Friday, February 9, 2007

Pragmatism is Bankrupt

A post I made on the Life Training Institute blog (, where I am trying to convince a set of pro-lifers who are dedicated to "compromised incrementalism" that we need to change our pro-life strategy -- aiming for success, rather than compromise:

If there existed a law (or proposed legislation) that made 95% of abortions illegal without affirming a "right" to abortion 5% of the time, I would be for it -- that is an uncompromising win for us.

But those examples are hard to find.

What we do see -- compromised incrementalism -- is a bill that makes 95% of abortions illegal while also explicitly defending 5% of abortions. In these cases, I think pro-lifers do ourselves no favors by supporting it. Why?

Because any bill that favors or otherwise upholds a "right" to 5% of abortions is arguing against the principle of a right to life.

Principle doesn't use percentages. Any departure from 0% or 100% is compromise, and it reduces our arguments to 100% pragmatism, 0% principle.

Arguing on the terms of our opponents -- as if there is some line to be drawn, some abstract judgment of when it's okay to kill a baby and when it's not -- is detrimental to our overall cause of getting rid of all abortions, because we're admitting there ARE lines to be drawn. Pragmatism wholly rejects the principle -- they are fundamentally inconsistent strategies. In order to regain the principle, we actually have to convince the voters and citizens we've been talking to that we were wrong when we supported a bill that favored 5% of abortions. We would be rightly accused of hypocrisy.

Would you support a law which said slavery should be legal in New Jersey, but in no other state of the union? If you're a pragmatist, you'll ask "that depends -- is this 1800 or 2000? -- does this increase or reduce slavery?" The response would dictate your answer.

But if you are relying upon moral authority -- principle -- then you would consider the law absurd. Slavery should be legal nowhere under any circumstances, no matter where it is or is not already legal.

I strongly believe that the more we rely on pragmatism to "curtail" abortions when and where we can, we postpone the day when we can achieve our goal and implement the principle of no abortions anytime anywhere, because we then have to undo the damage we did when we talked someone into voting for the 95% solution by saying "it's okay, because it allows for an exception in 5% of the cases."


Thursday, February 8, 2007

In Memory - Ronald Reagan

I know I'm a couple days late. Laura Ingrahm had her beautiful tribute 2 days ago. But to commemorate the birthday of Ronald Reagan, which was this week, I want to re-post a tribute that I wrote in his honor 2 years ago, in my old newspaper, The Front Range Rampart:

On the occasion of Ronald Reagan’s birthday, it is worth reflecting on the enormous positive impact this remarkable President and man had on the United States and the world.

The issue on which most Americans agree – the praise that even liberals will allow – is that Reagan made us proud to be Americans again. After the dark days of Vietnam and Jimmy Carter’s stagflation, Reagan brought us a new day, filled with vitality and optimism.

Renewing the American spirit was the immediate benefit of the Presidency of Ronald Reagan. But Americans have much more than that to be thankful for. Reagan strengthened America’s military, to the point of staring down the Soviets and ultimately bringing an end to a long, tense, and costly Cold War confrontation.

Reagan gave hope to the forces of freedom around the world – from Latin American citizens, almost all of whom would have the right to vote for their leaders by the time Reagan left office, to Soviet dissidents who would tap out coded messages about Reagan’s speeches on their jail cell bars.

And Reagan lastingly changed – perhaps forever – the environment in Washington. No longer would government grow simply because it always had and no one knew another way. He inspired and gave voice to those Republicans who understood that the People are more important than the Government. Great things followed from this change in thinking, from the Contract With America to some – a few – of President Bush’s proposals today.

Reagan introduced a new paradigm into government policy – one that has struggled to be heard since, but which is unlikely to go away. In the stead of a history of fiscally moderate Republicans – leaders who would spend less, but not a little – Reagan introduced into practice the concept of fiscal conservatism.

Fiscal conservatives, who were first forcefully, if not as ably, led by Barry Goldwater, were energized by Reagan’s leadership. He dared to suggest that government was doing too much, rather than not enough, was spending more than it should, and even that there were government programs that were perpetuating the social problems they were ostensibly meant to solve.

America is a better place today because of Ronald Reagan and the vision that he gave us for America – the bright, shining city on a hill that we can all aspire to, and which we still have hopes of approaching.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Sacrificing Babies to Save Babies!


