Conservatism Can’t Survive Without the Pro-Life Movement, Part II

In Part I, I argue that it would be politically foolish for the Right to further backpedal or abandon the pro-life cause. Here I want to make the case that the right to life truly is inseparable both from core conservatism and from any meaningful effort to advance conservative ideas—that, in fact, pro-abortion tendencies actually endanger the prospects of those who value limited government, the free market, and strong national defense.

As I explained on June 15, abortion is an affront to the Declaration of Independence. As the unjust taking of a human life, it is wrong for the same reason slavery, theft, assault, honor killings, rape, eminent domain abuse, and individual health insurance mandates are wrong: they are all violations of human liberty and natural rights.  Accordingly, society justly protects its citizens from them via law for the same reason.  As long as conservatism still “holds these truths to be self-evident” that all men have “certain unalienable rights” to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” and as long as conservatism still accepts that “governments are instituted among men” for the purpose of “secur[ing] these rights,” then philosophically-consistent conservatives have no choice but to oppose legalized abortion. Nobody can support abortion in good conscience without either honestly confronting this conundrum head-on, or asking himself what definition of “conservatism” he’s been operating under all this time.

That pro-choice views are an egregious exception to conservatives’ and libertarians’ pro-liberty rhetoric should be obvious. What may be less obvious—but is no less true—is that such dubious thinking cannot help but undermine other core conservative principles and efforts. Continue reading

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“American Right to Life’s” Misguided Pro-Life Profiles (UPDATED)

I recently came across a website called Pro-Life Profiles (hat tip: Lisa Graas), which evaluates the pro-life credentials of various center-right figures, from GOP candidates to conservative activists.  The first thing that’s important to note about the site is that it’s a project of American Right to Life.  ARTL proclaims itself the “personhood wing of the pro-life movement,” but according to the National Right to Life Committee, ARTL is a scam that does little more than raise funds from people who confuse them with the more well-known NRLC.  Who’s right?  I can’t say for sure, but I’m inclined to trust NRLC (despite some disagreements with them) based on my familiarity with all the work they undertake on behalf of the pro-life movement, whereas I know of ARTL doing no such work.  (UPDATE: In the comments, ARTL spokesman Bob Enyart claims the ARTL that ran afoul of NRLC was a different, now-defunct organization.) I report, you decided.

Their website seems entirely devoted to tearing down other pro-lifers as traitors to the cause (or at least insufficiently devoted), and that’s the exclusive mission of Pro-Life Profiles.  Admittedly, they have found several legitimate reasons for criticizing politicians such as George W. Bush, Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, and even Sarah Palin, and they’re correct to stress that the ultimate goal of the pro-life movement must be full, nationwide legal protection for the unborn as full human beings.  Unfortunately, in their zeal to reach the ultimate goal, they make profoundly wrong moral and practical arguments against various valuable, common-sense pro-life policies.

For instance, in criticizing Concerned Women for America and its president, Wendy Wright, ARTL argues that pro-lifers should not support laws that require obtaining parental notification/consent, or require being shown ultrasounds, before obtaining an abortion.  They claim that it’s immoral to support any law that tacitly accepts abortion’s legality, and that such laws are somehow counterproductive to the goal of legal protection for the unborn.  Among their arguments (many of them are vapid & repetitive, and life is short, so I’m only going to address the highlights):

ARTL: They don’t actually reduce abortions, and in fact may increase abortions.

ME: Simply ask yourself: does having to inform or get permission from your parents to get an abortion, does that make seeking an abortion easier or harder?  If a women sees an ultrasound showing that unborn babies aren’t simply a lump of tissue, is she more or less likely to go through with it?  Though these laws won’t prevent abortions in all cases, it should be obvious which direction they move things in.  In particular, does ARTL mean to deny the enormous power of ultrasounds to change people’s hearts and minds?

ARTL: It’s immoral to support any law whose end result still permits abortions to take place.

ME: You’re not giving abortion tacit approval by voting for something less than outright prohibition if outright prohibition is not an option available to you.  If it pushes the law in the right direction, and if it saves lives, it’s not only moral, but necessary.  Strategy is not an either-or proposition; you have to pursue every available avenue.

ARTL: “Thirty years of evidence also shows that the regulation strategy has failed to move the federal judiciary, which is mostly Republican and overwhelmingly pro-choice, toward the right-to-life position.”

ME: This is just stupid—who ever said they’re supposed to move the judiciary?  Reducing abortions legislatively and getting good judges on the bench are both important goals, but one has nothing to do with another.  Again, it’s not either-or.

