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Now is the time to act

Stephen Beale | Monday, September 1, 2003

Throughout the past two years President George Bush and his advisers have seasoned their sermons on foreign policy with calls for “moral clarity.” Yet Bush’s fulminations have been anything but clear.

In September 2002, Bush declared that because Iraq and al Qaeda were “equally bad, equally as evil, and equally as destructive” that “you can’t distinguish between al-Qaeda and Saddam when you talk about the war on terror.”

This fall, the Republican Party has a chance to renew its commitment to moral clarity and to take the offensive in the culture war. This window of opportunity applies to two issues: homosexuality and abortion.

Conservatives have adopted two diametrically different strategies for each. Regarding gay rights, Republicans favor a radically confrontational approach: A pre-emptive Constitutional amendment that would prevent courts from nationalizing gay marriage.

The second strategy calls for an ambitious incrementalism that would eventually nullify Roe v. Wade. Two bills implement the latter approach. The first is the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act. Passed by the Senate in March and the House in June, the act must make one final stop at a House and Senate conference committee before it reaches the president’s desk.

The measure would outlaw the heinous practice of partial birth abortion, in which a baby is partially delivered until only the head remains in the womb. Then “doctors” insert scissors into the brain and remove the contents.

Most of these abortions are performed in the fifth and sixth months of pregnancy – the point at which a premature baby is viable outside of the womb. In Kansas, the only state that requires separate recording of partial birth abortions, abortion doctors reported in 1999 that they performed 182 partial birth abortions on babies that were “viable.”

The only thing that separates partial birth abortion from outright old-fashioned infanticide is a couple of inches of skin. Surely one does not need a degree in moral philosophy to recognize the absurdity of this procedure.

The operation recalls the half-blind justice described in the parable of Solomon and the two harlots in First Kings, chapter 3. The two women both give birth to babies, but one of them dies. In her moment of despair, the distraught mother switches their babies. The mother of the surviving child recognizes what has happened and appeals her case to King Solomon.

Solomon, in his wisdom, calls for a sword and suggests they split the baby between themselves. The mother of the living son objects, urging Solomon to give the baby to the other woman; only then did Solomon discover which of the two was telling the truth. A similar mentality governs those who wish to do all in their power to ensure a woman’s right to choose yet cannot bring themselves to cross the imaginary line dividing abortion and infanticide.

Few pro-choice partisans would directly defend partial abortion. Instead, most fear that bans on the practice will further erode women’s abortion rights in general – a classic slippery slope argument. Yet such a position is equally problematic. It is morally indefensible to sacrifice the lives of innocents for the liberties of others. Extremism in defense of liberty is indeed a vice.

At the heart of the new pro-life push is the Unborn Victims of Violence Act which has received exceptional attention due to the Laci Peterson case. For its June 9 issue, Newsweek dedicated a feature story to the “war over fetal rights.” The story begins with the case of Tracy Marciniak, who questioned her support for abortion rights after her estranged husband punched her in the stomach, killing her baby. The article, however, emphasizes that many pro-choice groups face a dilemma: They ardently wish to punish husbands and boyfriends whose violence prematurely terminates pregnancies wanted by mothers, yet worry that fetal rights may infringe upon a woman’s right to end her pregnancy. So apparently it is acceptable for a mother to abort her baby, but it is not permissible for the father to do the same. Again, modern liberals make the woman’s choice and her feelings central to the debate.

The conservative positions on all three issues – partial birth abortion, the status of unborn victims of violence and gay marriage – enjoy the support of significant majorities of Americans. The above Newsweek article noted that 56 percent of the public “say prosecutors should bring separate murder charges against someone who kills a fetus still in the womb, whether it is viable or not.”

Other polls are even more encouraging. On June 4, The Atlanta Journal and Constitution reported that another survey revealed that as many as 84 percent of Americans view Conner Peterson as “a separate and distinct victim” of the homicide. Likewise, 70 percent approve of a partial birth abortion ban. Even on the issue of gay marriage, Americans are leaning to the right. The national Wirthlin poll released in March revealed that 62 percent defined marriage as the union of a man and a woman. Clearly, now is the time for the moral majority to act and reclaim its leadership of American public discourse.

This column first appeared Aug. 29 in The Brown Daily Herald and appears here courtesy of U-Wire.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.