GIBSON: Roe v. Wade. You think it should be reversed?
PALIN: I think it should, and I think that states should be able to decide that issue.
GIBSON: Embryonic stem cell research. John McCain has been supportive of it.
PALIN: You know, when you are running for office, your life is an open book, and you do owe it to Americans to talk about your personal opinion, which may end up being different than what the policy in an administration would be. My personal opinion is we should not create human life, create an embryo, and then destroy it for research if there are other options out there. And thankfully, again, not only are there other options, but we are getting closer and closer to finding a tremendous amount more of options, like, as I mentioned, the adult skin cell research.
The supposedly pro-life leaders who have enthusiastically welcomed the nomination of Sarah Palin for vice president should be deeply concerned by these responses to Charles Gibson during her Sept. 12 interview on ABC “World News.” Palin is being touted as an unequivocally pro-life politician whose selection somehow justifies support for John McCain, despite his own abandonment of the pro-life cause. Her words here suggest that, on the contrary, she regards the issue of respect for innocent life as a matter of personal opinion rather than public principle, and in fact agrees with McCain’s disdain for the fact that the principle involved is the foundation of the form of government they are sworn to uphold.
As I argued more fully in a previous essay, “2-party system: No choice but evil,” the U.S. Constitution requires that the states maintain a republican form of government. The essential principle of republican self-government, as stated in the Organic Law of the United States, is that “all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights,” including, first of all, the right to life. States that adopt laws and policies in defiance of this principle assail the very foundations of the form of government the Constitution requires. Officials who take the position that states should be allowed such actions violate their sworn duty to uphold the Constitution of the United States.
In addition to approving this dereliction of duty, making a pro-life icon of someone who takes this falsified “states’ rights” position and who, at the same time, relegates her pro-life views to the status of “personal opinions,” places the pro-life movement firmly on the path of self-destruction. If the issue of respect for innocent human life is simply a matter of “personal opinion,” what justifies government interference (at any level) in the personal decision of the woman carrying the child, or the parents who provided the genetic material from which its life derives? At best, laws might be required to standardize resolution of conflicting individual claims, but this would not extend to forcing individuals to accept the state’s opinion where no such conflict exists. Where no overriding public interest can be ascertained, the state cannot impose its moral opinions upon individuals without infringing the freedom of conscientious decision essential for the free exercise of religion (which is also counted among our unalienable rights.)
It follows that the pro-life position must be justified as a matter of public justice, not mere personal preference. Otherwise, the pro-life movement has no grounds for seeking legal protection for human life at every stage after fertilization, and indeed no grounds for existence as a political cause. In the context of the Organic Law of the United States, which includes the principles set forth in the Declaration of Independence, and in light of the U. S. Constitution’s stated goal “to secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity,” this justification is easily provided. But if we elevate as pro-life leaders politicians who cannot or will not make the necessary argument, the advocates of so-called abortion rights will exploit their failure, collapsing once and for all the political saliency of the pro-life cause.
This is the fatal flaw in the position of self-styled pro-lifers who advocate an approach that seeks only to regulate the terms and conditions for abortions, with the professed goal of saving lives by reducing the number of abortions. The goal is laudable, but if promoted as a cover for politicians who surrender the issue of political principle, it gradually reduces the pro-life effort to a sentimental gesture that will fade from political life as a new generation loses any sense of its connection with the integrity of our claim to rights and liberty.
Sarah Palin is now on the record with views that suggest that, like John McCain, she surrenders the principle that is at the heart of the pro-life cause. Her presence on the Republican ticket offers no more reason to vote for McCain than does his own unprincipled stand. She is also now on the record acknowledging that as vice president her personal views may have no effect on a McCain administration’s stance on issues like the destruction of embryos for research. This cuts the ground from under supposed leaders of the moral constituency who have argued that her selection offers substantive hope to voters who care about the moral issues.
Gov. Palin’s words also suggest that her opposition to stem cell research is conditional, “if there are other options out there.” This statement implies that if there are no other options, killing the embryos for research is acceptable. This is like saying that one is opposed to using slave labor “if there are other options out there.” Such formulations ignore the existence of a moral principle that simply precludes actions that require the destruction of human life and dignity. How can we trust politicians guilty of such ignorance to implement the concept on which our constitutional republic depends, which is the concept of limited government framed to respect the constraints imposed by respect for our unalienable human rights?
Long ago, Democrats like Barack Obama surrendered to the “ends justify the means” mentality characteristic of leftist politics. Now we have the McCain Republicans, unprincipled pragmatists, who also capitulate to this mentality. Should we be reassured by the thought that such leaders will do no more injustice than they deem necessary to achieve results? Because the desired results are formulated without regard for the foundational moral principles of representative, constitutional self-government, one result will be the dissolution of that form of government.
If Americans want to remain free, we must seek out and support something neither of these parties is offering: a choice that preserves our liberty.