Somehow, five days a week—week in and week out—Public Discourse, the online journal of the Witherspoon Institute, manages to post an illuminating and engaging essay on a significant issue in our public life. Yesterday it was Matthew Franck’s powerful reflection on abortionists in contemporary culture as “providers of necessities” (as Lincoln said of slave-sellers) who are at the same time “utterly despised.” Today it is a tightly argued piece by Charles Capps on meeting the practical needs of unmarried domestic partners (whether their relationship is platonic or otherwise) without “defining out of existence the only legal category whose purpose is precisely to integrate the kind of act that can result in conception with the kind of environment best suited for a child’s development.”
Abortionist Dr. Kermit Gosnell, who was convicted yesterday of first degree murder of three babies, has agreed not to appeal a sentence of life in prison in return for the prosecution’s agreement not to seek the death penalty. Having publicly opposed the death penalty for Gosnell, I am entirely content with this way of bringing the appalling episode to a close. Are we through with Gosnell now? Can we “let him rot in prison,” as some have said and “just forget about him”? Not in my view.
For those of us who seek to be disciples of Jesus, our obligation is clear: It is to love Kermit Gosnell and pray for him. He will spend the remainder of his life in jail, as he certainly should—his punishment is just. But he remains a human being, made in the image and likeness of God. He is our (very wayward) brother. We are his fellow sinners. We must never suppose that it is beyond the power of the divine author of life to move his heart to repentance and conversion.
And let us redouble our efforts on behalf of the victims—mothers and babies alike—of the hundreds and even thousands of abortionists who will continue to ply Dr. Gosnell’s grisly trade. Let us pray not only for Gosnell, but for all who deal in death, even as we work tirelessly in the political and cultural spheres to fight the abortion power and care for pregnant women in need and their inestimably precious children.
Late-term abortionist Kermit Gosnell has been convicted of first degree murder for killing babies after delivering them alive.
The trial now moves into the penalty phase, and we wait to hear whether prosecutors will seek the death penalty. But Dr. Gosnell is only the front man; and the real trial has only just begun. The defendant is the abortion license in America. The Gosnell episode highlights the irrationality of the regime of law put into place by the Supreme Court in 1973 and fiercely protected by Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and the polticians they and other “pro-choice” advocacy groups help send to Washington and the state capitols.
Something as morally arbitrary as a human being’s location—his or her being in or out of the womb—cannot determine whether killing him or her is an unconscionable act of premeditated homicide or the exercise of a fundamental liberty. Yet something like that is the prevailing state of American law under Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton. Its incoherence and indefensibility have been laid bare by the prosecution of Dr. Gosnell. Whatever now happens to him, it will no longer be possible to pretend that abortion and infanticide are radically different acts or practices.
If we are to condemn snipping the neck of a child delivered at, say, twenty-four or twenty-six weeks to kill him or her, how can we defend dismembering or poisoning a child in the womb at twenty-six, thirty, or even thirty-four weeks? And even more fundamentally, if we are bearers of inviolable dignity and a basic right to life in virtue of our humanity, and not in virtue of accidental qualities such as age, or size, or stage of development or condition of dependency—if, in other words, we believe in the fundamentalequality of human beings—how can a right to abortion (where “abortion” means performing an act whose purpose is to cause fetal death) be defended at all?
I just finished watching the Fox News special “See No Evil” on abortionist Kermit Gosnell, who is on trial in Philadelphia for multiple murders and other crimes. Gosnell can’t understand how it can be that he is facing prison and possibly even the death penalty for killing the babies whose necks he snipped after they “precipitated” (i.e., emerged from the womb.) The women who came into his clinic came in to have the babies they were carrying killed. That was the point of the exercise. “Terminating” the babies’ lives was the service he offered and performed. Had he killed the babies while they were still in their mothers’ bodies (by, for example, inserting a needle to inject a poison into their tiny hearts) that would not have been a crime. He merely would have been assisting his patients in exercising what the Supreme Court deems a constitutional right. So why, he would like to know, is he being prosecuted for killing the same babies moments later after they precipitated?
