Before boarding a plane at Ronald Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C., yesterday morning, I prayed a very distinctive prayer. Tired and discouraged from lobbying on Capitol Hill, I asked God if any of it – any of my life’s work – really mattered. By the time I landed, I got my answer.
There in the airport, I picked up a book by Malcolm Gladwell called “The Tipping Point – How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference.” I read only a few pages while I waited for my plane, intrigued by what the book referred to as a “moment” when a threshold is crossed, and there is a radical and irreversible change of direction. Little did I know that that moment was about to take place.
I had a glimpse of this moment 13 years ago before anyone had ever heard of the term “partial-birth abortion.” In 1994, when, as legislative director of Ohio Right to Life, I sat across the desks from Ohio legislators seeking a ban on the practice of killing kids during delivery. As I placed the line drawings depicting the procedure on their desks, I saw what I had never seen before. Powerful people – women and men – in leadership positions broke down and cried in front of me. While the other methods of abortion are every bit as brutal as this, the transfer of that same baby a few inches through the birth canal broke through their blinders. For the first time, they got a glimpse of the brutality of abortion and were disturbed enough to do something to stop it.
One method. One law. One state. A little thing, but, as Gladwell stated in his book, “tipping points” are made up of “little things.” Like a phone call to a nurse. I was told there was a nurse who had visited a Right to Life office in Dayton, Ohio, near where the partial-birth abortions were being performed, claiming to have assisted in the horrific procedure. She had borrowed a video, and we had her name and number as a result. So I called her and asked her to testify in Congress as to what she saw. Brenda Schaffer agreed. When former Rep. Patricia Schroeder tried to prevent the line drawings from being shown on the floor of the U.S. House, Brenda said, “You think the drawings are bad, you ought to see the real thing.” With the leadership of Doug Johnson of the National Right to Life Committee, Congress passed the ban on partial-birth abortion three times. Thirty states followed suit. And now, finally, it has been upheld.
Why does it matter? For starters, like those Ohio legislators, this debate gave America a glimpse of the brutality of abortion, and every opinion poll conducted since then reflects at least an 8 to 10 point shift to the pro-life position.
Beyond that, it was Justice Anthony Kennedy who wrote the opinion. You remember Justice Kennedy – he’s the guy that Ronald Reagan was sorry he ever appointed. How do I know? It was Reagan who said:
We cannot diminish the value of one category of human life – the unborn – without diminishing the value of all human life. … There is no cause more important.
And it was Kennedy, more than any other current justice, who is uniquely responsible for Roe v. Wade NOT being overturned in 1992. CBS News reported it this way:
As lawyers and court watchers have long suspected, the Supreme Court was ready to effectively overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling legalizing abortion in 1992, but Justice Anthony M. Kennedy got cold feet, and the vote went the other way. …
Unbeknownst to Rehnquist, Kennedy was having second thoughts, and agreed with Justices Sandra Day O’Connor and David Souter to a compromise position.
The Casey ruling carved out a middle ground that upheld a woman’s right to abortion largely free from state regulation.
The case was argued in April and Rehnquist was at work on his majority ruling, when Kennedy sent a note to Blackmun, NPR reported.
“I need to see you as soon as you have a few moments. I want to tell you about a new development in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. It should come as welcome news.”
Welcome news if you think dismembering children is good. Yes, since selling out that day, 20 million children (and counting) have been killed. Sure, Kennedy’s gotten great press. Newspapers also praised justices who voted for slavery in the Dred Scott decision, but history looks at them quite differently.
Might this signal a shift back? I’m not sure Justice Kennedy has the courage to stand against the media “elite,” but notice what he said in this decision. While being very careful to use the Latin word “fetus” (which means “unborn child”) throughout, Kennedy slipped up and actually used English instead of Latin:
Abortion methods vary depending to some extent on the preferences of the physician and, of course, on the term of the pregnancy and the resulting stage of the unborn child’s development.”
Oops. It just slipped out, didn’t it? Yet, there it is in the latest Supreme Court ruling: “unborn child.” He can’t take it back now. It’s a child, Justice Kennedy, and you know it.
Take a look at what else he said:
… the State, from the inception of the pregnancy, maintains its own regulatory interest in protecting the life of the fetus that may become a child.
“From the inception of the pregnancy” – that’s from the moment of conception – that the State has the interest in protecting life. That fetus “may become a child” and that “child” “may become” a toddler who “may become” a teenager and “may become” an adult if we don’t kill him first.
So we outlawed one brutal method of abortion – so what? They’ll just use another brutal method. True – however, take a look at how Kennedy describes another of the methods, abortion by dismemberment.
[In] “dilation and evacuation” (D&E), the doctor dilates the cervix and then inserts surgical instruments into the uterus and maneuvers them to grab the fetus and pull it back through the cervix and vagina. The fetus is usually ripped apart as it is removed, and the doctor may take 10 to 15 passes to remove it in its entirety.
The main difference between the two procedures is that in intact D&E a doctor extracts the fetus intact or largely intact with only a few passes, pulling out its entire body instead of ripping it apart. In order to allow the head to pass through the cervix, the doctor typically pierces or crushes the skull.
So with partial-birth abortion, the “intact” baby has “its entire body” “pulled out” before “the doctor” “crushes the skull” instead of being “ripped apart” limb by limb. Hey, Justice Kennedy, read your own words: maybe that’s not something we should be doing either.
This was the same day that I prayed God would show me that my life’s work had not been wasted. Checking my voicemail as the plane landed, I heard call after call of congratulations, I got my answer. Pro-lifers, our work is not in vain. We are within arms reach of victory. Don’t believe me? Listen to what Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, recently said:
“I think [Roe v. Wade] in the short term will be dismantled.”
Yep. Sure will. The handwriting is on the wall. And that wall is coming down. Beginning with one decision. One method. The Supreme Court now admits that sucking the brains out of half-born babies is wrong. Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards don’t think so. They all issued statements against the ruling. It is up to us to make sure their opinions don’t matter. Rudy Giuliani, who last week wanted us all to pay for partial-birth abortions with our tax dollars (and said we should all just “get over” it), now claims to be happy about the decision. Pro-lifers won’t be voting for him either. I’m sure he’ll “get over it.”
This is the wedge. The crack in Roe’s wall. The tipping point. One more president. One more judge. And one more chance to finish the work we began 34 years ago. Our work is not in vain.
History will show us as the good guys. How will history view Justice Kennedy? That remains to be seen.
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