Book Review: Eugenics and Other Evils

9781504022545-medium“Eugenics and Other Evils” by G.K. Chesterton

2017 Reading Challenge — Book 8: A Book About a Current Issue

Why, you might ask, would you read a book nearly 100 years old to satisfy the requirement of a book about a “current issue”? The answer, in this as well as many other cases, is that to truly understand an issue, we often need to distance ourselves from the myopic view of the current news cycle, and look instead at the historical sources where ideas and philosophies were first developed and critiqued.

But the news cycle certainly did help me to determine a topic for study. I chose a “current issue” which lies at the intersection of the topics which most interest me: theology, politics, education, history, and philosophy. Understanding the eugenics movement of the early 20th century provides context for current discussions about abortion, Socialism vs. Capitalism, creation vs. evolution, and even presidential politics.

Eugenics, though not a word often encountered, has been in the news once again in recent days. During the election season, one of the Left’s frequent accusations against Donald Trump was that he is an advocate of eugenics (see this piece from The Huffington Post as an example), and I’ve seen that same video making the rounds on social media again just in the last week. I’ve written before of the connection between eugenics and Planned Parenthood (whose founder, Margaret Sanger, was a member of the American Eugenics Society). The evolutionary connection is even clearer, as the very word “eugenics” and the first ideas about its implementation were proposed by Francis Galton, who wrote in 1863 that “if talented people only married other talented people, the result would be measurably better offspring,” his proposal based largely upon the theories his cousin Charles Darwin had published in his book  The Descent of Man.

G.K. Chesterton, perhaps alone among the scholars and authors around the turn of the last century, stood firmly against the onrushing tide of the eugenics movement. While the movement had its origins and strongest support in Prussia/Germany (where Nietzsche had proposed the idea of creating a race of supermen), by the first decade of the 20th century it was quickly gaining popularity throughout the West, particularly in Academia. It’s prominent proponents in Britain and America ranged from popular writers such as H.G. Wells and George Bernard Shaw, to influential businessmen like Alexander Graham Bell and John D. Rockefeller, to political leaders including Winston Churchill, Woodrow Wilson, and Theodore Roosevelt. In 1924, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld (in an 8-1 ruling with Oliver Wendell Holmes penning the majority opinion) a law allowing states to implement forced sterilization for eugenic purposes.

This background is important because—though it is generally looked upon with revulsion today, across the political spectrum—during Chesterton’s day eugenics seemed almost inevitable. It took great courage to speak out when he did.

He began his research for this book in 1910, but then, as he states in the book’s introduction, “the hour came when I felt, not without relief, that I might well fling all my notes into the fire.” Why? Because Prussia, that great paragon of “the scientifically organised State” upon which England and America had gazed with such admiration, was at war with the rest of the West. And as the State which had most fully adopted eugenic ideals began to collapse upon itself and implemented more and more barbaric methods of warfare, Chesterton took solace in the comfort that “no Englishmen would ever again go nosing round the stinks of that low laboratory. So I thought all I had written irrelevant, and put it out of my mind.

Alas, it was not to be. “I am greatly grieved to say that it is not irrelevant. It has gradually grown apparent, to my astounded gaze, that the ruling classes in England are still proceeding on the assumption that Prussia is a pattern for the whole world.” And so this book came to be published in 1922.

It would finally take the work of another German acolyte of Nietzsche and Darwin—whose eugenic experiments and ethnic cleansing awakened the world to the horror of this philosophy put into practice—to finally take eugenics out of the realm of mainstream thought. And though Chesterton did not live to see the start of the second World War, he was one of the few outspoken critics of Adolf Hitler in the early 1930’s, again announcing prophetic warnings about the Nazi leader’s dangerous eugenic fervor. If only the world had listened to him then!