I must admit that I am no less puzzled by that question than Gosnell is. How can it be that killing a baby inside the womb is perfectly acceptable while killing the very same baby (or even a baby that is a few days or even weeks younger) outside the womb is first degree murder? Of course, in my view we should not permit the killing of babies inside or outside the womb. A baby’s status as a precious member of the human family, possessing profound, inherent, and equal dignity, does not depend on something as morally arbitrary as his or her location. But if we permit the Gosnells of the world to kill babies inside the womb, it seems odd to charge them with murder for killing them outside the womb. This is especially true in view of the fact that inducing delivery and then killing babies marked for “termination” eliminates the risk to women involved in the common abortion practice of dismembering babies inside the womb and removing their severed body parts.
I offer some thoughts in this morning’s Wall Street Journal on the legacy of “test tube baby” pioneer Sir Robert Edwards, who died this week:
Sir Robert Edwards, the Nobel Prize-winning British “test tube baby” pioneer who died last week at age 87, devoted his career to developing in vitro fertilization as a technique to enable women afflicted with certain forms of infertility to conceive and bear children. As a result, there are millions of people in the world today—some now in their 30s—who otherwise would not have been born. According to Edwards’s admirers, their lives are his legacy.
Yet Edwards was, and remains, a controversial figure.
His critics fall into three categories and are a most unlikely combination.
First, there are the people who worried, and in some cases still worry, about overpopulation. They were among Edwards’s earliest critics in the late 1960s and the 1970s. For them, infertility, while perhaps a personal tragedy, is a social boon.
Second, certain feminists fault Edwards for contributing to what they regard as the commodification of women’s bodies. IVF, as it has come to be known, makes surrogate pregnancy possible, turning women, as they view it, into machines for incubation.
Third, there are proponents of the sanctity-of-life ethic, for whom Edwards’s experiments to perfect IVF and the actual clinical practice of in vitro fertilization (which typically means the creation of more embryos than will be implanted), involve the deliberate taking of nascent human life. . . .
Edwards himself was in no doubt about the biological status of even the earliest embryo as a human being. In the book “A Matter of Life,” Edwards and his collaborator, Patrick Steptoe, describe the embryo as “a microscopic human being—one in its very earliest stages of development.”
What Edwards rejected was the sanctity-of-life ethic and the principle of the equality of human beings irrespective of stage of development or condition of dependency. Like the philosopher Peter Singer, Edwards distinguished those individuals—admittedly human—who in his view did not yet qualify for protection against manipulation and death-dealing practices like abortion and embryo-experimentation from those who were far enough along the developmental path to qualify.
Honestly, is it so hard to understand Kermit Gosnell? If respectable and influential people—cultural and political leaders—spend decades trying to persuade the public that “it’s not really a baby, it just looks like a baby,” are we shocked—shocked—that some people come to believe it, and act on that belief?
Of course, even before the newly conceived human “looks like” a baby, it is a living member of the human species—a human being. It is our duty to respect and protect him or her (sex is determined from the beginning in the human) not because of how he or she looks, but because of what he or she is.
Still, one might say that it is easier to understand how one could fail to see that abortion is the taking of human life when the human life in question is in the earliest stages of development, and doesn’t yet “look like a baby.” But because the unborn human begins to “look like a baby” fairly early on, the pro-choice movement worked hard to persuade people not to trust the evidence of their senses—to disregard the little arms and legs that were severed in the process of dismembering the “fetus” (a perfectly valid word—meaning “young one”—that became convenient to deploy as a way of suggesting that the unborn baby is “something different,” not really a baby or a human being). ”It’s not a baby, it just looks like a baby.” Tragically, Gosnell believed them. So did lots of other people.
This is not the primary or most fundamental reason for my view that we who are pro-life should plead for mercy for Gosnell if he is convicted of capital murder, but it is a reason. If convicted, Gosnell should spend the rest of his life in prison, but we shouldn’t pretend not to know how he could have performed the killings he performed. The structure of beliefs behind his actions is not one that is unique to him or even uncommon. On the contrary, it is all-too-common. And a lot of work went into making it common.
Masha Gessen is a talented writer. Her widely praised (and sharply critical) biography of Vladimir Putin is only the most recent of her books across a range of subjects from Russian history, to mathematics, to the social implications of modern genetics. On top of her exertions as an author, she has served as Director of the Russian service of the U.S. government–funded Radio Liberty. She is a self-identified lesbian and a leading activist in the U.S. and Russia. (She holds citizenship in both countries.) Although she is anything but a fringe figure within the movement, she is notable for her candor in discussing its beliefs and goals. At last year’s meeting of the Sydney Writers’ Festival (audio here) she spoke plainly:
It’s a no-brainer that (homosexuals) should have the right to marry, but I also think equally that it’s a no-brainer that the institution of marriage should not exist. . . . Fighting for gay marriage generally involves lying about what we are going to do with marriage when we get there—because we lie that the institution of marriage is not going to change, and that is a lie.
