Schmitz on Family Planning, 1970

A speech by Representative John G. Schmitz (R-CA), November 16, 1970.

Representative Schmitz

Representative Schmitz

Mr. Speaker, I rise in opposition to the Family Planning Act, H.R. 19318. There was a time when Americans made a joke about how all politicians could be counted on to be in favor of motherhood, because it was assumed that motherhood was one value and blessing which no one in his right mind could dispute.

                Tragically for our country, those days are past. The familiar joke is not heard very much today. For motherhood is now under systematic, vehement and almost incessant attack. And I am waiting to see how many of my colleagues in this House, which represents the American people, will stand up with me today for motherhood and for human life, and against the “family planners” for whom motherhood is the enemy. The fact that no other member of the committee on which I serve, the committee which brings this bill before you, has been willing to do so shows just how far we have come from the days when the creation of new human life in the mother’s womb was held in universal honor.

We could make being for motherhood a joke when everyone was for it. But ceasing to be for motherhood is a different matter entirely. For motherhood is the channel for the transmission of human life. Without it, there is no future.

What the population planners never seem to remember is that population trends change, ebbing and flowing like the tide at different periods in history. You simply cannot take figures for a given brief period in the present and project them unchanged into the future with any significant probability of accuracy. In just the single decade of the 1960s, according to the preliminary returns from the 1970 census, we overestimated our population by no less than 5½ million people. Instead of the 205,700,000 Americans who had been projected – and ticked off on the famous population clock in the Department of Commerce – there were only 200,200,000.

If we can go 5½ million wrong in just 10 years – nearly 3 percent of our total population – what are we to think of projections now so blithely made for 30, 50, or 100 years into the future? Their appearance of precise statistical accuracy is pure sham.

What we now see is a more steady reduction of the birth rate in America, going back to 1957. According to the report of the White House National Goals Research Staff, July 4, 1970, Figure 2-1, it has fallen from 3.8 births per mother in 1957 to less than 2.5 today. If this trend continues and is artificially accelerated by massive government programs such as the bill before us would establish, we may well see not only an end to the baby boom of the early 1950s, but an actual population decline resulting from a growing and officially sponsored hostility to conception.

Such declines have occurred, seriously weakening or destroying the nations involved, without the benefit of modern contraceptive techniques and without official promotion, in many significant instances in history, ranging from the last years of the western Roman Empire to 19th century France. It is noteworthy that Communist China, which has the largest population of any nation on earth and whose government certainly has the power to impose population control, has rejected this as a policy. The contraceptive mentality can mean national suicide.

The Bill before us today, brought up under suspension of the rules on the very first day after a month-long recess, would commit the U.S. government to the life prevention business at an initial cost of more than a quarter of a billion dollars. We all know from long experience with Federal programs how much this figure is certain to rise once the program is underway – with no end in sight.

The bill contains no restriction whatever on the age or the marital status of the persons who may receive contraceptives paid for by the funds it appropriates. Dr. Alan F. Guttmacher, president of Planned Parenthood-World Population, admitted in testimony before the Interstate and Foreign Commerce Committee that his organization – which would in all likelihood receive substantial funding from the appropriations provided by this bill – now gives contraceptives to young teenage children in family life classes in several large cities. Thus it is simple truth to say – unpalatable as a blunt statement of the truth may be – that in practice it will amount to officially condoning not only fornication, but statutory rape.

We are told that the bill is intended to prevent the birth of unwanted children. What makes a child unwanted? A paper by Arthur A. Campbell, Chief of the Natality Statistics Branch, National Center for Health Statistics, U.S. Public Health Service, included in the transcript of the committee hearings on this bill, may serve to put this talk of unwanted children in true perspective, and to give an idea of the price some Americans now put on human life:

                The prevention of 451,000 births would allow 135,000 women to work for four years. If they earned an average of only $2,000 annually (assuming that some work part-time and some work full-time), their earnings would total $8,000 each, or $7,260 when discounted to the first year at a rate of four percent. Since only 30 percent of the women are assumed to work, the additional earnings would average $2,178 per unwanted birth avoided. In this case the economic benefit is 7.8 times greater than the cost of $300 per unwanted birth avoided.

This is one of the most chilling statements I have ever read. There was a time when Americans viewed human life as priceless. Now it seems the price is down to $2,178. At this rate, how long will it be before we drop to rock bottom – the value of a few cents, or maybe a few dollars now with inflation, that has been set for the chemical constituents of a human body?

By contrast to this appalling product of the statistician’s art, I would like to share with you a most significant comment of my distinguished colleague from Kentucky, Dr. Tim Lee Carter, who – though he supported this bill in committee – had this to say in response to the witness who tried to tell the committee how mothers often hated their newly born children:

                I was interested in paragraph 1 on page 6 of your testimony in which you say that – you talk about the lady, I believe, on page 5, who cursed her children or her unborn child. You know, I think that is the unusual thing. Some way or other almost every mother who gives birth to a child loves that child the moment it is born with an undying, unremitting love. It has been my fortune to deliver thousands of youngsters, and I think that statement is perhaps just a little bit on the unusual side. It may occur, but in the 27 years I was in practice, I do not believe I ever heard a mother curse an unborn child. And I hope I never do.