But I do hope we’re listening now, and so I’ll allow Chesterton’s words to speak for themselves for the remainder of this review. Here are a few excerpts that stuck out to me as I read:

He knew his was a needed prophetic voice

The wisest thing in the world is to cry out before you are hurt. It is no good to cry out after you are hurt; especially after you are mortally hurt. People talk about the impatience of the populace; but sound historians know that most tyrannies have been possible because men moved too late. It is often essential to resist a tyranny before it exists. It is no answer to say, with a distant optimism, that the scheme is only in the air. A blow from a hatchet can only be parried while it is in the air.

He pointed out the folly of academic double-speak which tends to hide terrible ideas behind technical language

Most Eugenists are Euphemists. I mean merely that short words startle them, while long words soothe them. And they are utterly incapable of translating the one into the other, however obviously they mean the same thing. Say to them “The persuasive and even coercive powers of the citizen should enable him to make sure that the burden of longevity in the previous generation does not become disproportionate and intolerable, especially to the females”; say this to them and they will sway slightly to and fro like babies sent to sleep in cradles. Say to them “Murder your mother,” and they sit up quite suddenly. Yet the two sentences, in cold logic, are exactly the same. Say to them “It is not improbable that a period may arrive when the narrow if once useful distinction between the anthropoid homo and the other animals, which has been modified on so many moral points, may be modified also even in regard to the important question of the extension of human diet”; say this to them, and beauty born of murmuring sound will pass into their face. But say to them, in a simple, manly, hearty way “Let’s eat a man!” and their surprise is quite surprising. Yet the sentences say just the same thing.

As today, churches were seen by the scientific and academic communities as standing in the way of “progress” through the use of political power

All I assert here is that the Churches are not now leaning heavily on their political establishment; they are not using heavily the secular arm… They are not specially using that special tyranny which consists in using the government.

The thing that really is trying to tyrannise through government is Science. The thing that really does use the secular arm is Science. And the creed that really is levying tithes and capturing schools, the creed that really is enforced by fine and imprisonment, the creed that really is proclaimed not in sermons but in statutes, and spread not by pilgrims but by policemen—that creed is the great but disputed system of thought which began with Evolution and has ended in Eugenics. Materialism is really our established Church; for the Government will really help it to persecute its heretics. Vaccination, in its hundred years of experiment, has been disputed almost as much as baptism in its approximate two thousand. But it seems quite natural to our politicians to enforce vaccination; and it would seem to them madness to enforce baptism.

In an era when corrupt Capitalists used the power of the State to prey on the poor and weak, he lamented the growing inequality and loss of freedom

Industrialism and Capitalism and the rage for physical science were English experiments in the sense that the English lent themselves to their encouragement; but there was something else behind them and within them that was not they—its name was liberty, and it was our life. It may be that this delicate and tenacious spirit has at last evaporated. If so, it matters little what becomes of the external experiments of our nation in later time. That at which we look will be a dead thing alive with its own parasites. The English will have destroyed England.

Yet he knew that Socialism was not the solution to inequality; Left and Right both lead to tyranny when ideas are spread through coercion rather than persuasion

It may be said of Socialism, therefore, very briefly, that its friends recommended it as increasing equality, while its foes resisted it as decreasing liberty. On the one hand it was said that the State could provide homes and meals for all; on the other it was answered that this could only be done by State officials who would inspect houses and regulate meals. The compromise eventually made was one of the most interesting and even curious cases in history. It was decided to do everything that had ever been denounced in Socialism, and nothing that had ever been desired in it. Since it was supposed to gain equality at the sacrifice of liberty, we proceeded to prove that it was possible to sacrifice liberty without gaining equality. Indeed, there was not the faintest attempt to gain equality, least of all economic equality. But there was a very spirited and vigorous effort to eliminate liberty, by means of an entirely new crop of crude regulations and interferences. But it was not the Socialist State regulating those whom it fed, like children or even like convicts. It was the Capitalist State raiding those whom it had trampled and deserted in every sort of den, like outlaws or broken men.

In short, people decided that it was impossible to achieve any of the good of Socialism, but they comforted themselves by achieving all the bad. All that official discipline, about which the Socialists themselves were in doubt or at least on the defensive, was taken over bodily by the Capitalists. They have now added all the bureaucratic tyrannies of a Socialist state to the old plutocratic tyrannies of a Capitalist State. For the vital point is that it did not in the smallest degree diminish the inequalities of a Capitalist State. It simply destroyed such individual liberties as remained among its victims.

