Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Folly of the "Big Tent"

Here's my response to a blogger who was pushing for the "Big Tent" for the Republican Party. It was the typical argument -- we can't win without the support of whole bunches of people who don't normally vote for the GOP, we can make more progress by building coalitions than by dividing into little groups, etc. It made alot of sense, of course, but also missed a critical dynamic in party and election politics.

I was discussing abortion politics, but the same argument could be made in favor of fiscally conservative politics, etc. But fiscally conservative politics cannot make up for offending and getting rid of moral conservatives. Bob Schaffer tried that in 2008 (stupidly, since he lost many Christian supporters while liberals remembered he had always been pro-life - he lost votes from his base without picking up any on the other side, which is the same problem the GOP in general faces), and Schaffer fell on his face.

My response:

I used to believe in a "big tent," but I've since learned its folly. Without principles, we get nowhere. Reagan didn't offer us a big tent -- he offered us principles, which were broadly appealing and which inspired those who might not otherwise agree with him to vote for him.

There was once a "big tent" party -- the Whigs -- which tried to appeal to northerners and southerners alike by not taking strong stands on controversial issues like slavery. Do you know what happened to them? Probably not, because unless you study the history of the period no one even remembers who they were. In actuality, they split into two parties.

Did both parties lose? Did both of these "third parties" devastate themselves by shedding the big tent, leaving their major party behind, and dividing over matters of misguided principles?

No. One of those parties -- the Republican Party -- came to dominate the politics of the next several decades. For 70 years, in fact, and for a great portion of the century afterward, too.

They stood on a major principle -- opposition to slavery -- which held such a broad appeal that they succeeded where the wishy-washy "big tent" party failed.

The Republican Party today has the opportunity to stand on another major, unifying principle which could inspire them to victory. They could pledge to ban abortion and recognize the Personhood of the unborn child so he or she is not considered property like the slaves.

The Republican Party will succeed or die on this principle. Any attempts to remove the pro-life principle from the platform (which is what "big tent" means, in almost all cases), will destroy the party so that a half-century from today the Republican Party will be as well known as the Whigs are today.

Those "divisive" Christian Conservatives are the base of the Republican Party (and, from what I've found, the base of the Tea Party conservatives too) -- they've handed victory to the GOP in 5 of the last 8 presidential elections, but they're feeling ignored and betrayed. The Republicans can take them or leave them. If they leave them, they will energize another party and make them victorious instead.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Personhood Works, Regulations Don't

This is a more coherent recap & expansion on my earlier blog post on regulations, and why they undermine the Personhood of the unborn child -- "How We Compromise Ourselves."

I do not question the well-meaning intentions of those legislators who support, or even write, compromise legislation which tries to put limits on abortion in circumstances where a total abortion ban is not realistically possible. We can argue later about which is more "politically realistic" (I think Personhood is, still). But the fact that I believe in the good intentions of the pro-life regulators does not mean that I don't care whether they stop pushing regulations -- I do! -- or that I approve of what they're doing -- I don't! -- or that I will always continue to support regulation-minded legislators if they continue to ignore warnings about the unintended consequences of what they do.

I think the main thing “pro-life regulators” need to understand is that, whether or not Personhood is "practical" in a legal sense (which is the main objection of those pro-lifers who oppose the Personhood strategy, including Archbishop Charles Chaput and Clarke Forsythe of AUL), our primary problem as pro-lifers is that we've been making the wrong argument -- one which won't "change peoples' hearts" (which everybody agrees is the goal).

The regulations may teach some people about the Right to Life, but more often (esp. for wishy-washy or "moderate" citizens, who are the ones we need to convince in order to succeed in passing legislation or electing legislators) regulations only suggest a "moderate" solution exists for what they are led to believe is a policy question -- where do you draw the line?

Let me restate that.

Regulations clearly “suggest” to a citizen observer that there’s a policy question, to which there are “extreme” solutions (to right or left) and “moderate” solutions. Typical American citizens being who they are, almost all of the people in this category (i.e. the moderate, middle-of-the-road people who don’t often think about policy issues, but when they do they try to find a middle ground, striving never to seem “extreme”) will seek the middle ground – the moderate way – and won’t see the larger implications of the issue at hand.