The institution of marriage is going to change, and it should change. And again, I don’t think it should exist. And I don’t like taking part in creating fictions about my life. That’s sort of not what I had in mind when I came out thirty years ago.
I have three kids who have five parents, more or less, and I don’t see why they shouldn’t have five parents legally. . . . I met my new partner, and she had just had a baby, and that baby’s biological father is my brother, and my daughter’s biological father is a man who lives in Russia, and my adopted son also considers him his father. So the five parents break down into two groups of three. . . . And really, I would like to live in a legal system that is capable of reflecting that reality, and I don’t think that’s compatible with the institution of marriage.
Just imagine the uproar had, say, Rick Santorum said ,“Fighting for gay marriage generally involves lying about what [they] are going to do with marriage when [they] get there—because [they] lie that the institution of marriage is not going to change, and that is a lie.” But, of course, you don’t have to take it from Rick Santorum or other defenders of marriage as a conjugal union. Masha Gessen will tell you the same thing.
Although Gessen’s willingness to put the matter in terms of “lying” is startlingly frank, it is no longer uncommon for advocates of redefining marriage to acknowledge that the effect—for them an entirely desirable effect—of redefinition will be the radical transformation of the institution. The objective is not merely to expand the pool of people eligible to participate in it, as was long claimed. In conceding (and celebrating the fact) that redefining marriage will fundamentally alter the institution, transform its social role and meaning, and undermine its structuring norms of monogamy, exclusivity, etc., Gessen is far from out of step with other leading figures in the movement. She joins influential NYU sociologist Judith Stacey, Arizona State University professor Elizabeth Brake, “It Gets Better” founder Dan Savage, writer Victoria Brownworth, journalist E. J. Graff, activist Michelangelo Signorile, and countless other important scholars and activists.
Moreover, there seem to be very few prominent scholars and activists in the movement to redefine marriage who are criticizing Masha Gessen, Judith Stacey, Elizabeth Brake, and the others, and speaking out for the norms of monogamy and fidelity and other traditional marital and familial ideals. Many are quiet, but few actually deny that the abandonment of the conjugal understanding of marriage will have the transformative institutional and social effects that Gessen, Stacey, Brake and the others (approvingly) say it will have.
“You are resorting to scare tactics!”
“No one is arguing for the legal recognition of polygamous or polyamorous relationships as marriages!”
“Recognizing same-sex partnerships does not open the door to changing fundamental marital norms. It will not change the nature of marriage as a monogamous and exclusive union—it will simply make marriage as we’ve always understood it available to more people.”
That was then; this is now. Have a look at the article by Jillian Keenan in the perfectly mainstream online magazine Slate:
The definition of marriage is plastic. Just like heterosexual marriage is no better or worse than homosexual marriage, marriage between two consenting adults is not inherently more or less “correct” than marriage among three (or four, or six) consenting adults. Though polygamists are a minority—a tiny minority, in fact—freedom has no value unless it extends to even the smallest and most marginalized groups among us. So let’s fight for marriage equality until it extends to every same-sex couple in the United States—and then let’s keep fighting. We’re not done yet.
I will be accepting “I have to admit it: You told me so, Robby” messages. (See here.) While I’m at it, I’ll hazard another prediction, though I’d love to be wrong: The Slate article will not produce a single serious critique by a major scholar or activist in the SSM movement arguing that marriage is not completely plastic, and identifying a principled ground for rejecting the legal redefinition of marriage to include multiple-partner sexual relationships.
Abortionist Kermit Gosnell is facing the death penalty if he is convicted of the murders for which he is being tried in Philadelphia. Surely, the heinous acts of which he stands accused are depraved. They probably meet the criteria for capital punishment under Pennsylvania law. However, in the event that Gosnell is convicted, which seems likely, I am asking my fellow pro-lifers around the country to join me in requesting that his life be spared.