Closing Thoughts

In Chesterton’s day, the idea of eugenics took off so quickly because it appealed to those on both the political Left and Right. Those on the Right, whom Chesterton often referred to as “plutocrats” (rule of the wealthy), were drawn to eugenics because its implementation favored the powerful at the expense of the weak. Those on the Left were allured by its necessity of central planning.

Since Hitler’s defeat, the eugenics movement has evolved significantly. While abortion is mentioned only once in Chesterton’s book, the author is clearly concerned about what eugenic philosophy could mean for the unborn (“they seek his life to take it away”). Prior to the 1940’s, eugenics was focused more on selective breeding and forced sterilization rather than abortion; in the years that followed, dedicated eugenicists like Margaret Sanger turned their attention to different methods.

Eugenic philosophy is alive and well today, though it masquerades by many other names. I strongly encourage you to study more on this issue, and Chesterton’s book is a great place to start. You can check out the audiobook for free, as I did, from Librivox, read it via pdf at Project Gutenberg, or pick up a print edition here.

For further reading:

  • Read more about the connection/progression from Darwin to Nietszche to Hitler to Planned Parenthood here.
  • Answering the claims that Chesterton was a fascist and/or anti-Semite (allegations which often prevent modern readers from taking his writing seriously), by a G.K. Chesterton fellow at Oxford: here.
  • Transcript of a lecture from the American Chesterton Society on the significance of this book, and on the link between eugenics and abortion: here.

We Only Offer Pre-Murder Care

planned_parenthood-5

You’d think by now they’d just train their employees to lie to everyone at all times, just to cover their bases. Another damning video from Live Action:

And before the accusations inevitably start flying that this video, too, is “deceptively edited,” be sure to check out my post from the last round of Planned Parenthood videos tearing apart this argument. Not that abortion proponents care.

Don’t Be An Idiot

Planned Parenthood is not selling baby parts, you idiots

The silence of Planned Parenthood’s supporters in the last few weeks has spoken volumes. It’s been shocking how quiet many of my liberal friends have been in rushing to the defense of one of the greatest bastions of modern liberalism. But there have been a few who have vocally defended them. Most of the arguments they use are similar, so today let’s look at one which is representative of many others I’ve seen.

Apologies for the language this blogger uses, but I think there are a few important observations to be made from her video, and from the wider stream of similar Planned Parenthood defense arguments it represents. Click here for Rebecca Watson’s blog post where this video first appeared.

First of all, it’s important to note that her video came out before the most recent Center for Medical Progress video, which was released yesterday. It was even more damning than the first three, and was the first to explicitly include the word “selling” coming from the mouth of a PP “doctor”.

Three observations for Rebecca Watson, and for anyone else who would like to rush to the defense of Planned Parenthood:

YOU KEEP USING THAT WORD. I DO NOT THINK IT MEANS WHAT YOU THINK IT MEANS

As often as she uses the word “obviously” it’s almost as if she’s trying to convince herself that her assertion is self-evident. We can haggle all you like about the term “selling” (which, as stated, hadn’t been used by PP personnel in the videos released prior to her blog), but it could not possibly be MORE obvious from the footage (whether looking at the “maliciously edited” videos or the full-length versions) that Planned Parenthood is exchanging “fetal tissue” (baby parts) for money. No amount of ignorance or name-calling can change that simple fact.

LOOKING FOR HISTORICAL PRECEDENT

The blogger compares believing Planned Parenthood sells baby parts to those who believed accusations that Jews or other “marginalized groups” were burning babies to ashes, baking them into cakes, and eating them. “How could anybody believe something so stupid?” she asks. But is this the best historical precedent for comparison to the present Planned Parenthood scandal?