The argument pro-lifers need to make -- and Personhood makes this argument 100% of the time, while regulations may succeed in making it only 30% of the time -- is that there is an actual Right to Life which is inalienable as a principle, and may not be violated for any reason. That message comes through with Personhood, and it's making progress.

I’ll restate that too.

Personhood “suggests” to a citizen observer that abortion is most certainly NOT a policy question with a spectrum of possible solutions, but is rather a question of principles. Two principles, as it happens – either pro-life or pro-abortion. When the abortion “question” is posed as a principle, and not as a policy question, Americans are actually more likely to choose life instead of death.

Polls show something like 80-90% of Americans believe “there is a God,” even if most of them may not call themselves Christian or correctly follow the teachings of the true God. Believing in God suggests an absolute moral standard, and when the abortion question is measured against an absolute moral standard, very few Americans want to be caught on the wrong, or immoral, side. Since they’re forced to choose between a principle of “abortion is right and moral” versus “abortion is always wrong” one option stands out as more correct and more moral than the other.

That’s the “practical” reason why pro-lifers must reject regulations and embrace the Personhood strategy. The Personhood strategy accomplishes what we want to accomplish – a changing of hearts and minds in society – whereas regulations are far less effective in accomplishing the change we want.

Our message always gets muddled when we're talking about regulations, because every regulation inherently denies there is a Right to Life (if there were an inalienable, inviolable Right to Life, then there's nothing to regulate!).

Consider this line from the text of Roe v. Wade: "Endnote 54: When Texas urges that a fetus is entitled to Fourteenth Amendment protection as a person, it faces a dilemma. Neither in Texas nor in any other State are all abortions prohibited. Despite broad proscription, an exception always exists. The exception contained in Art. 1196, for an abortion procured or attempted by medical advice for the purpose of saving the life of the mother, is typical. But if the fetus is a person who is not to be deprived of life without due process of law, and if the mother's condition is the sole determinant, does not the Texas exception appear to be out of line with the Amendment's command?"

The US Supreme Court in 1972/73 didn't simply lay a roadmap for pro-lifers by noting that if you establish Personhood in law, you can protect the unborn as Persons. They also highlighted the logical error in the "pro-life with exceptions" mentality.

The key point is this: The Supreme Court logically concluded that because Texas had an exception to their anti-abortion statute*, Texas could not simultaneously argue that an unborn child was a Person under their law, because the two concepts – a regulation vs. a principle – are contradictory. The regulation always denies the principle, so if there exists a regulation, then the principle must not be the law of the land. It’s simple logic.

Ed Hanks

* A note on "life of the mother exceptions": Many pro-lifers get stuck on the “life of the mother” exception, because it’s the most compelling of the “hard cases” exceptions some regulations are meant to address (how many times have we heard politicians recite the line, "I oppose abortion except for rape, incest, and the life of the mother"?). But we need not fall victim even to the life of the mother objection. The Personhood movement cares deeply about the lives of both, mother and child, especially since if the mother dies before the baby comes to term, the child will obviously die too. However, that doesn’t mean we need a “life of the mother exception” in law. Instead, the anti-abortion statute should be absolute. The life of the mother is saved by a doctor trying to save both lives (and thereby “do no harm”), not by a doctor trying to kill one patient in order to save the other. It’s the same concept as separating cojoined twins. The goal should always be to preserve both lives. This is not always possible, because of relative viability, and so sometimes one of the patients dies. The measure of crime or not is intent. If ever the doctor attempts to kill one patient, rather than save him/her, that’s where it becomes homicide.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

My Reply to Westword's "Screw the Abortion Debate"

Westword commentator J. David McSwane wrote a humor piece meant to mock the Personhood movement. I had to throw in my comments, which are below his comments and the link to his article.