ARTL: Such regulations “call upon our own judges to uphold laws that regulate killing the innocent, and thus turn conservative judges increasingly against the personhood of the unborn.”

ME: Their link claims that “Antonin Scalia has publicly stated that he would strike down any law that prohibited abortion in all fifty states, and Clarence Thomas has ruled that the public has the right to decide to legalize the killing of unborn children.” I don’t know what cases/remarks they’re referring to, but in Scalia’s case I suspect he was simply noting that, as a judge, he does not have the authority to criminalize abortion.  And unfortunately, he’s right: judges are not policymakers, and even the language of the 14th Amendment discusses “born” citizens, making any judicial abortion ban shaky Constitutional ground.  That’s why pro-lifers should fight for the Human Life Amendment.

ARTL: These laws “will keep abortion ‘legal’ if abortion is wickedly ‘returned to the states.”

ME: “Wickedly” returned to the states?  Short of a constitutional amendment, you can’t make much legislative headway until you return it to the states by overturning Roe v. Wade (and popular support for state abortion bans will certainly come before enough support to pass a national constitutional amendment).  Because abortion is not explicitly mentioned in the Constitution, the states have the right to determine abortion policy.  Reverse Roe, and abortion automatically becomes illegal in those states whose pre-Roe abortion bans remain in effect, and the rest of the states get a fighting chance.  Pro-choice politicians would no longer be able to hide behind the Supreme Court.  This scenario is bad why?

It’s absurd to think parental notification laws would prevent full abortion bans.  Even if they did give tacit approval to the principle of choice (which they don’t), they’re mere legislative acts, and can be superseded by new legislative acts with a simple majority vote.

Absent in ARTL’s analysis is any recognition of Constitutional originalism, separation of powers, or judicial restraint.  Understandably-frustrating though it may be at times, the Founders placed clear limits on how political goals—even noble and essential ones—may be pursued.  In their view, how much should the pro-life movement respect the rule of law? If they think the ends justify the means, and that the Right should embrace judicial activism, they should come out and say so.  But before that, they’d do well to brush up on how past leaders reconciled human rights and constitutionalism, and think twice before condemning the rest of us as traitors to the unborn.

Why Do People Pay Andrew Sullivan to Talk, Again?

Andrew Sullivan, leading contender for Most Deranged Blogger in America, has apparently decided conspiracy-mongering over the sex lives of conservative women wasn’t interesting enough, so now he’s taken it upon himself to uncover the truth behind rumors that Obama Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan might be a lesbian, and what the White House’s reaction to the rumors means for the struggle for gay rights:

Apparently unsatisfied with what seemed to be a clear denial from the White House that Kagan was gay, Sullivan asked, “Is Obama actually going to use a Supreme Court nominee to advance the cause of the closet (as well as kill any court imposition of marriage equality)? And can we have a clear, factual statement as to the truth?”

But they did give a clear, factual statement. And Sullivan’s Atlantic colleague Marc Ambinder has reported that close friends of Kagan say she’s straight; Ambinder tells The Daily Beast he has since received a similarly definitive answer from White House officials. Sullivan offers no new evidence to suggest the White House answer is wrong. In his first post on the issue, Sullivan wrote that further questions are fair game because “we have been told by many that she is gay”—without ever disclosing who the “many” might be and whether or not they are credible sources.”

When pressed, Serious Andrew’s line changes to:

Sullivan said that as a blogger, “my job is to think out loud. It is not my job to report stories.” As for information on Kagan’s orientation, “one need have no ‘evidence’ beside the fact that she is single and seems to be lacking in any emotional or relationship history to ask a question not about her private life but about her public identity.”

But Todd Gitlin, a professor of journalism at Columbia University, told The Daily Beast that Sullivan’s failure to provide any clear evidence that Kagan’s sexuality was in question raised major ethical concerns by pushing unsourced rumors into the mainstream press.

“It’s slimy locution here in that he writes ‘We have been told by many that she is gay,'” Gitlin said. “And what would constitute evidence? If someone shows up and says ‘I slept with Elena Kagan when we were in college,’ so what? I see nothing but slime down the slippery slope because accusers are a dime a dozen.”

Sullivan’s response?

“Gitlin’s remarks are so baldly homophobic, I’m a little taken aback.” (Gitlin stressed that rumors surrounding Kagan should not be viewed as a negative if true.)