I can’t say I’m familiar with the specific “heresy” she’s referring to (as she doesn’t cite any of her “research”), but the practice of widespread infanticide and child sacrifice is well-documented in many cultures throughout history. I’d be happy to provide citation links in the comments to anyone who cares to challenge that assertion. Peter Singer, professor of bioethics at Princeton, advocates for legal infanticide in the US today.

And using this blogger’s own logic, why would it be wrong to eat dead babies anyway? She argues that, since abortionists are going to kill babies anyway, why shouldn’t they use this “garbage” for the betterment of humanity? How is it different to argue that we shouldn’t eat unwanted babies? Is it better to just throw them away? But I digress…

I would argue that there is a much better historical precedent here, and one which is much more recent. In the memory of those still alive today, millions of people WERE slaughtered, burned to ashes. Yet there are those who vehemently deny that the Holocaust ever happened. No amount of evidence can convince them otherwise. And sadly, no amount of evidence seems sufficient to convince some of the Holocaust taking place in our own country at this very moment.

Which leads to the final, and most important, observation…

SHE CANNOT ESCAPE THE HORROR

This blogger KNOWS that what Planned Parenthood is accused of is horrible. She describes the accusations as “obviously stupid and made up,” and accuses people like me of believing “the unbelievable.” By her own admission, chopping babies up and selling their parts would be an unbelievably horrifying thing to do. I agree!

So I ask: As evidence continues to mount that this IS, in fact, taking place, at what point will you join me in demanding that we defund Planned Parenthood? What amount of evidence will it take for you to condemn this atrocity?

Because, rest assured, there is even more incontrovertible evidence coming. So far we have seen four of the twelve videos we’ve been told are coming, and each has gotten progressively worse. I expect that trend to continue! Planned Parenthood does, too, which is why they’ve secured a restraining order to prevent footage being released from other meetings which took place earlier this year. They KNOW what they’ve said and done is going to come back on them in a bad way, and they’re doing everything they can to prevent it. But one way or another, it WILL come out. When it does, will those still defending Planned Parenthood go down with the ship? Will you continue to hide your heads in the sand and pretend everything is okay, or will you finally listen to your conscience? I pray it will be the latter, and eagerly wait to welcome you to the right side of the line that has been drawn in the sand about the most critical ethical issue of our time.

How “Deceptively Edited” Was the Video Claiming Planned Parenthood Sells Baby Parts?

ppfa

In the last two days, millions of people have watched this video from the Center for Medical Progress, which asserts that Planned Parenthood has been harvesting and selling aborted baby parts. Several media outlets have rushed to the defense of America’s largest abortion provider in an attempt to “debunk” the video. One such attempt, penned by Alexandrea Boguhn & Hannah Groch-Begley, makes the following claim:

A deceptive video from a conservative group purports to show a Planned Parenthood official discussing prices for the illegal sale of fetal tissue from abortions. But the full, unedited footage and transcript released by the group undermines their sensationalist claims, showing at least three crucial edits that reveal the Planned Parenthood official was instead discussing the reimbursement cost for consensual, legal tissue donations.

I encourage you to read the rest of their article, and the evidence they provide for these “deceptive edits,” here. Let’s take a look at this defense of Planned Parenthood and see where we’ve been deceived.

DECEPTION #1: The goal isn’t to “sell” tissue. Planned Parenthood only does what is reasonable and customary.

RESPONSE: I’m no legal expert, so I’m going to refrain from commenting on the technical legality of what Planned Parenthood is doing. But isn’t the bigger story the fact that selectively crushing certain body parts for the sake of harvesting other, more valuable parts is considered “reasonable and customary”?

DECEPTION #2: Planned Parenthood does not “profit” from the sale of baby parts. They “donate” the tissue, receiving “reimbursement” for their services, and “if they happen to do a little better than break even, and in a way that seems reasonable, they’re happy to do that.”

RESPONSE: Fair enough. I didn’t “profit” from the trumpet lesson I just taught, either. I “donated” my time and received “reimbursement” for the services rendered, and I’m pretty happy that I did “a little better than break even.”

