Roe Turns 2,000

Yesterday evening, Representative Donald Payne, Jr. (D-NJ) took the oath of office. By my calculation, he is the 2,000th voting member of Congress that has served since the Roe v. Wade decision of January 22, 1973.**

Since time immemorial, pro-life activists have told the world that Roe was an undemocratic ruling – that it unjustly took the abortion law away from the people and their elected representatives. And yet, for 40 years, it has been a constant topic of debate in American politics. Nearly every one of the 2,000 men and women to have served in Congress since the decision has had to take a public position on the ruling. What other Supreme Court decision can you say that about? Is there any judicial opinion in American history which has so relentlessly been subjected to democratic election and debate?

It’s time to stop blaming the Court. No Justice from the Roe Court remains on the Court today. Every Justice now sitting on the Court was confirmed by Senators elected long after abortion became a political issue. Opportunity after opportunity to stop pro-choice judges arose. And in each case, the democratically elected Senate, representing the voice of the people, gave these pro-abortion judges lifetime tenure.

Neither has there been any shortage of time to pass some sort of Constitutional amendment. Indeed, Senate committee hearings on such an amendment were conducted in 1974, 1975, 1981, and 1983. The House had committee hearings in 1976. Collectively, they are impressively thorough. Only in 1983 did the committee see fit to send an amendment to the entire Congress for approval. It was not a pure right to life amendment, but it did at least give the states the power to ban abortion. Only 49 Senators voted yes – well short of the 2/3rds needed for passage.

More recently, in 1999 and 2003, the Senate passed symbolic resolutions which declared approval of the Roe ruling. And pro-life forces in the Senate have only dwindled since those years.

There have been a small handful of legislative victories. During the Bush years, the Born Alive Infants Protection Act passed. But even this paltry achievement is somewhat tarnished by having a current President who opposes it. The Bush years also gave us the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, which took a decade to pass, and the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, which expressly disclaimed any intent to limit or curb legal abortion. Real achievements, but mere pittance in the face of more than 50 million casualties.

By far the most significant victory came in the limitation of taxpayer funded abortions. But even this consensus appears to be falling apart.  Prior to the Clinton years, tax dollars were forbidden even for rape and incest abortions. When George W. Bush replaced Clinton in 2001, Congress never even attempted to eliminate the new rape and incest exceptions. These days, there is talk of eliminating the Hyde amendment altogether.

Just yesterday, Rasmussen released a new poll about abortion. 54% of respondents called themselves pro-choice, and only 38% of respondents called themselves pro-life. Polls haven’t been that bad for our side since the early ’90s. You can debate the precise accuracy of the poll, but you cannot deny that a majority of Americans favor legal abortion. For forty years, this nation has wanted killing, and the 2,000 men and women democratically elected to Congress have done nothing more than reflect this consensus.


**This is not counting Richard McIntyre (R-IN), who won a seat in 1984, voted for Speaker, but then was denied the chance to take the oath of office. I don’t have time to go into the details, but essentially the Democratic controlled House brazenly stole McIntyre’s seat. Let that be a lesson to anyone who still thinks Congressional Democrats are basically honest and decent human beings.

The Ever Dimming Trophy of Iowa, 1978

It looked so simple back in 1973.

Less than three months earlier, Nixon had tarred McGovern as the candidate of abortion. He won 49 states. Referendums in Michigan and North Dakota rejected plans to liberalize the life-of-mother-only abortion laws in those states. In both referendums, the pro-life vote actually ran ahead of the vote for Nixon. Massachusetts, the one state which went for McGovern, was in the process of amending their Constitution to make unborn life even more legally secure. Even in New York, the legislature was now attempting to repeal its 1970 abortion-on-demand law. In December, 1972, National Review even ran a brief editorial lauding the apparent death of the “feticide” movement in America.

Then in January came Roe v. Wade, which was more radical than both New York’s law, and McGovern’s position in the recent election. Surely this decision would be overturned quickly by Constitutional amendment. And if not, surely voters would elect pro-life Congressmen at the earliest possible opportunity to pass such an amendment.

Well, not exactly.

Abortion did make a difference in one of the first post-Roe races. In early 1974, a special election was held in a Republican leaning district in Ohio. Tom Luken, the Democrat, pledged to back a right to life amendment. William Keating, the Republican, hedged. Luken won, but the victory was short-lived; when the election for a full term came around in November, Keating triumphed in the rematch.

A few states over in Kansas, Bob Dole narrowly edged out William Roy in a Senate election. For years afterward, Roy blamed his loss on the abortion issue. And yet the Dole-Roy contest was the exception. Everywhere else, the legally sanctioned execution of babies was essentially a non-issue. More important in the minds of most voters, apparently, was a trivial hotel break-in more than two years earlier.