It's interesting to note that I actually agree with him on one thing -- Personhood folk scouring the streets for your signature are working to set forth a series of events that will alter the course of human history!

"Screw the abortion debate: Here's why a personhood amendment could mean armageddon"
(briefly excerpted, then linked, to Westword - Denver's hyper-liberal alternative paper)
by J. David McSwane

Personhood USA, a national pro-life group, is gathering signatures in Colorado (again) to secure a spot on the ballot for a voter initiative to redefine the start of a person's life as the first point of biological development.

Weird, right? You have no idea.

Most people think abortion rights established by Roe v. Wade is the greatest thing at stake if the amendment makes the grade. But this effort jeopardizes far more than that: It actually threatens to alter time and space as we think we know it. We could very well be spiraling toward the apocalypse.

What the religious folk scouring the streets for your signature don't realize is they're toying with a force far greater than any divisive abortion debate. They are, in fact, working to set forth a series of events that will alter the course of human history.

To read the rest of his story, go here:

My Comment:

You know, David, at my church our pastor actually teaches this -- that we're really 9 months older than we thought we were. And it's had some mind-blowing, conception-changing (excuse the pun!) effects. We start thinking of the living, moving, developing baby inside as something more -- something, well... something living, moving and developing!

We start thinking of our unborn children as our grandfathers and forefathers thought of them -- as a cherished member of the family, just one we can't talk to yet (except through the womb membranes -- you know scientists say unborn children learn, don't you, in relation to the degree their mothers read to them or play music for them in the womb?).

What's more, we KNOW the world won't blow up when we suddenly realize there are more people among us than we thought. Why? Because it's happened before. When the Census circulators in 1860 took their survey, they undercounted black people as only 3/5 of a person, because that's what the law said they were (and the Supreme Court affirmed this, just like Roe v. Wade) -- it wasn't until the Constitutional Amendments of 1865 that black people were granted Personhood under the law.

So there's precedent! Not only do we know that the world won't blow up, but we know that human and civil rights movements eventually prevail if people stop thinking just about what the law says, and more about right and wrong and what the law SHOULD say in order to conform to what's right!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

How We Compromise Ourselves:
A Warning To Pro-Lifers

The author is a former political speechwriter and press secretary with much experience in politics and the reading and analysis of legislation, and also operated a political correspondence office at the Capitol where he read every letter addressed to the Governor for a number of years -- a very helpful education in learning how people think and why...

For many years now, I have warned against “compromised incrementalism” – the mistaken belief that we “move the ball forward” or “save some babies now so that others may be saved later” by pushing for compromise legislation.

This legislation may be framed as great legislation by well-meaning Christian legislators, but it may have unintended consequences of devastating proportions!

I first spoke out publicly about this in December of 2006, with a column published in – A Growing Split in the Pro-Life Community (which, coincidentally, was the starting point and first post of this blog). In short, I pointed out that the idea of a law requiring abortionists to administer anesthesia so an aborted baby would not feel pain is heinously perverted in its implications.

Since then, the anti-compromise faction of the pro-life movement (now recognized largely as the Personhood Movement, with proposals for Personhood Amendments now active in 40 states) has persevered, educated, and brought a growing number of pro-lifers to recognize a shift in our perceived mission – a return to emphasis on the Right to Life, rather than merely trying to place curbs and cautions on the institution of legalized abortion.

Are they a majority of pro-lifers now? It wouldn’t surprise me. I've met and spoken with dozens of recent converts -- people who once supported compromised regulations (as did I) but have forever changed their minds, and will refuse to ever support one again. I know of several legislators (from other states than my own, sadly) who have made this conversion themselves. Alabama's Judge Roy Moore has, also, and who better to understand the legal argument from a Christian perspective?!

But pro-life leadership and pro-life legislators are slow to recognize the sea change. Many of them either fully support, or give lip service to, the Personhood movement, and to Personhood Amendments, while their hearts and minds still believe Personhood is too forward-thinking, and they want to remain in their comfortable world of political compromise legislation.