DECEPTION #3: What’s the big deal? The baby parts were “donated” with legal consent. For “scientific research.”

RESPONSE: I’m an organ donor. It says so on my driver’s license. If I should happen to die, I’ve given legal consent for my organs to be harvested. I’d love for my organs to be used to save the lives of others. But do you know why that’s a noble thing? Because they are MY organs to donate! How many people would come to my defense, do you think, if I were to offer the vital organs of one of my children (be sure to crush their throats so you don’t damage anything important) to be used for scientific research? [FYI, I just about threw up typing that last sentence.] I should hope it would be no one! Not even IF it saved the lives of others, which is certainly debatable in the realm of fetal STEM cell research.

CONCLUSION: Yes, the video is edited. But do you know why what “Dr.” Nucatola says sounds so horrible? It’s because what she—and the rest of Planned Parenthood—is doing IS horrible. The only ones deceived here are those who believe there’s nothing wrong with taking an innocent, defenseless human child and systematically ripping it apart in its mother’s womb.

[Image Source: Media Matters]

What’s Growing in Margaret Sanger’s Garden?

"The greatest sin in the world is bringing children into the world." ~ Margaret Sanger

With so much frenzy these days to expunge all vestiges of racism in our nation, perhaps the vigilantes of political correctness can find some rare common ground with social conservatives. Building a consensus on social issues is unquestionably difficult—some might even say impossible—but rather than bickering about cakes, flags, and dead generals, we ought to agree together that Margaret Sanger and the organization she founded have been far more effective at exterminating minorities than the most bloodthirsty Ku Klux Klan member ever dreamed of. Whatever you may think about Nathan Bedford Forrest, he is not the founder of the organization that continues to slaughter nearly 2,000 black and Hispanic children each and every week in the United States.

This despicable organization, founded with explicitly racist motivations, represents an insidious evil against which all who despise racism in any form can rally. And unlike exhuming the bodies of those long dead or tweeting trendy hashtags, there is one action which would make a real difference, preserving life and demonstrating powerfully that #BlackLivesMatter: DEFUNDING PLANNED PARENTHOOD.

Still need convincing? Allow me to introduce you to Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood.

In 1925, Sanger delivered a rousing speech promoting a vision in which we “would see this old world of ours converted into a beautiful garden of children.” Sounds good, right? But how to achieve this vision?

“Before you can cultivate a garden, you must know something about gardening. You have got to give your seeds a proper soil in which to grow. You have got to give them sunlight and fresh air. You have got to give them space and the opportunity (if they are to lift their flowers to the sun), to strike their roots deep into that soil. And always — do not forget this — you have got to fight weeds. You cannot have a garden, if you let weeds overrun it.” (Source)

Sanger wrote and spoke often of “human weeds” in her quest to promote eugenics (“good genes”), and while abortion supporters frequently deny that Sanger was referring to ethnic minorities and poor people when she described “reckless breeders… unceasingly spawning [a] class of human beings who never should have been born at all,” (Source) and attribute benign motives to her warning that “we do not want the word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population,” (Source) the intentions of some of her colleagues are more clear.

Lothrop Stoddard, appointed by Sanger to the board of directors for the Birth Control League (later renamed Planned Parenthood), wrote in his book, “The Rising Tide of Color Against White World-Supremacy,” that the “white race” which had “pressed to the front and proved in a myriad of ways their fitness for the hegemony of mankind” was in danger of being overrun by races less fit to breed. He wrote, “Unless man erects and maintains artificial barriers the various races will increasingly mingle, and the inevitable result will be the supplanting or absorption of the higher by the lower types.” The lowest “type” of man in Studdard’s book? “Negroids.” (Source)

This influence is seen in Planned Parenthood today, where nearly 80% of clinics are located in African American and Latino communities (Source), with such a disproportionate number of black babies being aborted it’s nearly impossible to NOT see them as being intentionally targeted. Sanger’s disdain for immigrants, the disabled, and large families also fueled her desire to achieve “a cleaner race” through Birth Control (Source). “Equality” is an incredibly ironic buzzword to be bandied by those who also vociferously defend the organization which has carried out Sanger’s vision for the last 99 years.

