Thursday, January 18, 2007

A Rare Political Post: The Right to Life

Some of my fellow bloggers have said it makes no difference if you vote, let alone for whom. Disappointed with the GOP's (dismal) performance of late, some traditionalists have said there are no real differences between the two political parties. For example, before the 2006 Congressional elections, the Evil Trads at Traditio in Radice wrote that the Republican-controlled Congress had done less to combat abortion than the previous Democrat-controlled one:
Abortion has steadily received less Congressional attention over the last decade, and floor speeches on abortion now remain stable at one percent of the total (down from six percent in the 105th Congress). (Emphasis Mine) Source. Hmmm... a decade... wasn't that right about when the Republicans took over? Yes, yes it was.
Their conclusion: it makes no difference which party gets elected.

One wonders how these prophets of indifference greet the news that the House of Representatives, under Speaker Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco, has voted to increase taxpayer-funded embryonic stem cell research. This process "requires the killing of human embryos." The measure was the third bill passed by the new Democratic Congress. President Bush vetoed a similar bill last September, and the House could not override his veto, but after the 2006 mideterm elections, its advocates now have a veto-proof majority in the Senate and gained 15 new votes in the House.

The House is not yet veto-proof, and President Bush has promised to veto this bill, as well. But his job will be much harder with the new House, proof that it matters whom you elect.

In the last ten years, the GOP-led Congress has outlawed Partial Birth Abortion (not having to fight off a Democratic president's veto), passed the Born Alive Infants Protection Act (which outlawed the heartbreaking form of abortion in which babies were born premature, then allowed to die), and the Unborn Victims of Violence Act ("Laci and Conner's Law," stating a criminal could be charged with a crime if he killed an unborn baby).

In the ten years before the GOP took over from the Democrat-led Congress, 1984-94, with pro-life Ronald Reagan as president, how many forms of abortion were outlawed or defunded by Congress? There may have been more speeches and bills introduced, but none were passed into law, which is the only point of 1) making speeches or 2) introducing bills.

At the presidential level, this is more true. U.S. taxpayer funding of abortion around the world was stopped by executive order -- the first action of George W. Bush's presidency. This reversed the first action of Bill Clinton's presidency (an executive order allowing funding for abortion worldwide), which in turn undid the first action of Ronald Reagan's presidency (which instituted the original ban in the first place). During, George H.W. Bush's presidency, discussion of abortion was driven off military bases.

Then there is the elephant in the room: the Supreme Court. Were it not for activist judges appointed by members of a certain political bent, abortion would not be federally protected as it is today. The greatest hope of the pro-life movement, short of passing a Constitutional amendment banning abortion (which, at this point, could not pass) is having a future High Court protect the unborn. There are currently a few justices who are assumed willing to do so: Thomas, Scalia, Alito, and (it seems likely) Chief Justice John Roberts. Doing a quick tally, allof them were appointed by presidents of one party. Presidents of that party also appointed people like Stevens, Kennedy, Souter, and O'Connor -- although one of those presidents (Gerald Ford) was outspokenly "pro-choice." So, taking Stevens out, that means one-half to two-thirds of Republican justices remained solid on the issue of life.

Every justice nominated or confirmed by those of, err, another affiliation is on the other side.

At this time, most Americans are conflicted in their beliefs: whopping majorities believe abortion should be outlawed in most cases, limited to certain time periods, only allowed in limited circumstances, and phased out if possible. Most believe life begins at conception. However, they also believe in abortions for "limited" circumstances that negate this affirmation. Until such time as the American public sheds its cognitive dissonance, we must continue to protect those categories of the unborn their consciences have recognized.

Incremental change is unsatisfying and fragile, but it is better than the status quo -- and greatly preferable to moving backwards, which is what the nation has done under new Congressional leadership.

It's nonsense that your vote doesn't matter.



Blogger Benedictus said...

Well said, Ben!

This proves that, in fact, incrementalism does work. Those wanting a full, sweeping legislation that bans all abortions right now, not being satisfied with anything less, often do the movement a huge disservice. This leads to the kind of voter apathy you mention. The recent attempt in South Dakota to introduce a wholesale outlawing of abortion is a case in point of good but misguided people trying to overeach.

Yes, it does matter who you vote for, and whatever the faults of this past Republican congress (and there are many), it did get us an unprecedented amount of legislation that protects the unborn.

An essential component of this incrementalism, of course, is the hard work of changing the culture. We can't just leave it all up to our elected officials. We need to do our part in transforming our culture into one where the sanctity of human life is upheld and cherished. And we need to do this one soul at a time. I wrote a piece on my blog about a month ago addressing this very issue. This is hard work. Let's get busy.

Pax, Frater.

Subdeacon Thomas Llizo

6:19 PM  
Blogger Seraph said...

You must admit, surely, that Republicans have largely been a disappointment on the issues of life and holy marriage...not really wanting to risk their political capital on those issues. And even though President Bush has come out against taxpayer funding of embryo destruction and "research", there are no laws against private funding of such, nor any large protest by Republicans against it.

Maybe the Democrats are worse, but I think neither party as a whole really cares. For that matter, perhaps most Christians in the nation don't really care either, or there would be candle vigils constantly around every "Planned Parenthood" abortion mill in America.

My assessment is that we are, like the Church of Laodicea in the Apocalypse, comfortable in our own wealth and not rich in love for God.

7:39 AM  
Blogger Ben Johnson said...

Thank you, Subdn. Thomas. Of course, comparing our culture with where it stood 50 years ago proves incrementalism works both ways. Our Founders once wrote, "If men were angels, no government would be necessary." If only we could make more men angelic....

Incidentally, no need for "Frater"; I'm not a priest. I started this blog just to give information to my fellow Orthodox in the pews (or on their feet, as the case may be).

Seraph, all politicians disappoint me...but if they didn't, they probably wouldn't get elected. Undoubtedly, the fault lies with Christians having lost their first love. All the sin in the world is, in some way, an extrapolation from the sin of Adam and a reflection of the enduring sin within ourselves. Ironically, in order to improve others, we must also improve ourselves. God will "punish all disobedience when your obedience is complete" (II Cor. 10:6).

God bless,

10:58 PM  
Blogger Benedictus said...


I guess the upper-case "F" was a little misleading. I meant "frater," as in "frater in Christo", brother in Christ. I meant nothing clerical by it. If you were a priest, I'd call you "pater." My apologies for the misunderstanding I caused.

In regards to making all men angelic, I think that is precisely our calling as Orthodox Christians to the world around us. In the words of St. Seraphim of Sarov: "Acquire the Holy Spirit, and those around you will be saved." Imagine what would happen to the abortion industry if more of us did this! Acquire the Holy Spirit, spread the "fire," and soon you end up with more "angelic" men.

Time to get to work.

Peace, brother.

3:04 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home