We are told that this bill is needed to reduce the number of illegitimate births and the medical and psychological complications for both mother and child often resulting from them. But in England, which in the past decade has launched a massive program to make contraception available to everyone, illegitimacy has substantially increased. In the 13 to 15 year age group, it has tripled.

Supposedly this bill would not now permit abortion, which its earlier version would have permitted, because of a clause inserted in the new bill drawn up after the committee hearings – a clause which was not in the bill passed by the Senate, and may not survive the conference committee. But this clause, section 1008, does not specifically define the term abortion. Consequently, its prohibition of abortion might well be interpreted not to apply to those contraceptive methods which destroy the fetus very soon after conception – methods which Dr. Sheldon J. Segal of the Biomedical Division of the Population Council in New York, testifying before the Interstate and Foreign Commerce Committee on this bill, frankly admitted were early abortifacients. The development of abortion-inducing chemicals such as prostaglandins, also described in material presented to the committee, is further obscuring the distinction between abortion and contraception. Furthermore there is no prohibition of any kind on federally assisted sterilization as a method of family planning.

Again and again we are told that this bill is strictly voluntary, that no woman will be forced to accept contraceptives or have her babies killed, or their lives prevented, against her will.

Now I ask all of you, in the name of reason and common sense, how many more times are we going to be fooled by this perennial argument? How many more times are we going to pass bills, assuring ourselves, and everyone else who is concerned, that they are really harmless because strictly voluntary, only to come back a few years later and make them compulsory when the people have become more accustomed to the idea? Surely you all remember Federal aid to education, approved by the House just 5 years ago, with no strings attached and strictly without Federal control – or so we were told. Now we are constantly debating just how we shall go about forcing schools accepting Federal aid – which means virtually all of them now – to comply with our regulations, and how we shall go about forcing children to attend them. There was a time when collective bargaining in this country was voluntary. But then we decided that there was not enough of it, and made it compulsory. The list is endless.

I know that many of you, probably most of you, now approve of the use of Federal aid to impose certain requirements on local schools, and of mandatory collective bargaining. We are not debating those issues here today. I mention them only to show that when proponents of a massive Federal birth control program come before you and insist that they mean it to be always strictly voluntary, history shows that the exact opposite is very likely to be the eventual outcome of legislation like this.

I will ask members of the House this question: In your own careers in Congress how many bills have you seen that you have started out as voluntary measures and have them become mandatory? I served 5½ years in a state legislature, and one of the most common procedures was to change “may” to “shall.” After we put through a voluntary bill, we then moved on to make it mandatory.

I will make a prediction at this point. Mark my words. If this bill passes today, in a few years you will see “may” changed to “shall” when it is found out that the objective stated in this bill cannot be achieved by voluntary means.

Several witnesses at the hearings on this bill made it very clear that they advocate a voluntary birth control program only so long as it works. If it does not work to their satisfaction, they will go to a compulsory program. They leave no place for the alternative of the rejection of the contraceptive mentality by a free, life-loving people.

As Dr. John R. McCain of Atlanta, GA said in testimony on this bill before the Interstate and Foreign Commerce Committee:

                Family planning on a voluntary basis is the most acceptable approach. Unless voluntary methods are successful, actual control of population by compulsory measures may be resorted to at some future time.

And to quote again from Dr. Segal’s testimony:

                There are people, serious demographers, who believe that the population growth rate, the population problems in general in this country, can create problems that can only be solved by strong line methods, by giving up the concept of voluntarism and regulating the number of children people can have, by coercion, by legislative means that will be economically coercive, and so on.

Now, I feel that we must give voluntary family planning a chance to prove whether or not it can bring us to a zero population growth level. We have not given it a chance.

Dr. McCain further explained how funds appropriated under this bill would be used to propagandize for contraception, to change attitudes in its favor, and to put pressure on people to prevent births:

                Psychological and sociological research is required to determine the methods of motivating the population, male and female, to initiate effective family planning and to utilize the methods consistently… We have had in the experience of our program in the Atlanta area what they have spoken of sometimes as the Madison Avenue approach. In other words, by no means that it is terrifying or fearful, but that it is the thing to do. In other words, the popular thing for the patient after she has delivered, if she has not begun on family planning at that time to be sure that she returns. The pressure of her peers by their questions. “You have not started on your pills yet?” Or, “You have not had your IUD put in yet?” The concern of the block area, the community area, that anybody that does not do that is just not quite up on the current way of doing things.

In view of all this explicit testimony, I frankly cannot put much stock in the many pious disclaimers of coercive intent on the part of the proponents of this bill. Rather, I regard it as a long step toward a Nazi-like tyranny in our land. When government gets into bed with you, surely that is the ultimate in government control.

Finally, the most grotesque argument for this bill is that it will somehow help in the fight against pollution, as is indicated in the testimony of organizations such as the Sierra Club in support of it. A moment’s though should make it perfectly clear that a single human being, simply by being alive, produces negligible pollution. It is technology that pollutes, not people. We can, and we must, bring under control those technological excesses and processes which are dangerously befouling our air and water. We should not, and must not, let ourselves be persuaded to try to eliminate pollution by eliminating people.

