Baylor University, argues that just as racism is wrong because it denies people their unalienable rights based on race or ethnicity, abortion is wrong because it uses a person's stage of development (prenatal) or location (the womb) as justification for violating their human rights as well:
"Just as skin color (racism), ethnic origin (ethnocentrism), gender (sexism), national power (imperialism), and birth date (ageism) are irrelevant to one's possession of fundamental human rights, so is one's degree of development and location inside or outside the womb (natalism). Unfortunately, this politically correct prejudice, manifested in the practice of abortion, nearly always results in the death of its victim."
Blacks tend to be more pro-life than most Americans but have been persuaded by the left that there are more pressing social issues about which they should be concerned. As a result, they ignore the fact that the Democratic Party supports a procedure that has reduced the black population in America by an estimated 13 million since the Roe vs. Wade decision in 1973. Given the Democratic Party's dependence on the black vote for their electoral success, why haven't our leaders used that clout to demand a culture of life within the party instead of going along to get along? Where is the NAACP on this issue? Why are they not reflecting the will of the people whose interests they supposedly defend?
When all is said and done, those who consider abortion a right have no moral basis on which to stand because life is the highest human right - greater that the "right to privacy," a right which slaveowners used to justify the inhumane treatment of their "property," greater that the "quality of life" argument that presumes to decide which lives are worth preserving, greater than the so-called "freedom of choice" in which only one voice is heard and the one that can't speak is killed. Our founding documents asserted that life is to be cherished and protected. While there is no consensus on the definition of life - even the Roe vs. Wade decision avoided addressing that fundamental issue - why is it that we err toward death, which is irreversible?
There are solutions that allow both the mother and the child to continue their lives. Couples are traveling to faraway lands to adopt children and provide them with loving homes. Why not promote adoption here at home as a loving and life-affirming alternative to abortion? A roommate of mine in college once objected to my use of the term "unwanted baby," stating emphatically that there was no such thing. I learned later that he had been adopted and was eternally grateful for the decision his mother made to let him live.
Why are we not providing low-to-no-cost prenatal care, housing, nutrition and other assistance to women who become pregnant and are not prepared to raise a child so they can deliver healthy babies for whom good homes can be found? Why are we not then helping these women get back on track to realizing their hopes and dreams?
Informed consent levels the playing field considerably in favor of life because most mothers opt to keep their children once they've been fully informed rather than provided only the information that promotes the pro-abortion agenda. If the so-called "pro-choice" advocates are truly in favor of the mother making the decision, why do they fight laws requiring that sonograms or detailed information be provided to the mother so she fully understands the implications of the decision she must make and the alternatives available to her? You see, it's not really about choice. The only choice that is valid is one that legitimizes the culture of Self and keeps a woman from, in Senator Obama's words, being "punished with a baby." While Senator Obama tells stories of how much more respectful he is of the pro-life position than others in his party, his votes in the Illinois legislature and the U.S. Senate, along with the positions he's taken on the campaign trail, are no different than those of the most hard-hearted abortionist, and his endorsements by the National Abortion Rights Action League and Planned Parenthood tell me all I need to know.
Mother Teresa said, "Human rights are not a privilege conferred by government. They are every human being's entitlement by virtue of his humanity. The right to life does not depend, and must not be declared to be contingent, on the pleasure of anyone else, not even a parent or a sovereign." Despite their tortured use of language and their attempt to wrap themselves in the rhetoric of human rights and freedom of choice, pro-abortion advocates essentially support the powerful, in this case the mother, wielding the decision of life or death over the powerless. When it comes to deciding who will win my vote in November, that is where I draw the line.