They fail to realize that by supporting compromise legislation, they do two things:

1) They undermine the public perception of a Right to Life – they instead build a perception that there are “good” abortions and “bad” abortions and that proper regulation will end the abuses and socially-negative consequences of more gruesome abortion procedures while “compassionately” leaving those forms of abortion which our society finds necessary and useful.

Average Americans, being average Americans, are always seeking the middle ground, and this political debate allows them to participate in a process of finding it, while no one who’s not an activist on one side or the other of the issue realizes that this is fundamentally a question of principle – one side is right, the other is wrong, and it’s the public duty to find it!

Constantly pushing for compromise legislation prevents the general public from ever having to really deal with the principle in question, and keeps most from realizing the argument is about principle at all!

2) According to Dr. Charles Rice, a legal professor at Notre Dame University, laws such as parental notification laws, “abortion-ultrasound” laws, late-term abortion bans, etc. actually build a legal framework to protect the institution of abortion. They establish a legal status, by implication, for abortion – a judge looks at a law which puts legal limits on abortion, and the obvious legal/logical implication is that unless the specified limits apply in a situation, then abortion is clearly legal!

Dr. Rice believes that if Roe v. Wade were overturned, many of these “pro-life” laws on the books today would become the enabling language for pro-aborts and judges to prove that abortion is legal in those states.

Imagine that – pro-abortion liberals refusing to repeal a “pro-life” parental notification law because it establishes in law that abortion is legal so long as a parent agrees to the minor child’s abortion!

Any time you argue in law that “…abortion is illegal unless you do this…” you are simultaneously leaving the assumption that “…if you do this, then abortion IS legal…” These types of law are called “and then you can kill the baby” laws. “If the mother views an ultrasound of her unborn baby, and signs a release stating she’s seen it, then she can kill her baby.” “If a minor child has the approval or her parent, guardian, or a judge, then she can kill her baby.”

Laws such as abortion-ultrasound laws automatically imply that a woman has a right to decide to kill her own living, moving, growing unborn child if she so chooses!!!

The more of these laws that exist on the books – “pro-life” laws which end with “and then you can kill the baby” - the stronger the case for legal abortion is. You cannot regulate something that’s not legal – that’s a legal truism. If it’s not legal, there’s no reason to regulate it, therefore if it’s regulated under the law it is by definition legal.

Pro-life legislators are unwittingly writing the death sentences for millions of babies by writing legislation intended to "save some babies" because they don't think we can realistically save the rest!

Plus, all this time, while we argue about where to draw the line between legal abortions and illegal abortions, we’re failing to teach the general public that all abortions kill an innocent child, and therefore abortion is always wrong.

Recognition of the Personhood of the unborn child is not just our best option, and not just our final goal. It is the ONLY answer, and must be our ONLY goal. Supporting compromised legislation, at best, is one step forward, two steps back -- it undermines a public belief in the Right to Life. It makes our job so much harder when we try to convince society that our Right to Life is God-given and inalienable.

Why don't these laws automatically shock us? Why do we fail to recognize the unintended consequences?

Our problem is this. We have become so comfortable with abortion – just as one generation of Germans was comfortable with “solving” the Jewish “problem” and many generations of Americans were comfortable with the “peculiar institution” of slavery – we’ve ceased to think of abortion as comparable to the Holocaust or slavery.

Yes, our intellectual mind makes the comparison, but our emotional reactions are different, because we’re so “close” to the problem. We know it's legal, so we feel powerless to say it's murder (just as Christians in Germany failed to recognize that legalized extermination was murder).

We fail to be properly "shocked" at how bad legal language is. It seems to us that "of course we must acknowledge it's legal, because it IS!" By writing ANYTHING into law which states or leaves a legal implication that abortion is legal only builds the foundations of legalized abortion.

To show ourselves what's really going on -- in order to feel properly "shocked" -- it’s necessary to compare abortion to other evils of history, or else we won’t realize how wicked our “pro-life” laws may actually be. Replace unborn child, in the language, with Jew, or replace abortion with extermination by gassing. Replace the regulation of abortion with the regulation of anything else which we know in our hearts is wrong, wrong, WRONG! Then we will see...