I ask my colleagues who have the interest of the poor, and of our minority groups especially close to their hearts, to think very carefully about who profits and who suffers by this approach to our pollution problem. The people at whom this bill is specifically aimed are the poor – and less specifically, the minorities. Are they to be made scapegoats and victims of a problem arising from our great industries? As Msg. Alphonse Popek of Milwaukee, WI said in testifying on this bill:

                Pollution, though existent, is the convenient smokescreen for the sinister business of eliminating people. ‘People cause pollution – pollution is bad – therefore eliminate people.’ Which people? All people? It seems that non-quality people are the transgressors. But who is to identify these non-quality people? Does it not seem that the present bill provides for government working through its highest and lowest departments and through funding of individual and private agencies to make the final determination? Little people do cause pollution, yet there are many vested interests in this country which cause even greater and more serious physical pollution, and some of these interests are known and some are yet to be determined. All must be stopped by every technological and scientific effort before human life is to be snuffed out at any point along the spectrum of existence. My concern relates to the removal of truly dangerous pollutants which would not only contaminate the clear streams of morality, and the pure air of religious freedom, but the human rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

I can find no better words with which to conclude than those eloquently spoken by a Wisconsin housewife, Mrs. Alvin Emmons, who traveled 2,000 miles to come to Washington to testify against the bill in committee. Listen to her. I am convinced that she voices the heartfelt protest of the best and soundest instincts of our people, on this legislation:

                It is neither the function nor the purpose of government to sponsor or promote programs of population control. Government’s proper role is to protect the lives of all its citizens including the unborn and to protect the right of the citizens to transmit life. Passage of this law will only add to the irresponsibility and over-permissiveness which seems to be running rampant in all areas of living today. We urge you to vote against this bill and ask rather that you exert every effort to protect the home and family and the very right to life. The time is NOW to stop the tearing down of the home and family through the passage of any immoral or amoral laws.

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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.

Principles of Pro-life Voting

“Vote Pro-life.”

A common refrain this time of year. It’s good advice, but it requires more than a bit of interpretation. According to the Sojourners crowd, voting pro-life means casting ballots for unyielding stalwarts of taxpayer funded abortion (but don’t worry, they still want to reduce the incidence of abortion /sarc). Others have far stricter litmus tests, like support for a right to life Constitutional amendment. Here are my own, non-definitive thoughts about the best ways to truly vote pro-life

What is ‘Pro-life’?

Kay Bailey Hutchison, a retiring Republican Senator from Texas, is on record as favoring the right to abortion. In 2003, she voted to support the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade. And yet, she usually got high marks from pro-life organizations based on her Senate voting record. In the present Congress for example, she voted to defund Planned Parenthood, and supported the Blunt amendment to overturn the HHS mandate. Essentially, she’s a pro-life vote on almost anything short of an outright ban.

Some pro-life organizations advise against voting for legislators like Hutchison. I disagree with that thinking. Hutchison is not ideal, but I will gladly accept smaller legislative victories like defunding PP. If a legislator will vote the right way on every measure that actually has a decent chance of passing, that’s good enough for me.

For the purposes of voting, I consider a candidate “pro-life” if they oppose taxpayer funding of abortion, support conscience protections for medical professionals and institutions, and support common sense restrictions on practices like partial-birth or sex selective abortion. Some Democrats do not even meet these minimal standards, but still insist on disingenuously calling themselves “pro-life” –  for this reason, be wary of any Democrat who applies that label to himself.

Pro-choice Republican vs. Pro-choice Democrat

This is always a painful match-up. As much as it grieves me, I would probably vote for the Republican. First of all, just as “pro-life” Democrats can actually be quite pro-choice, many “pro-choice” Republicans will often vote with pro-lifers depending on the precise issue. In 2011, there was one vote where every Republican in the House of Representatives, including those who call themselves “pro-choice”, voted against taxpayer funded abortion. Also consider that if there had been just one more Republican in the Senate in 2009, whether pro-life or pro-choice, there would be no Obamacare today.

Sometimes though, the pro-choice Republican really is a total dud. Jacob Javits, a New York Senator until 1981, is a good example of a legislator who was utterly worthless to conservatives of any stripe. Even in those cases, I would still vote for the Republican. With a few exceptions, like the West Virginia legislature, no pro-life legislation is ever likely to get through unless Republicans have majorities. Committee chairmanships are extremely important.

What about voting for a third party candidate, or not voting? I look at either of those actions as basically ceding the decision to the rest of the electorate – saying that you do not care which of the two principal candidates wins. Because of committee chairmanships, I think there’s almost always reason to care who wins. I will admit an exception to this rule if the vast majority of Republicans in a state are pro-choice. This may or may not be the case in some of the New England states.

There is also the argument that it is best for the Republican party to be purified, and therefore pro-choice Republicans should be stopped whenever possible. This is a powerful line of reasoning. But in my opinion it should be reserved for primaries. If a pro-choice Republican cannot be taken down in a primary, the problem is not with the candidate – the problem is with the Republican voters.