Defunding Planned Parenthood on a federal level wouldn’t necessarily shut the organization down (and even if it did, it would merely put a dent in the atrocious U.S. abortion rate), but removing all taxpayer dollars from the organization would be a tremendous first step in reducing the complicity of all American people in the wholesale murder of the unborn. I call on those who truly value life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for ALL people to urge your representatives to join the fight to defund Planned Parenthood immediately.

I welcome civil discourse in the comments. And because of the preponderance of falsely attributed “quotes” on the Internet, I encourage you to fact-check what I’ve written above by clicking through the provided “source” links.

Planned Parenthood is Right

Great video from Abort73:

This morning, our pastor said he believes that the Kermit Gosnell trial has the potential to be the “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” of our generation, bringing the focus of our nation on the horrors of the slaughter of children. I pray he is right, and that God—who can use ANY situation, even the reprehensible actions of “Dr.” Gosnell, to bring about good—will soon bring about the end of abortion in America. If not, I shudder at the judgment that awaits us…

Here’s the text of the video:

Last week, Katie Stockton was sentenced to 50 years in prison for throwing her newborn daughter out with the trash. In light of all the alternatives available to her, Judge John Truitt called Stockton’s CHOICE: “incomprehensible.”

When it comes to newborn babies, the law is not pro-choice. Or is it?

While Katie Stockton was on trial in Illinois, the “Infants Born Alive Act” was being debated in Florida. The proposed law would prohibit abortion clinics from abandoning or killing babies who survive abortion—something that happens more than 1,200 times a year in the U.S.

Planned Parenthood opposes the bill.

Their lobbyist argued that the fate of any baby who survives an abortion should be left up to the mother and the abortionist. In other words, Planned Parenthood sees no difference between killing a human child before birth and after birth.

And they are right.

There is no ethical difference between abortion and infanticide. But if abandoning a baby daughter is reprehensible (as Katie Stockton did), and if snipping the spinal cords of babies who survived an abortion is reprehensible (as Kermit Gosnell did), how is it less reprehensible to rip an unborn baby apart (as Planned Parenthood does close to a thousand times each day)?

To be morally consistent, infanticide must be lawful or abortion must be unlawful.

Planned Parenthood recognizes this fact.

Do you?

The Greatest Moral Failure of Our Time

Abortion.

If you’ve known me or followed my blog for any period of time, you’ll know where I stand morally on this issue. If you’d like a recap of my views on the morality of abortion, read this article and especially its followup. Today’s post presupposes that abortion is an evil practice, and will focus on candidates’ strategies for ending it.

How Did We Get Here?

Before getting into the pragmatic considerations, I think it’s important to get a little historical perspective. Before trying to figure out how to make abortion illegal, we should understand how it came to be legal in the first place.

First of all, it is important to note that the moral debate over abortion long predates the founding of America, and religion has always played an important role. John Calvin explicitly forbade abortion for theological reasons during the 16th century. Early Christians and Jews opposed abortion, though it was an accepted practice across the Roman Empire (along with infanticide and the abandoning of unwanted newborns).

There was never a time in our nation’s history when abortion was not practiced. During the colonial period, laws regarding abortion were varied and non-specific, but for the most part, it was considered to be murder.

Abortion is not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, though many conservatives (including myself) interpret the Fifth Amendment’s clause that “No person shall be deprived of life… without due process of law” to implicitly protect the life of the unborn (one of the reasons why the debate over personhood is so important). Rather, this issue, like all criminal and civil matters, was left in the hands of the states via the Tenth Amendment.

Early on, abortions were rare, restricted primarily by the widespread belief that abortion killed a living person. As the nation expanded, morality relaxed, and abortion became more prevalent. The first laws explicitly restricting abortion were passed (by state legislatures) in the 1820’s. By the end of the 19th century, the rate of abortions was decreasing. Though most states had enacted legislation regulating the practice, abortion opponents realized that laws were not enough. They were  primarily focused on education and religious conversion (an apparently effective strategy).