We come now, to the great trophy of pro-life political activism: the Iowa Senate race of 1978. For more than 30 years, this race has been cited as proof of a pro-life voting bloc’s potential power. Democrat Dick Clark won an upset victory in 1972, and proceeded to become a loyal pro-choice vote for the ensuing six years. Republicans ran Roger Jepsen, a minimally talented candidate with little to recommend him other than a solid commitment to the right to life movement. Indeed, Jepsen’s campaign against Clark consisted of almost nothing else. He targeted heavily Democratic regions of the state with pro-life advertising, and in the end, enough Democrats crossed party lines to put Jepsen over the top.

For the next several weeks, the national media engaged in extensive concern trolling about the horrors of single-issue voting. How heartbreaking that such a hardworking Senator was thrown out because voters disagreed with him on one issue! Thankfully, Iowa paid no heed, and repeated the same performance two years later, ousting pro-choice Senator John Culver in favor of pro-life challenger Chuck Grassley.

But then, sometime in the early ’80s, Iowans finally did embrace the media’s advice, and got sick of making every election about abortion. In 1984, when Roger Jepsen ran for re-election, the issue played virtually no role in his loss to the virulently pro-choice Tom Harkin.

Single-issue voting returned with a vengeance in 1990, when Harkin ran for re-election. In contrast to the indomitably liberal Harkin, Republican candidate Tom Tauke was a moderate on virtually every issue. Except for abortion, that is. Like Roger Jepsen in 1978, Tom Harkin centered his campaign around abortion, but this time it was Tauke’s pro-life stance which was supposed to offend the majority of Iowa voters. Harkin’s gamble paid off, and Tauke went down to defeat. In twelve years, Iowa had undergone a complete 180.

With each passing year, the luster of Jepsen’s 1978 triumph dims a bit more. For whatever reason, voters will not throw out a Congressman just because he or she is pro-choice. Probably the saddest example of this general rule was former Texas Representative Chet Edwards. Edwards supported partial-birth abortion, and yet his lopsidedly conservative district sent him back to Congress time after time. It took the wave election of 2010 for Edwards to finally go down.

These days, it seems the only elections swung by the abortion issue are swung in favor of the pro-choice candidate. Akin. Mourdock. I need say nothing else. Voters will not send supporters of partial-birth abortion packing, but they will deny support to opponents of rape and incest exceptions.

Pro-choice candidates for president have now taken the majority of the popular vote in 5 out the last 6 elections. What’s that? Polls say that 50% call themselves “pro-life” and only 41% call themselves “pro-choice”? Well, you can keep your polls. I prefer to let the American electorate’s actions at the ballot box speak for themselves. Whatever the polls say, fellow travelers, I can tell you only this: we’re not in 1978 Iowa any more.

UnMittigated Disaster

God is finished with America.

On November 6, a chorus of 60 million voters shouted “Give us Barabbas!” And Barabbas they were given.

I myself was blindsided. I blithely assumed Mitt would pull it off. After all, America has been crying “Give us Barabbas!” for a long time. About 250 years by my count. And until now, God had always given America mercy and prosperity it did not deserve.

And yet, deep down, I knew that it wouldn’t last forever. A nation reaps what it sows. God is not mocked. Our so-called courts of justice have given blessing to the execution of 55 million innocents and counting. The true miracle is that America’s gravy train of relative happiness and comfort lasted as long as it did.

There is no turning back from 2012. Obamacare is here to stay, freedom of religion is mere months away from extinction, the Supreme Court will soon have a rock-solid liberal majority, and jobs and money will continue to grow scarcer. Scary times are coming. Like every other great empire in history, America will collapse.

On January 22, 2013, the Biblically symbolic 40th anniversary of Roe arrives. The lead story in the newspapers on that day will be a report of Obama’s second inauguration. Frankly, I can’t think of a more grimly appropriate and fitting end to the first forty years in the wilderness. A novelist couldn’t have scripted it better.

Meanwhile in the Senate, Democrat Joe Donnelly will be settling in. He will be Senator because the heavily Republican electorate of Indiana preferred him to Richard Mourdock. And why? Because Mourdock made the unpardonable offense of stating that every life is a gift from God. Could there be any more poignant illustration of the pro-life movement’s utter failure to touch the conscience of America during the last 40 years?

Presiding over the Senate will be Vice President Joe Biden. Biden joined Congress less than a month before the Roe decision. Although a Catholic, he supported the decision because he valued the state more than God. And he was re-elected Vice President on Tuesday because a majority of American Catholics shared this prioritization.

Thousands of years ago, Moses instructed the Israelites to choose life. Instead, the Israelites chose death. And the result? Just read the book of Lamentations. After that, Israel did not re-emerge as a nation for 2,500 years. Americans too, have chosen death. Probably, we will not even be so lucky as Israel.