Pro-life Republican vs. Pro-life Democrat

30 years ago, voting for the Democrat might have been a good idea. Pro-life Democrats were common in the party, and it would have been a shrewd move to help keep them common. Today, however, pro-life Democrats are almost extinct, and they’re not coming back. So you’re better off sticking with the Republican. A voter can rightfully question why a pro-life politician would purposefully align himself with such a horrifyingly anti-life political party. And once again, there is the question of which party controls the legislature. With Pelosi as Speaker, or Leahy as chairman of the judiciary committee, it’s cold comfort that some of the Democrats who put them in those positions are pro-life.

Pro-choice Republican vs. Pro-life Democrat

This might be the trickiest match up of all. Once again, voters should remember that “pro-life” Democrats and “pro-choice” Republicans do not always live up to their labels. And once again, voters should remember that leadership on the committees and in the legislature as a whole is crucially important. For these reasons, the Indiana Right to Life chapter decided in 2010 that they would no longer endorse pro-life Democrats. As a spokesman said, “We want people to understand that Democratic leaders have forced us to draw this hard line. We’ve tried to work with Democratic legislators in good faith, but their actions speak louder than words. Our legislation is killed every year by Democrats in the state legislature. Top Democratic leaders in Washington are dismantling pro-life gains we’ve worked for over four decades to achieve. And now we have been betrayed by three Indiana Democratic congressmen on the health care reform vote at the precise time when we needed them the most.”

Thus, much as I would hate to do so, I think I would vote for the Republican in most of these cases. But I can think of some circumstances where voting for the Democrat would be better. If Republicans have a safe legislative majority, but many of the Republican legislators are pro-choice, voting for the Democrat is a very wise move. Also, if it’s a race for governor, I would not hesitate at all to vote for a strongly pro-life Democrat. Finally, in states where Democrats dominate the legislatures, I would definitely vote for the Democrat. In Rhode Island for example, the Republicans have no hope of capturing the legislature for the foreseeable future, but there still is a very strong pro-life presence within the Democratic party.

The Most Pro-life President Ever Was…

George Herbert Walker Bush??

The greatest White House ally the pro-life movement ever had.

No, the competition isn’t especially strong, but a good case can be made that George H. W. Bush is in fact the most pro-life president we’ve ever had.

This is especially topical now that Romney has essentially wrapped up the Republican nomination. Romney is not especially trusted by conservatives, or by the pro-life movement. In his 1994 and 2002 political campaigns, he repeated again and again that he was emphatically pro-choice. His sudden conversion to the pro-life side around 2006 appears to be nothing more than the crassest sort of political opportunism.

The political life of George H. W. Bush followed a similar trajectory. He was one of the principal masterminds behind the Family Planning Act of 1970, and when he ran for president a decade later, he disclaimed any desire to see Roe v. Wade overturned. After becoming Reagan’s vice president though, Bush quietly switched to the pro-life position. In the 1988 Republican primaries, he managed to weather attacks from Jack Kemp and Bob Dole, whose pro-life bona fides were beyond question.

Two decades later, I still doubt that Bush ever had any truly deep philosophical opposition to legal abortion. And yet, I would say he compares favorably to any other president who has served since Roe v. Wade. The only real competition comes from Reagan and Bush Jr.

The Souter Pick

If it weren’t for one inexcusable and tragic lapse in judgment, the competition wouldn’t even be close. Nevertheless, the fact remains that Bush was responsible for putting David Souter on the Supreme Court – a terrible decision which had repercussions far beyond the narrow issue of abortion. Given the frequency of 5-4 splits on the Supreme Court these days, a good case can be made that the Souter pick was the single greatest misfortune to befall American conservatives in at least the past half century.

But what makes the Souter pick most tragic of all was its striking improbability. When you look at the list of those considered for Supreme Court slots during the Bush administration, Souter truly was the single turd amongst a collection of  diamonds. Clarence Thomas, in my opinion the greatest Justice of all time, was of course given the nod one year after Souter. Other candidates included Edith Jones, Laurence Silberman, Emilio Garza, and Kenneth Starr. Not even Reagan (who appointed O’Connor and Kennedy) or Bush Jr. (who wanted to appoint Harriet Miers and Alberto Gonzales) can compare in terms of overall quality of the pool of candidates.

Judge Edith Jones

In 2004, the aforementioned Edith Jones wrote a scathing critique of Roe. “The perverse result of the Court’s having determined through Constitutional adjudication this fundamental social policy, which affects over a million women and unborn babies each year, is that the facts no longer matter. This is a peculiar outcome for a Court so committed to “life” that it struggles with the particular facts of dozens of death penalty cases each year.” Fourteen years earlier, on the morning of July 23, 1990, Bush had narrowed his choice to Jones and Souter. In what he would characterize as a “very close call,” he chose Souter.

But what if God had been kinder, and this “close” choice had gone the other way? History would record that Bush replaced liberal giants Brennan and Marshall with conservative giants Jones and Thomas. It would have been an accomplishment for the ages, and it truly did  come agonizingly close to actually happening. Bush, I believe, deserves our sympathy rather than our condemnations. Even the greatest of statesmen can make one sadly crucial mistake.

The Rape and Incest Vetoes

Since the start of the Clinton administration, federal funding of abortion has generally been prohibited except when the pregnancy endangers the life of the mother, or resulted from rape or incest. Before then, rape and incest related abortions were denied federal funding as well. During the Reagan years, this reflected the will of Congress. Reagan did nothing except sign the bills into law.