South Dakota failed to pass a virtual total ban on abortion in 2006 by just a few percentage points. Rather than gather encouragement from their near-success, pro-life legislators have now given up and are supporting language that would allow abortion in cases of rape, incest, health of the mother, etc. It remains "close" to what they tried to pass in 2006, but this version is fatally flawed because it will sacrifice some babies to save others.

Operation Rescue, led by Troy Newman, issued a press release not only supporting the South Dakota language, but also saying that anybody who doesn't support it is "pro-abortion". That was a pre-emptive swipe at Brian Rohrbough of Colorado Right to Life, who he knew would not support the SD language because of its exceptions. See (and sign!) the Colorado Right to Life no-compromise pledge at

Several people (probably a flood, but the no-compromise folks aren't YET all networked -- joining Colorado Right to Life, no matter where you live, would be a start!) sent complaint e-mails to Operation Rescue, and one of them was my wife.

We got a response back from a lady at Operation Rescue who seemed to be the official responder to the complaints. I don't have permission to use her name, so I'll just say this is what appears to be an official response from Operation Rescue. Following their response is my reaction to the response:

Dear _________,

We so appreciated you coming to Wichita for the Cry
for Justice event. That meant a lot to us.
Hopefully, in that time, you got to know us and know
we have dedicated our lives to obedience to God in
working to protect the innocent and stop abortion. We
came out hard on this issue of the South Dakota bill
because we knew there would be a knee-jerk reaction to
it that would cost lives. I hope after reading this
letter, you better understand our thinking and why we
did what we did.

Here is the bottom line: Without intervention, about
870 babies will die in South Dakota next year. We
have the ability to save ALL of them. In fact, in the
next four years, ONE baby might succumb to abortion,
if this law is passed. That is a tragedy, but we
cannot save that baby now. We tried to pass a law
that would protect that baby, too, but it failed. So
should we give up on trying to save the others?

According to your thinking, you would rather that the
870 per year continue to die than pass a law that may
not meet your standard of perfection. Remember, we
still oppose the one death and will continue to work
until that one baby is protected as well, but we are
not willing to sacrifice the 870, year after year on
the distant hope that someday we might get a perfect

This should not be about some lofty ideology of
perfection as much as it is about saving lives. Those
babies are ALL doomed to die. We have not condemned
them to death. They are already condemned. We oppose
every single death from abortion, but if we can do
something to save even some of them, we will do it,
while continuing to save the rest.

Have you not considered the tremendous loss of life
your principle would cost? Do you seriously have the
ability to justify not intervening to save the 870,
when it is within our power to save them? Can you
really rationalize away standing idly by while those
babies die simply because we cannot save them all?
Doesn't that diminish life?

Take for example that you are aboard the Titanic and
it is sinking. You have within your ability to get
870 onto lifeboats, but one person is trapped in a
cabin and you cannot save him. Would you sacrifice
the lives of the 870 in a vain effort to save one?
Most people would do everything to save the 870 while
continuing to work to save the one until there was no
other hope. That does not mean they approve of the
death of the one or that somehow that life had less
value. It is just that under the circumstances,
saving that one was beyond their ability.

We tried to save them all in South Dakota, and that
bill was rejected. Now we are trying to save the 870.
Would you rather they die? How can a position that
would sacrifice so many – needlessly – be classified
as anything other than irresponsible?

I will stand on the principle of saving as many lives
as we possibly can, and reject the notion of allowing
needless death and human suffering because the legal
method does not meet up to my standard of perfection.

Sidewalk counselors have to face this conundrum day
after day as women reject their help and go into the
mills to kill their babies. There is nothing the
sidewalk counselor can to but watch, and rejoice when
a rare woman does in fact change her mind. Should
sidewalk counselors stop trying to save any lives
simply because conditions exist that make is
impossible for them to save them all? Would we say
that the sidewalk counselor is "unprincipled" or that
she "approved" of the deaths she could not prevent?

Try to think rationally about this situation. I think
pro-lifers have a knee-jerk reaction to “exceptions”
and often do not consider the reality of the
situation. I would say those attempting to save lives
NOW are probably more in line with Biblical teachings
than those who are willing to allow the bloodletting
to continue until such time, if ever, they get the
perfect bill.

You may want to consider whose side you are on here.
Planned Parenthood is fighting this bill tooth and
nail because it will close them down in South Dakota
and virtually stop abortion in its tracks. (Would you
rather the legislature withdraw the bill and allow
them to say open?) When we look around and find the
abortionists are our allies, then maybe we should stop
and think about where ideology is taking us.

