Tuesday, January 22nd is the 35th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade.
We can expect the more courageous presidential hopefuls to mark the anniversary in some way. It will be telling to listen to their positions and analyze their arguments for or against the 1973 watershed court decision and legal abortion.
If I were a speech writer for a good candidate, this text below would be my proposal.
God bless, Father Jonathan
• E-mail Father Jonathan
“Thank you. Thanks for that welcome. What a beautiful day! I’m standing in the shade under this big awning in order to preserve my marriage. You see, my wife doesn’t follow politics too closely and she is convinced I am spending all of this time in Florida because I like the sun. If I go home with a tan, I’ll be in big trouble.
Today on the campaign trail I’m going to do something different — a bit perilous, I suppose, and maybe not too smart. I’ve decided to shelve my stump speech for the next 24 hours and talk to you from the heart about something that’s on my mind. Some of my advisers tell me this is a big mistake, that I need to stay on message, and that I should focus on my proven record for stimulating the economy. But my gut — my conscience — tells me to talk about something else today.
Some may recall that today is the 35th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion on demand. I think all voters in Florida deserve to know in detail what I think about the court’s decision, about abortion in general, and what I will do about all of this as president of the United States of America.
My friends in the media, over there … you’ll probably want to have your pens ready. I’m afraid that as simple as my thoughts will be, we’ll probably be making news.
Last week it was reported by the Guttmacher Institute that abortion rates are now at their lowest level since 1974 and that this data reflects a long-term trend of decline since abortion rates reached their peak in 1990.
As it turns out, however, the statistical drop is of little consolation for those of us who consider all human life to be of equal, inestimable value, including, of course, the life of every unborn child. The same Guttmacher study concludes that today in the United States more than one in five pregnancies end in abortion. This is equivalent to about 1.2 million abortions per year, or about 3,300 per day. Since 1974, there have been an estimated 49,000,000 abortions in America.
I get chills just reading those numbers. But what struck me about this particular study was the accompanying data analysis presented by the Institute’s researchers. The Institute seems to be saying that they are happy that abortion is in decline. In fact, they even give advice to policymakers like me about how to further limit abortion. Now, keep in mind this advice is coming from employees of the Guttmacher Institute, one of the most active and influential promoters of abortion rights and services in the nation. Its founder was the former president of Planned Parenthood. Analyzing the survey’s data, Sharon Camp, current president and CEO of Guttmacher, made this recommendation: “Our policymakers at the state and federal levels need to understand that behind virtually every abortion is an unintended pregnancy, so we must redouble our efforts towards prevention, through better access to contraception.”
The Guttmacher Institute is saying publicly (perhaps for the first time with such clarity) that abortion is undesirable. It is saying abortion is bad for the country, or bad for women, or bad for babies, or bad for something — I’m not really sure — and that policymakers should try to reduce abortions by increasing access to contraception (as if it weren’t accessible now, but that’s another issue).
The Guttmacher strategy seems to employ this logic: abortion is bad, but unwanted pregnancies are so bad that access to abortion is very good.
But, folks, I’ve got a problem with Guttmacher logic and with all politicians who adhere to it — and we know there are lots of those. Have you heard the campaign slogan that abortions should be “rare and safe”?
I say that if doctors and scientists tell us a fetus is a human being, and if all human beings have equal value (thank God, the majority of Americans still agree upon this), then to take the life of a fetus is always wrong, no matter the intention.
Very few politicians today — even supporters of abortion rights — would disagree with me in public on this. Instead, they justify their pro-choice stance and all efforts to increase unfettered access to abortion, by saying the state should not force its morals on society and that a woman’s privacy supersedes all considerations about the life and other rights of the child in her womb.
But what is never said by these same politicians — and I want to say it clearly here, without any embarrassment — is that government has not only the right, but also the obligation, to interfere in the privacy of anyone who endangers the lives of others, especially the lives of those who are unable to fend for themselves. Our right to privacy — our right to anything, for that matter — can only be properly understood in the context of the competing rights of others.
Yes, I agree, there is good reason to fear a government’s tactics of legislating morality but, if you want to know what’s really scary, it’s a government that abandons its primordial role of defending the life of the innocent against those with the power and intention of extinguishing it.
So how do politicians get away with such jumbled logic?
Thirty five years ago today, a group of judges abandoned a precious history of strict jurisprudence and invented a constitutional right to abortion on demand, in the name of privacy. Fortunately, many Constitutional historians and academics on both sides of the abortion debate now recognize that Roe v. Wade is very bad law.
As president of the United States of America I will look for judges who have the fortitude to be impartial interpreters of the Constitution. Having studied the issue myself for many years and having consulted many experts whom I trust, I am convinced that any judge who now says Roe v Wade was good jurisprudence is either incompetent or dishonest and would be a bad candidate for Supreme Court justice. No, I won’t be looking to put pro-life activists on the bench, in fact, I’ll try to keep them off the bench as well. I’ll be looking for impartial judges. Some day, in my presidency or in another’s, good jurisprudence will triumph over the bad precedent of Roe v. Wade.
The debate over legal abortion will then return to the state level, the next realistic battleground for the renewal of rational thinking about abortion.
But even before Roe is overturned, I will try to mitigate its affects, while always staying within my role as head of the executive branch. As of later today you will be able to find on my website an outline of the specific action I will take in this regard. Don’t expect me to be a pro-life superhero. I will just be a president who understands his specific and limited role in what I consider to be the most important social justice issue of our day. In as much as it is in my competence as president, you can be sure that I will fight to keep your tax money away from Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider and which now receives almost one third of its budget from the government.
Some people within the media, and perhaps even some of you ordinary voters, will take what I am saying about abortion as some secret ploy to turn all Floridians into one-issue voters. To that, I say this: don’t vote for me because I am personally pro-life; don’t vote for me because I am professionally pro-life. Vote for me because I am the best person for the job, a multi-faceted job that includes the obligation to defend the God-given right of every human being to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
As you size up the character and qualifications of other presidential hopefuls, I think it’s fair to invite you to consider their position on abortion as a threshold by which to judge their wisdom in general. Because once again, if science tells us a fetus is a human being and if we all agree human beings have equal and inestimable value, then it is very logical that our desire for privacy and convenience must always give way to the right to life of the week and unwanted.
I’ll take some questions now. Don’t worry. We’ll use all the time we need.”
• Click over to visit Father Jonathan's Column Archive