But then in 1989, in the aftermath of the Webster ruling, Congress abruptly lurched in the pro-choice direction. Rape and incest were added to the mother’s life as allowable funding exceptions in the bills passed by Congress. Time after time, throughout all four years of his presidency, Bush vetoed these bills, and asked Congress to drop those exceptions. Time after time, Congress fell just short of being able to override these vetoes, and caved to Bush’s demands.

Even in the best of times, quibbling over abortions for rape and incest victims is pretty much political suicide. But to do so from 1989 to 1992, an era when many longtime pro-life stalwarts were abandoning ship, was truly a remarkable act of courage. That Bush never backed down in the face of overwhelming opposition is almost a miracle.

He talked a good talk, but didn't actually do much for the pro-life cause as president

Reagan and Bush Jr. make for interesting contrasts. Legislation to ban abortion during Reagan’s first term never got off the ground, in large part because Reagan gave it only the most tepid, halfhearted support imaginable. He was unwilling to go to bat for it. During his second term, Republicans in Congress did not even attempt to advance any major pro-life initiatives. George W. Bush, to his credit, got the partial-birth abortion ban into law, and twice vetoed attempts to fund embryonic stem cell research, but unlike his father he freely signed into law funding bills with rape and incest exceptions.

Conclusions

Would Mitt Romney be anything like George Bush as president? There’s no way to know for sure. On the one hand, we can pretty much rule out the possibility of him re-opening the war over rape and incest funding exceptions. On the other hand, the likelihood of him appointing another David Souter to the Supreme Court seems minimal – Supreme Court vacancies have become a much bigger deal than they were in 1990. My point is that there likely would not be much difference between a Romney presidency and a Santorum presidency. Certainly Romney is not ideal, but if the Bush presidency is any indication, even the most reluctant of pro-life converts can still do a lot.

On (the lack of) Female Pro-life Politicians

Kristi Noem (R-SD)

One of the most underrepresented groups in politics today is the pro-life woman. Polls consistently show that women’s overall views on abortion are not really that different from men’s. In fact, on some occasions, polls will even peg women as slightly more pro-life than men.

And yet, the growing club of female politicians continues to be heavily dominated by those at the far pro-choice end of the spectrum. People like Nancy Pelosi or Debbie Wasserman Schultz can all too easily tar all pro-life legislation with the “anti-women” brush. Meanwhile, the women in politics who can say ‘Pelosi and Wasserman Schultz do not speak for me’ remain tragically outnumbered. Their voices, and the millions of voices nationwide which they represent, are all but lost.

Fortunately the situation has started to improve. The all-time low point came after the 1992 “Year of the Woman” elections. 27 new women were sent to Congress – every last one of them pro-choice. When the new Congress convened, 50 out of the 53 women were pro-choice, including 10 out of 13 Republicans.

Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA)

Not coincidentally, 1992 was also the year of the Susan B. Anthony List’s founding. In the two decades since then, there’s been a lot of progress made toward getting the voices of pro-life women heard. I did some historical research on the breakdown of Republican women who have served in Congress since the Roe decision. Some of my classifications are admittedly judgment calls, but the overall picture is indisputable.

Republican women first elected from 1973-1979:

Pro-life – 1

Pro-choice – 4

Republican women first elected from 1980-1989:

Pro-life – 5

Pro-choice – 9

Kelly Ayotte (R-NH)

Republican women first elected from 1990-1999:

Pro-life – 8 (all after the SBA List’s 1992 founding)

Pro-choice – 11

Republican women first elected from 2000-2009:

Pro-life – 15

Pro-choice – 4

Republican women first elected from 2010-present:

Pro-life – 9

Pro-choice – 1

What a difference the SBA List has made! Hopefully in the future, the numbers will continue to move in a dramatically pro-life direction. To achieve anything close to overall parity though, progress will eventually have to be made within the Democratic party as well – a tall order indeed. One day, I hope that the pro-choice lobby’s claim to speak for women will be so implausible as to be laughable.

Lawrence Hogan: the Original Pro-life Warrior

Representative Lawrence Hogan (R-MD)

When Lawrence Hogan was first elected to Congress in 1968, abortion was just a blip on the radar screen at the state level, and a total non-issue at the national level. But during his six years in Washington, abortion would permanently enter the national arena, and no one in Congress fought more valiantly for the cause of life than Hogan. It’s a pity he isn’t more remembered.

In 1970, New York legalized abortion, and did not require state residency to obtain one. This meant that someone in any of the 50 states with enough money for a round trip plane ticket to NYC could now legally have an abortion. Only three members of Congress seemed to notice, let alone care. The first two, John G. Schmitz (R-CA) and John Rarick (D-LA), were the sort of ultraconservative conspiracy theory-spouting cranks that no one pays much attention to. It was left to Hogan to be the ‘mainstream’ voice of the pro-life cause.