Signed (name of official removed)

My response to Operation Rescue:

(name of official removed}

I hope you will excuse me for stepping into a conversation based on your reply to my wife.

I find your argument unconvincing. And I shall tell you why, but first I want to point something out:

Quoting (name removed): "Try to think rationally about this situation. I think pro-lifers have a knee-jerk reaction to “exceptions” and often do not consider the reality of the situation."

I find that to be one of the most thoroughly condescending things I've seen in any argument in some time. You presume we are responding emotionally, rather than "thinking rationally". We're the "knee-jerkers".

I consider it more emotional to knuckle under for believers in false compassion for raped mothers (which "compassion" is manifested by killing their children and saddling them with the guilt of having killed them). But you speak more, perhaps, than you meant to -- you refer not to "some pro-lifers" but to "pro-lifers" in general as if you are separating yourself from that group of people. Now, I believe that you are sincere, and that your heart is in the right place. But, rhetorically and subconsciously, in your language you are stepping AWAY from "pro-lifers" and calling them crazy, even as you move closer to the world's ideal adherence to "reason and rationality" over what's truly and absolutely right and wrong.

Your Titanic analogy is a false one. A true analogy using the Titanic metaphor would be this -- rather than saying "We want to save all of you, but women and children first", you are instead saying, "Only women and children have a right to be saved. If you are a man, even if we have the ability to save you, even if we find you in the freezing water and have room in the lifeboat, you are still not allowed in the lifeboat because you do not have a right to life."

You may say that this analogy still supports you -- that historically, the Titanic did not have enough lifeboats to save everybody. But it did in fact have more than enough lifeboats to save some of the men. And there were some men pulled out of the icy water after the lifeboats left the ship. Besides this, the crew discriminated against third class passengers, which is perhaps a better analogy -- you are saving "first and second class passengers first", and leaving the third class passengers (offspring from rape, offspring from incest, etc.) to die, moreover saying in the wording of the legislation that it's okay that they do.

What you are really doing is asking... nay, demanding... nay, intimidating pro-life legislators and/or voters to vote for a measure which says "it is okay to kill babies if their father is a criminal (i.e. rapist)". You are forcing legislators (upon penalty of being called a "pro-abort"!!!) to stand up and speak with their vote: "I am willing to sacrifice this one baby and put it to death in order to save 870, because I recognize that there are mitigating factors which cause it to not have the same degree of right to life as the other 870." I understand the emotion behind wanting to save 870, even if you must sacrifice one, but telling the deathcamp guards that you will support them in killing all the gypsies if they will allow you to save all the Jews thoroughly eviscerates the principle of a "right to life". Yours is the emotional, not the rational, position.

The very act of making the statement evidenced in the new, compromised, S. Dakota legislation undermines the whole principle, and even the concept, of a "right to life", which is truly the most powerful tool we have to eventually end all abortions. In fact, by establishing and continuing to support that false division between the rights of some and the rights of others (some are more equal than others), you play into the hands of the abortionists and enable them to argue that even YOU -- the pro-lifers -- support abortion in cases of rape and incest. And they have the votes to prove that you did!

I do not disbelieve the fact that you desire to save all babies from abortion, including the "one" (another false figure) who will be a product of rape or incest. But that's not what the legislation says, so you should not be supporting it. If you really want to save the 870, you should change the law so that it does not confer a "right to an abortion" in any case -- that it does not explicitly defend any conditions under which a baby may legally be put to death. It may be possible to change the legislation so that it does not explicitly permit any abortions, but I think it would be hard to do.

By saving 870 babies today, you may literally uphold the "principle" of allowing abortion, and condemn "870 exceptions" to abortion over the next several decades, because you would not stand firm on the principle of a "right to life", and actually supported abortion in cases of rape or incest.\

You know Dr. Tiller. Would he allow something as simple as a prohibition against abortion "except in cases of rape and incest" to stop him? No! He's already violated the late-term ban. If he were in the situation of the S. Dakota abortionists (who probably look up to him and his methods), he would simply claim that "rape has made an amazing comeback!" And suddenly you have not 1, but 100 or 870 abortions a year in case of "rape or incest."

I, and others who oppose compromising on principle, will wait to see if you will push for that, or if you will continue to support a bill which upholds the "right to abortion" in some cases. I will remain very disappointed in you and Operation Rescue if you do not try to either fix this legislation, or publicly disavow your support.