“Since when is it ‘slime’ to ask someone a simple positive question about his or her orientation?” Sullivan added. “Since when is asking someone about her orientation an ‘accusation’? Is being gay something one is ‘accused’ of? And Gitlin’s blanket assumption that being gay means who you ‘sleep with’ is reductionist bigotry. Being gay is a core part of someone’s emotional identity and personal biography.”

Valiant though Greg Gutfeld’s above attempt may be, it’s no longer possible to truly parody Andrew Sullivan.  The man does it himself.

I don’t much care whether or not Kagan is gay; I care about the fact that, as a leftist, she’d be the antithesis of everything a good justice should be.

Why Sotomayor Is Wrong for the Court, & What the GOP Should Do About It

Judge Sonia Sotomayor is exactly the kind of person you don’t want on the Supreme Court.  Her infamous (and recurrent) “hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would, more often than not, reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life” is a clear sign that she sees issues and situations through a racial, identity-politics prism.  Her comment that the US Court of Appeals “is where policy is made” speaks for itself.  Apologists have tried to explain these statements away as if they were detached, self-evident observations about the way things are, not the way she wants them to be.  But that won’t do—we already have examples of both ideas polluting her judicial analysis.

She opposes capital punishment on the grounds that it “is associated with evident racism in our society” and once claimed that, after reviewing “the current literature of the past two years, no publications have been found that challenge the evidence and the rationale presented in opposition to the death penalty.”  She has complained that her 1998 appellate confirmation was delayed due to racism: “I was dealt with on the basis of stereotypes . . . and it was painful . . . and not based on my record…I got a label because I was Hispanic and a woman and [therefore] I had to be liberal.” However, her racial sensitivity doesn’t extend to white and Hispanic firefighters denied promotions on the basis of their race.  She looks at the phrase, “the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed” and somehow concludes that “the right to possess a gun is clearly not a fundamental right.”  She acknowledges that her judicial analysis is influenced in part by “foreign law and the international community.”

In America’s system of checks and balances, the purpose of the judicial branch is “to secure a steady, upright, and impartial administration of the laws,” as Hamilton writes in Federalist 78.  He goes on to write that judges are to have an “inflexible and uniform adherence to the rights of the Constitution, and of individuals.”  The duty of a judge is to discern the plain meaning and original intent of the law.  Opinions regarding what the law should be—preferences for which policies to adopt and which to repeal—are for the elected representatives of the people to debate and enact.  Why would we even dream of giving policymaking power to unelected magistrates with lifetime offices?

Anyone familiar with the Framers’ thinking, from Federalist 10 to Washington’s Farewell Address, can attest to their belief in the importance of national unity and pursuing the common interest, and in the dangers of factional division along regional, ethnic, cultural, or religious lines.  The idea that it’s even legitimate, much less desirable, for a judge to view legal matters through any sort of racial or identity-politics prism would have been utterly alien to them.  The law is what it is, regardless of its observer, and the mark of a great judge is the ability to look beyond one’s personal baggage and prejudices to seek the truth.

Sonia Sotomayor fails this test, and her nomination doesn’t speak well of the judicial philosophy of the president who nominated her (especially considering that Obama once taught constitutional law).  As a matter of principle, her nomination ought to be opposed—but thanks to the Republican moderation mentality, that’s another can of worms.  The standard reaction to Sotomayor’s known failings by Republicans making the cable news rounds seems to be, “it’s troubling, but let’s see what she has to say during the hearings.”  Translation: “Yeah, we know it looks bad, but we don’t want to make any commitments because we’re scared that we might alienate the Hispanic vote further” (because pandering to liberal Hispanics worked out so well last year).

This is absurd.  Cowardly failure to draw clear distinctions between themselves and the Democrats got Republicans into this mess, and it’s not going to get them out of it.  The idea that whatever Sotomayor says during her job interview should carry more weight than her record is ridiculous.  And I don’t understand the idea that an opposition to this Supreme Court nominee will somehow deplete the “ammo” Republicans will need to battle the next nominee, or the idea that this battle is less important, since she’s just filling a seat that was occupied by another liberal anyway, and fighting isn’t ultimately going to keep her off the court.

Regardless of whether or not Sotomayor becomes a Justice, Republicans need to loudly oppose her nomination, for two reasons.  First, the base cannot be expected to keep fighting for Republicans if Republicans cannot be expected to fight for them.  Second, a fight over Sotomayor’s failings is an opportunity to bring attention to the underlying constitutional issues and principles at stake, which you cannot expect unconvinced Americans to adopt if you only mention them in passing during campaign season.  We always hear about the need to have a “national discussion” over this or that issue.  Well, here’s your chance.  Discuss.