That cause would truly become national later that same year. The military, without approval from Congress or the president, authorized hospitals under their control to perform abortions, even if abortion was illegal in the state the hospital was located in. Hogan looked into overturning this policy by statute, but was ultimately able to convince President Nixon to unilaterally end the military policy. For the next two years, he, Schmitz and Rarick did their best to alert Congress about abortion’s march. In 1971, the big story was the Supreme Court’s ominously ambiguous ruling in United States v. Vuitch, and in 1972 the principal warning sign was a report from a federal family planning commission which recommended the legalization of abortion. As before, no one cared.

On January 22, 1973, Roe v. Wade hit the American government with all the fury of a diseased fruit fly (to shamelessly steal a phrase from Dave Barry). Nixon made no statement. On Capitol Hill, only two Congressmen immediately reacted. Feminist Bella Abzug (D-NY) gushed happily about the ruling, while James Allen (D-AL), a conservative Senator, gave a brief speech calling the decision morally wrong. After that, silence reigned for an entire week.

On the 30th, Hogan at last rose to speak. “I address the House today still badly shaken,” he began. “I cannot accept that it can be right – that it can be legal – to end one human life for the personal convenience of another.”

“I have lived 44 years, and I have always deeply loved my country. This is the first time in all those years that I have been in deep despair over the future of my country.”

“My initial reaction to the Supreme Court’s decision was that I did not want to be a part of a government which abandoned all respect for life. I seriously considered resigning from Congress. But I decided that the preferable  course would be to stay and do whatever I can to remedy the Court’s action.”

His speech continued on, and proved prophetic in many instances. Most editorial pages in the country opined that Roe had ended the abortion controversy. Hogan correctly predicted that they had only inflamed it. Additionally, he correctly discerned, at a time when most were under the delusion that the ruling was moderate, that the decision had made abortion legal for any reason in all nine months of pregnancy. Also in the speech was a comparison to the Dred Scott case – very possibly the first time this now ubiquitous comparison has ever been made. Hogan concluded by introducing a Right to Life amendment to the Constitution.

His closing words, from the distance of 40 years, are chilling: “The Supreme Court has made its decision. Now the Congress, the state legislatures, and the American people themselves must make their decision.”

And the American people did.

And deep down in his heart, Hogan himself knew what their decision would be. In a press conference held the same day, he answered a question about the odds of the amendment’s passage by admitting that “candidly, the hopes are slim. It might take decades to turn around this decision.” Judging by the wording of their questions, the reporters who showed up to the press conference were themselves strongly pro-life, and they were taken aback by this admission. “It’s still medically, morally, and ethically a human being,” one reporter mused aloud. If not legally stopped for decades, millions upon millions of babies will have already died.

“Yes,” replied Hogan, “it’s a very dark day.” Only half joking, he added that “maybe we should start shopping for another country.”

And of course, Hogan’s proposed amendment never went anywhere. In 1974, he ran for Governor of Maryland and lost, and his suburban House seat was taken over by a pro-choice Democrat named Gladys Spellman. Today, his old seat is held by none other than Steny Hoyer.

In retrospect, I really wish he had resigned. As hard as he tried, he was never able to make any significant headway against Roe during his final two years in Congress. But his resignation would have been a powerful statement, much like Justice Curtis’ resignation following the Dred Scott decision.

As of this writing, Lawrence Hogan is still alive, and presumably he still lives in Maryland. If there’s one person who I’d love to see interviewed for the 40 year anniversary of Roe next year, it’s him.

Spotty SCOTUS Scouting

In 1992, five Supreme Court Justices stared more than 20 million executions directly in the eye, and unblinkingly declared that “at the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life. Beliefs about these matters could not define the attributes of personhood were they formed under compulsion of the State.”

With those fulsome words, Roe v. Wade survived for another day. As I have previously written, even had Roe been overturned, the battle for the right to life would have been far from over. Roe is not, contrary to pro-choice propaganda, the be all and end all. The failure of Initiative 26 in Mississippi is quite tangible proof of this. But overturning Roe is a critically important first step, and the fact that the 1973 decision is still on the books is one of the pro-life movement’s greatest failures of the last forty years.

Who were those five Justices who saved Roe in 1992, and how did they make it to the Supreme Court? Were they liberal Democratic appointees, rammed through the Senate in a series of close votes? No, they were not. The chilling truth is that every last one was a Republican appointee. Four out of the five were appointed by presidents who publicly called for Roe to be overruled. Four out of the five were also confirmed in unanimous Senate votes. The lone exception, David Souter, had nine votes cast against his confirmation, but all were by pro-choice Democrats.

The case of Justice Blackmun is excusable. At the time of his nomination in 1970, abortion was just starting to become a judicial issue. Neither president Nixon, Senate Republicans, nor the nascent pro-life movement could have possibly foreseen how disastrous the appointment would turn out to be. But the pro-life movement’s apathy during later nominations is far less defensible.

The nomination of John Paul Stevens in 1975 represented the end of an era. It was the last nomination to largely escape the scrutiny of special interest groups. The confirmation hearing were short and perfunctory, and abortion was barely mentioned. It seems ridiculous now, but at the time passing a human life amendment looked easier to pro-lifers than getting an anti-Roe majority on the Court. Remember, Roe was a 7-2 ruling, and none of the 6 remaining pro-Roe Justices appeared likely to retire any time soon. But a bit of long-term thinking would have done a lot of good. In fact, it might not have even been all that long. Had Ford nominated a solid pro-lifer in 1975, and had Reagan nominated a solid pro-lifer in 1981, Roe may well have been overturned as soon as 1983, with Burger as the fifth vote due to lobbying from the two new pro-life Justices.