The tide turned back again in the early 20th century. Public sentiment began to sway in favor of abortion, helped in large part by copious amounts of money being spent on advertising by those who were getting rich off of abortions (just one of the many ways in which abortion and economics are closely related concerns). The laws on the books were largely unenforced, and fewer and fewer people spoke against the practice.

By the late 1960’s, a majority of Americans wanted legalized abortion. State after state passed legislation legalizing abortion (the first signed into law by California Governor Ronald Reagan). Then, in 1973, the Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade overturned all state legislation, providing abortion on demand in all 50 states.

By that time, those advocating the right to life of America’s youngest citizens were vastly outnumbered. Though Catholics strongly opposed Roe v. Wade, few other Christians stood in the way. Even the Southern Baptist Convention passed resolutions recognizing the legitimacy of abortion in some circumstances; a position that, thankfully, began to change in the 1980’s.

Over the last three decades, the abortion debate has grown increasingly heated, becoming the single most important item on any politician’s platform in the eyes of many voters.

Much of this information comes from Marvin Olasky’s book Abortion Rites, summarized and excerpted here.

What Are Our Options?

Let me be clear… I do believe it is the government’s duty to criminalize abortion. Government is necessary because evil is a reality. Government is a blessing from God intended to restrain evil (Romans 13:3-4), a category into which abortion certainly fits. But there is, as they say, more than one way to skin a cat (also evil).

Ever since the political fight over abortion hit Prime Time, most people within the Pro-Life movement have sought a Federal solution: something that would instantly make abortion illegal in all 50 states by way of Congressional legislation or conservative nominees to the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade. This is the position of most within the mainstream GOP, just as it was for our last Republican President — who, by the way, was not able to make this happen despite enjoying six years with a strong Republican majority in both houses of Congress.

Ron Paul, on the other hand, advocates removing the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction to rule in this matter and returning the issue to the state legislatures. He has taken flak from many conservatives for his stance on abortion. He is often accused of not being “pro-life” enough because he does not favor a federal abortion ban. It is commonly claimed (even by those who supposedly favor small government) that the states could not adequately restrain abortion; only a national solution will do.

On the contrary, claims Paul in his 2010 book Liberty Defined (my review here):

I believe it is a state-level responsibility to restrain violence against any human being… Demanding a national and only a national solution, as some do, gives credence to the very process that made abortions so prevalent. Ending nationally legalized abortions by federal court order is neither a practical answer to the problem, nor a constitutionally sound argument.

Certainly states are capable of effectively enforcing laws criminalizing violent behavior. There is no Federal law prohibiting rape or murder, but both are crimes in all 50 states. In America, if you kill somebody (who has been born), you will be prosecuted not by the United States, but by the state in which the crime took place. In fact, the only crimes prohibited by the U.S. Constitution were treason, piracy, and counterfeiting. Slavery was added to that list by the Thirteenth Amendment.

Why are we so opposed to the idea of returning jurisdiction of abortion to the states? Do we have so little confidence in our ability to govern ourselves locally?

I suspect the real reason is that we realize that in order for abortion to become illegal in all 50 states, we would have to engage in the difficult work of winning hearts and minds in the court of public opinion — something requiring much more dedication and perseverance than merely casting a vote for a candidate who claims to be pro-life. Few have the fortitude to engage in this duty, which is the fruit of generations of Americans who similarly neglected this responsibility.

It is time for us to realize that Dr. Paul is correct in agreeing with the 19th century pro-life advocates as he writes: “Legislation… will not stop all abortions. Only a truly moral society can do that.” We will never have a “truly moral society” until Christ returns, but we can reverse the moral decline of our nation, if only we realize that the solution is the Gospel, not the GOP.

Who Can We Trust?