Do we want pro-life legislators signing their names and reputations to bills which say you can only perform an abortion in the first trimester? This is the moral equivalent of passing a law saying slavery is prohibited in Maine, but slavery is a legally protected institution in Texas. Congressmen, in the 1850s, actually passed compromised laws like this – what do we think of those legislators today? Do we consider them anti-slavery, or does history judge them as having perpetuated the institution of slavery? In case you’re wondering, the judgment of history upon these men is not favorable.

So, as an exercise, I’ve substituted the language of an actual proposed Colorado law – one strongly backed by Colorado’s pro-life legislators – with language which purports to “protect” Jews in Nazi Germany. See what you think. Would you sign your name to this law? Would you vote for it? Would you really be willing to “save some Jews” by affirmatively underscoring a legal status for killing others???

A Modest Proposal…

Please note before reading: This “proposed law” is a work of political satire, and is meant to be read as a warning to Christian and pro-life legislators and their supporters that they may be playing into the hands of the enemy because of the wording they use in their proposed legislation.

No ill will toward Jews or "well-meaning but compromised" legislators is meant by this – certainly, just the opposite.

The majority of the text is unimportant, or has irrelevant scope, and so is not included here.

A Bill for an Act
Concerning the Protection of Jews from Unreasonable Death
Making an appropriation in connection therewith

Bill Summary

The bill creates a new statutory part that addresses the fatal consequences of persecution upon Jewish residents in the state and includes the following crimes:

- Murder of an adult Jew
- Voluntary manslaughter of an adult Jew

An adult Jew is defined as 16 years or older. The bill describes acts that do not constitute crimes under the new part.

Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the Third Reich


Part 5 – Protection of Jews Act

Acts not an offense [this is where the law specifies its scope, and what it does NOT prohibit]: This part 5 shall not apply to:

a) Acts that cause the death of an adult Jew if those acts are committed during a legal extermination procedure to which a Nazi magistrate has signed a notice of intent, or a person authorized by law to exterminate Jews;
b) Acts committed by one Jew against another Jew;
c) Acts that are committed pursuant to usual and customary standards of extermination in an authorized, controlled facility designed for that purpose;

Definitions. As used in this Part 5, unless the context otherwise requires, “Adult Jew” means a Jew whose stage of development has reached or surpassed sixteen years since birth, such that he or she may contribute, voluntarily or involuntarily, to the State.

Murder of an Adult Jew. A person who causes the death of an adult Jew, without lawful justification, is guilty of Murder of an Adult Jew if he or she: …

Voluntary manslaughter of an Adult Jew. A person who causes the death of an adult Jew, without lawful justification, is guilty of Voluntary Manslaughter of an Adult Jew if he or she…

Etc. etc. etc.

(there! you've "saved some Jews!")

Note: This “proposed legislation” is very closely modeled on an actual “pro-life” bill proposed as law in Colorado – HB 10-1261 – by well-meaning (but misled) pro-life legislators.

I have highlighted passages that should shock any moral person – examples of how this law acknowledges and supports the legality of other forms of evil, even while stopping others. Every highlighted passage above – the ones meant to shock a reasonable, moral human being – has its equivalent in the proposed “pro-life” bill, which was meant to enact a “fetal homicide” provision into state law (note that not all fetal homicide or other incremental legislation is compromised - it depends how it's worded).

Please note, specifically, that the part under "definitions" in this law sets an age limit to the law, meaning that even though the law prohibits the murder of Jews above age 16, it specifically does not prohibit murder of Jews of less than 16 years. The actual proposed law in Colorado has equivalent language, basically saying the fetal homicide is not considered fetal homicide before 16 weeks of development, which inherently places less value (i.e. less humanity) upon an unborn child of 15 weeks than is acknowledged for older children. Placing relative value upon one life versus another is inherently wicked -- these lives are seen as equal in God's eyes, and government has no right to determine relative value in contradiction to God's law.