The confirmation of Sandra Day O’Connor in 1981 is perhaps the most tragic one of all, because it was the only time the pro-life movement even tried. O’Connor was a total cipher, but by sheer luck, she happened to go to the same church as Dr. Carolyn Gerster, a former president of the NRLC. Gerster knew all about O’Connor’s pro-choice votes as a member of the Arizona legislature, and made sure that Republican Senators knew about them. During confirmation hearings, Senators East of North Carolina, and Denton of Alabama grilled O’Connor about Roe, essentially giving her a choice of pledging to overrule it, or losing their vote.

Ronald Reagan, instead of reconsidering his nomination, reacted defensively, and his administration badgered several wavering Republicans into supporting O’Connor. Denton was the final holdout. Told he would look like a fool if he cast the only ‘no’ vote, Denton gave in against his better judgment. And thus with a whimper ended the first and only occasion when the pro-life movement has ever seriously opposed a Republican nomination.

The pro-choice lobby gave Scalia a free pass in 1986, but one year later, they showed how the politics of judicial selection are supposed to work during the confirmation hearings of Robert Bork. There was Ted Kennedy, less than an hour after Bork’s selection, grousing that his “America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions.” Then, there were many months of Ivy League academics testifying that Bork’s criticism of Griswold v. Connecticut demonstrated extremist tendencies.

After Bork went down in flames, Anthony Kennedy flew through with no discernible opposition from either party. Although the Bork nomination is often considered a low point in American political history, I happen to think the pro-choice interests groups had the right idea. With Supreme Court spots coming open so rarely, the ends justify the means, especially if it’s the difference between a Bork and a Kennedy. The pro-life movement should have fought Stevens, O’Connor, and Kennedy as strongly as the liberals fought Bork. Instead, Senators like Jesse Helms, Orrin Hatch, and Strom Thurmond voted for all of them.

The most pitiful performance of all came in 1990, when the first George Bush nominated David Souter. As a hospital trustee, he had voted to allow the performance of abortions back in 1973. Pro-life groups should have taken notice, but instead, it was pro-choice groups that lined up against his nomination. A poster commonly seen around DC that summer read “Stop Souter or women will die!” Never before or since have liberals so strongly opposed such a liberal nominee.

The abortion lobby flexed its muscle again in 1991, falling just short in its “high-tech lynching” of Clarence Thomas. But even with this rare pro-life victory, it was too little too late, and eight months later, Blackmun, Stevens, O’Connor, Kennedy, and Souter were the five votes to reaffirm Roe in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. At last, the fruit of pro-choice tenacity and pro-life docility in judicial nominations were on full display for all to see. But somehow, the message still failed to sink in.

When the anti-Roe Byron White was replaced by the pro-Roe Ruth Bader Ginsburg in 1993, only three Republicans voted against her. One year later, Stephen Breyer attracted nine ‘no’ votes, but most were based on his shady financial dealings rather than his support for a Constitutional right to abortion. For the vast majority of “pro-life” Senators in Congress, abortion was still apparently a negotiable issue when it came to confirming Supreme Court Justices.

As this fantastic and well-researched article on Live Action’s blog meticulously demonstrates, even John Roberts and Samuel Alito aren’t definite anti-Roe votes. Thus, even to this day, pro-life Senators remain content to let a nominee slide through, with no quality control whatsoever, as long as they were picked by a Republican president. In less than two years, Roe is turning 40 years old. Any strategy that fails for nearly 40 years, in my estimation, ought to be ditched. It is time, after decades of timidity during Supreme Court nomination, for pro-lifers to go on the offensive, just as liberals did against Bork and Thomas. After all, with Roe still on the books, it’s not like we have anything to lose.

1966-2011 – Mississippi Remains Unchanged

As soon as I saw the poll showing initiative 26 as a statistical dead heat, I realized that it would most likely lose. Instinctively, I knew that in the privacy of the voting booth, thousands of “pro-life” voters would reveal their true, ugly nature. It hardly mattered that the retiring governor, and both candidates to succeed him endorsed the measure. It hardly mattered that, this Sunday, Baptist churches all over the state urged their members to vote ‘yes.’ Taking refuge in the sweet security of anonymity, a decisive number of conservatives took the disgraceful, but easy, path of cowardice.

Let’s make one thing very clear from the get-go: initiative 26 was never going to have any legal effect if passed. Roe v. Wade held that “a state may not adopt one theory of when life begins.” The courts would have struck it down in the blink of an eye. Initiative 26, from beginning to end, was only about making a statement; the statement being that Mississippi could not tolerate the legal execution of innocent human lives. By voting it down, the populace made clear that they were in fact perfect willing to tolerate abortion on demand.

If pro-lifers can’t get a majority in a state like Mississippi to agree that abortion is wrong, we’re in huge trouble. If Roe v. Wade were overruled tomorrow, how many states would actually make abortion illegal? Would there even be one? Utah? North Dakota? Louisiana? Idaho? I can’t even say with certainty that any of those would do it. Last night, the Republican candidate for Governor ran 17 points ahead of initiative 26. At least one third, and possibly as much as one half of Republican voters voted ‘no’ on initiative 26. And this in one of the most churchgoing states in America. Depressing? That’s an understatement.