Tactics aside, which candidates can we reliably trust to defend the unborn? Surely we aren’t just taking them at their word. After all, even Barack Obama has said (repeatedly) that his desire is to reduce the number of abortions in this country. All four GOP candidates say they oppose abortion. Which have consistent records to back that up?
Newt Gingrich — whose unrepentant serial adultery ought to cast plenty of doubt on his moral judgment — does not generally emphasize the abortion issue. Though he now says that he opposes abortion in all cases, he stated in 1995 that he supported federal funding for abortions in cases of rape, incest, and to protect the health of the mother.

Mitt Romney has similarly (and famously) changed his views on abortion. After previously supporting abortion “rights”, Romney began to describe himself as pro-life. Romney, like Paul, opposes a federal abortion ban, preferring to leave the matter to the states.

Unlike Gingrich and Romney, I do not doubt Rick Santorum’s personal convictions on this matter (though his wife’s views have certainly changed). I admire his willingness to take a stand against abortion. I just think his tactics are poor. Furthermore, I think his record of big government spending reflects a basic lack of understanding of how economics is inseparable from other ethical issues. This is evidenced by his recent defense of (and even bragging about) his vote to fund Title X family planning services. Though he says that his vote was to provide non-abortive contraceptives, the fact remains that funds are fungible, and that one of the beneficiaries was Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in America.

Ron Paul was pro-life long before it was cool. His strong convictions stem from an experience during his residency as a young OB/GYN in the 1960’s, in which he witnessed a botched abortion. The baby survived outside the womb, but was left to die by the medical personnel. This deeply troubled him, and led him to conclude that there could be “no consistent moral basis to the value of life” in a society that allowed abortion. As a libertarian physician, he urged other doctors to refuse to participate in abortion regardless of its legality, and to resume the practice of taking the Hippocratic oath, which includes a pledge not to do abortions, and which his med school graduating class (like so many others) had ignored.

From the beginning of his career as a politician, he has repeatedly asserted that personal liberty is impossible where abortion is condoned. This is most notable in his book Abortion and Liberty (available free online here), published way back in 1983, and in this 1981 short essay entitled “Being Pro-Life Is Necessary to Defend Liberty”. His strong (yet unheralded) Christian faith and track record on abortion, combined with his pragmatic, Constitutional plan to restrain violence against the unborn ought to give every lover of life and liberty cause to rally behind him.

Where Should We Go From Here?

There is no doubt in my mind that abortion is the greatest moral failure of our time. It is to our generation what slavery was to William Wilberforce’s. It is our culture’s ethical blind spot. If we hope to see the practice end in our lifetime, we must have men like Wilberforce. Principled, charismatic men with unwavering focus, willing to stand up for what they believe in the face of constant ridicule and scorn, able to recruit political allies while rallying passionate grassroots support, understanding that laws are useless to restrain evil that is not recognized as such by the people.

Sound like anyone we know?

Like Wilberforce’s struggle against the slave trade, it may take decades to win the philosophical battle. In the meantime, there are some  practical matters which do fall under the Constitutional authority of the President and Congress which have a much better chance of reducing the actual number of abortions than the GOP’s standard operating procedure. Here are a few bullet points that I think may be within reach in the next few years:

  • A majority vote in Congress combined with the President’s signature can remove the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court from ruling on something Constitutionally delegated to the States, which is much simpler than repealing Roe v. Wade or passing a constitutional amendment. Abortion would still be legal in some states, initially, but this is a good first step.
  • Legislation that would define “life” as beginning at conception and the term “person” as including all human life (such as the Sanctity of Life Act introduced by Congressman Paul in 2011200920072005, etc.) would provide immediate protection for the unborn under the Constitution without requiring an Amendment.
  • Deregulate the adoption market, making it easier to provide options to mothers with unwanted pregnancies.

For further reading, I highly recommend reading Abortion: A Rational Look at an Emotional Issue by R.C. Sproul, and Ron Paul’s chapter on abortion from Liberty Defined. This chapter is available for free online here, and I have summarized it here. It’s only a few pages, but is perhaps the most articulate, succinct moral defense of the sanctity of life beginning at conception I have ever read.

The tenth amendment is the foundation of the Constitution.”
~ Thomas Jefferson