Conservatism Can’t Survive Without the Pro-Life Movement, Part I (Updated)

The more I reflect on The Great NewsReal Abortion Debate, the more convinced I am that I made a critical error.

I want to revisit the issue of whether or not the pro-life cause is central or peripheral to the conservative movement.  I made clear where I stood on that question—as an egregious deprivation of human rights, abortion should be opposed by every lover of liberty with every fiber of his or her being—but I fear I didn’t go nearly far enough in explaining the implications of the answer.  This essay will explore the practical aspects of the matter; my next one will address the moral and philosophical.

I conceded that I could “basically support” the kind of ‘truce’ David Swindle was talking about, i.e. candidates centering their campaigns on the “two unifying issues” of the free market and defeating Islamofascism. That’s more or less how wartime Republican presidents since Ronald Reagan have run for office anyway (in Reagan’s case swapping out Islamofascism for the Soviet Union), and that’s okay.  I don’t have a problem with our candidates emphasizing some issues more than others to put voters’ most immediate concerns front and center, or to address crises that demand immediate resolution.

However, that doesn’t exempt a candidate from talking about the right to life at all, or from being pro-life.  I have already argued that pro-life principles are inseparable from core conservatism, and that abortion cannot be regarded as merely one issue among many, and I’ll elaborate more on those points in the next post.  But it’s also important because whether or not one is capable of recognizing abortion for the evil that it is, and is willing to do something about it, tells us something about what he or she is made of. I know there are exceptions (Ron Paul is pro-life but deranged, Joe Lieberman is radically pro-abortion, but firm on the war), but I truly believe that strongly pro-life candidates will tend to be of a higher caliber than pro-choice candidates in several qualities that will benefit public servants, and the American people, in all areas: 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.

Rand Wins, America Loses

I’ve put a lot of effort here and on NewsReal into defending Sarah Palin from various attacks.

Tonight, I regret every word of it.

Thanks in no small part to her endorsement (as well as that of James Dobson, Jim DeMint, & Erick Erickson), the deranged Rand Paul won the Kentucky GOP’s Senate nomination (more on Paul’s hideous record here and here).

Palin’s celebration of Paul’s victory on tonight’s “Hannity” consisted entirely of empty blather straight out of the Paul camp’s press releases: the grassroots are rising up, the establishment better take notice, blah blah blah.  Does she know anything about Paul’s record?  About how he’s diametrically opposed to her own views on national security?

Some of you who don’t share Paul’s affinity for appeasement or his tolerance of bigotry might nevertheless think Paul’s win is no big deal, because he only has one vote and most foreign policy will be set by the executive branch.  But first, consider that Democrats campaign for keeps – we all know the lengths to which Democrats will go to falsely smear conservatives as extremists; just imagine the field day they’ll have with all of the real dirt in Rand’s closet.  I predict a Democrat victory in the general election.

Second, odds are that more than a few mushy Republican pols and would-be candidates will interpret Paul’s win, and his legitimization by other mainstream “true” conservatives, as an indication that it’s okay and/or smart politics to tack left on defense issues.  Do we really want two pro-appeasement political parties?

I hope Jim DeMint is rewarded with the primary challenge of his life.  And Sarah Palin has proven that she does not deserve the presidency.

Republicans Fiddle While Democracy Burns

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Enshrined in the First Amendment to the US Constitution, free speech is one of America’s cornerstones.  All sides sing its praises, and no politician can expect to safely voice disrespect or opposition towards it.

The underlings of politicians, on the other hand…

Cass Sunstein, appointed by Barack Obama to head the White House Office of Information & Regulatory Affairs, isn’t a big fan of free & unregulated political expression.  In the past, he’s argued for new laws that would make bloggers and web-hosting services potentially liable for what their commenters say, as well as make it easier to sue people who “spread rumors” for libel.

For obvious reasons, these proposals would be logistical nightmares to implement, forcing bloggers to spend less time expressing their own ideas and more time policing their audiences, lest they risk liability for the words of others.  The end result is a stifling of free speech, and make no mistake: that’s exactly what Barack Obama and Cass Sunstein intend.

Now, Sunstein has been caught proposing more regulation of the blogosphere, in the form of new federal mandates forcing websites to “provide links to sites of the other point of view…Or maybe a popup on your screen that would show you an advertisement or maybe even a quick argument for a competing view.”  An Internet Fairness Doctrine, if you will.

What do the Left’s premier guardians of free speech at the ACLU have to say about all this?  Nothing.

Of course, I expect the Democrats to pull this garbage, and their foot soldiers on the Left and in the media to quietly go along.  The real scandal here is the lack of strong, vocal Republican opposition.  If they aren’t finally corrected, and fast, the cowardice and inability to lead that dominate the GOP are going to be the death of this country.

Will Amnesty Torpedo the GOP’s Comeback?

Now that healthcare reform has passed, there’s been chatter about a possible amnesty encore.  Some speculate that “immigration reform could KO health care.”  On the surface, that seems to make sense – the public hates ObamaCare and everything the Democrats did to pass it, and given how much they hated amnesty when President Bush pushed it, trying again could backfire spectacularly on the Democrats.

However, it could also end up killing all the momentum and goodwill the GOP’s built up with the public over health care.  The GOP will have enough trouble maintaining momentum on healthcare going into 2010 and keeping it all the way to 2012, and unlike healthcare, a fair number of prominent Republicans can be expected to defect to the Left on immigration, casting fresh doubts in voters’ minds as to their judgment, responsibility, values, and trustworthiness.

RNC Chair Michael Steele needs to get in front of this as soon as possible by committing to support only anti-amnesty candidates and opposing any pro-amnesty ones.  If the GOP is to regain the public’s trust, it has to make it crystal clear that its defectors – even leaders such as McCain, Kyl, Graham, and McConnell, are just that: defectors.

Educational Malpractice, ObamaCare Edition

Jim Hoft has the story about PBS’s shiny new material to help teachers indoctrinate “educate” children on the “fundamental right” of health care, and government’s “obligation to secure this right for all Americans.”

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: conservatives cannot save America if we don’t take back the schools.  Vouchers aren’t enough.  Home schooling isn’t enough.  As long as teachers & administrators feel free to pull this garbage without endangering their jobs, as long as school boards allow or promote it without fear of electoral repercussions, and as long as local parents and Republican Parties don’t care enough to scrutinize their schools, the long march of the Left will continue to eat our country away from the inside.