In my second substantive post on this blog, I laid out the truth that the pro-life movement has too long ignored: a substantial majority of Americans approve of legal abortion on demand. Sure 51% may call themselves “pro-life” in some meaningless poll, but once presented with a real choice in the voting booth between life and death, Americans can’t help but choose death. As we learned yesterday, conservative Baptists in the deep south are no exception to this general principle.

As a painfully ironic coda, I should point out that Mississippi remained true to its roots in voting down initiative 26. For in 1966, Mississippi became the very first state in America to make abortion legal for any reason other than a serious threat to the mother’s life or health. A year later, Colorado, North Carolina, and California followed suit, and within a decade, Roe v. Wade was the law of the land. Legal blindness toward human life began in Mississippi 45 years ago. And yesterday’s election made it obvious that the end of this blindness will not begin there.

The 1966 liberalization remains shrouded in mystery. Not a single national newspaper reported it, and most late sixties-era law review articles on abortion legalization don’t even seem to be aware of its existence. This is surprising because a great swarm of media coverage attended the passage of the Colorado law one year later. Even today, many sources mistakenly continue to claim that Colorado’s law was the first liberalization. To this day, I have been unable to discover any source whatsoever which sheds some light on why Mississippi changed its law. In David J. Garrow’s encyclopedic work Liberty and Sexuality, which is probably the most thoroughly researched account ever written of pre-Roe activity in state legislatures, Mississippi’s law is completely ignored.

Literally the only thing we know is the text of the law, which states that abortion is legal “where pregnancy was caused by rape.” The laws passed by Colorado and subsequent states also allowed exceptions for incest, and fetal deformity; what’s more, they were clearly inspired by a 1959 proposal by the American Law Institute (ALI), which recommended legalizing abortion for precisely those exceptions. Why would Mississippi only allow a rape exception?

While I have absolutely no direct proof, I do have an extremely plausible theory. Mississippi legislators were not inspired by the ALI, but simply by racism. Remember, in 1966 the Civil Rights movement was at a crescendo, and the political powers in the state were absolutely horrified by the prospect of integration. In passing the law, it was not just any sort of rape the legislature had in mind, it was interracial rape. A Mississippi legislator, aghast that an innocent white girl might be forced to give birth to a black rapist’s baby, introduces the bill, and it rapidly flies through the legislature. And thus began the tragic opera of legal abortion in America.

Last night, Mississippi might have come full circle, and been the first state to draw a line in the sand, however judicially unenforceable. Instead, voters revealed that a period of 45 years had not softened their hearts in any way. Pro-lifers must be sober-minded and take note – our work is plainly cut out for us.

Herman Cain, and Political Pro-life Subterfuge

If there’s one thing most politicians dread, it’s being pinned down on the abortion issue. Most prefer to speak in generalities which let people with a wide spectrum of beliefs about abortion hear what they want to hear. One of the very first politicians to exploit this phenomenon was Jimmy Carter, who won the 1976 Iowa caucus by masking his pro-choice position so well that countless pro-lifers mistakenly thought he was one of them.  George W. Bush’s repeated and unelaborated commitment to creating a “Culture of Life”  was another masterful example of this principle. He was too smart to ever give the Democrats a juicy soundbite like “Women facing unwanted pregnancies should be forced to carry them to term,” but also smart enough to never say anything which might cause his pro-life supporters to doubt that he actually believed this. Even now, nearly three years after he left office, I still have no idea what Bush’s precise position on abortion’s legality is.

Herman Cain, who unlike the rest of the Republican field is not a politician, hasn’t learned the art of the craft yet. His statements on abortion zigzag, and are hopelessly contradictory. They paint a picture of a man who has zero studied convictions, and just says whatever he thinks of on his feet when the issue comes up. In the space of a single interview with Piers Morgan, Cain went from being perceived as the most pro-life candidate in the field to the least. His recent Tweet (“I’m 100% pro-life. End of story”) does little to clear things up.

The basic underlying problem is that “pro-life,” as a statement of a candidate’s political stance, means almost nothing. Sometimes, “pro-life” means little more than “I have this vague feeling that abortion is usually the wrong choice.” Over the years, countless Democrats have advertised themselves as “pro-life” in the election season, but cast many pro-choice votes once they get into office. Bob Casey Jr. is one of the more prominent, and recent examples. He voted to kill the Mexico City policy in 2007, and voted against defunding Planned Parenthood earlier this year. It’s not that Casey flat-out lied in the 2006 election, it’s just has a different idea of what it means to be “pro-life” than others in the movement.

As for poor Herman Cain, whatever his idiosyncratic definition of “pro-life” ultimately turns out to be, in the end I doubt he would govern any differently from someone with unimpeachable pro-life bona fides, like Rick Santorum. Regardless of Cain’s position, Congress isn’t going to be banning abortion anytime soon. In the meantime, pro-lifers ought to be aware that Cain is far from the only “pro-life” political figure to engage in this sort of subterfuge – he’s just less skilled at it than most.