Someone might make the case for mercy by pointing out that Gosnell merely carried out the logic of the abortion license that is enshrined and protected in our law. One might note that there is no moral difference between dismembering a child inside the womb (which our jurisprudence, alas, treats as a constitutional liberty) and snipping a child’s neck after he or she has emerged from the womb (potentially a capital offense). How can our legal system impose the death penalty on Gosnell, given the arbitrariness and irrationality of the underlying law?
But that is not the fundamental reason for our asking for Gosnell’s life to be spared.
Kermit Gosnell, like every human being, no matter how self-degraded, depraved, and sunk in wickedness, is our brother—a precious human being made in the very image and likeness of God. Our objective should not be his destruction, but the conversion of his heart. Is that impossible for a man who has corrupted his character so thoroughly by his unspeakably evil actions? If there is a God in heaven, then the answer to that question is “no.” There is no one who is beyond repentance and reform; there is no one beyond hope. We should give up on no one.
If our plea for mercy moves the heart of a man who cruelly murdered innocent babies, the angels in heaven will rejoice. But whether it produces that effect or not, we will have shown all who have eyes to see and ears to hear that our pro-life witness is truly a witness of love—love even of our enemies, even of those whose appalling crimes against innocent human beings we must oppose with all our hearts, minds, and strength. In a profoundly compelling way, we will have given testimony to our belief in the sanctity of all human life.
I do not myself believe that the death penalty is ever required or justified as a matter of retributive justice. Many reasonable people of goodwill, including many who are strongly pro-life (and whose pro-life credentials I in no way question), disagree with me about that. But even if the death penalty is justified in a case like Gosnell’s, mercy is nevertheless a legitimate option, especially where our plea for mercy would itself advance the cause of respect for human life by testifying to the power of mercy and love.
I do not expect my request to be met with universal acclaim. Given the horrific nature of the acts of which Gosnell is accused, it is understandable that some, perhaps many or even most, will believe that this is not a case where mercy is appropriate. They will not want to join me. I understand.
However, I ask everyone who reads these words to consider the matter carefully and prayerfully. In 1994, I had the honor of representing Mother Teresa of Calcutta as her Counsel of Record on an amicus curiae brief to the Supreme Court of the United States asking the justices to reverse Roe v. Wade. In connection with that project, I learned that this was not Mother’s first intervention in American courts. On a number of occasions, she had asked judges to refrain from imposing the death penalty on a defendant convicted in a capital murder case. She did not question the defendants’ guilt, or even the justice of the death penalty. Her plea was always a plea for mercy.
By asking for mercy for Kermit Gosnell, we defenders of human life in all stages and conditions have the opportunity to follow the example of the greatest pro-life witness of the 20th century.
This post has been updated to reflect that the Washington Post factcheck was published in advance of the 2012 election. -Ed.
With Barack Obama safely elected
and re-elected as President of the United States, the Washington Post Fact Checker has finally got ten around in 2012 to a serious examination of the question whether Obama opposed (as an Illinois state senator) legislation to deny legal protection to infants born alive after a failed attempt to kill them by abortion (or delivered with the intention of killing them in so-called “live-birth abortions”). Better late than never, I suppose—though in this case merely marginally so. The American people deserved to know the truth before making a decision about Barack Obama’s fitness to serve as President the first time.
The media blackout of the question was not unlike what we have witnessed in recent days with the Gosnell infanticide trial. Yuval Levin and I did our best to get the facts out in our article “Obama and Infanticide,” posted at Public Discourse in October of 2008. We produced evidence to show that Obama’s claim to have opposed the Illinois Born Alive Infants Protection Act on the ground that it lacked “neutrality” language on the abortion question was false. He had in fact voted against the legislation despite the inclusion of “neutrality” language that had been insisted on by supporters of abortion who nevertheless were prepared to vote for legal protection for infants who were born alive.
does did the Washington Post Fact Checker conclude?
Are you ready? Here goes:
Obama swore during the 2008 election that he would have supported the federal Born-Alive Infants Protection Act, prompting the National Right to Life Committee to issue a scathing white paper that pointed out how he had contradicted himself by voting against the Illinois measure while backing the older federal version in retrospect during his presidential campaign.
Obama denied any contradiction during an interview that year with the Christian Broadcasting Network, accusing the antiabortion committee of lying about the circumstances of his vote. Here’s what he said: “I hate to say that people are lying, but here’s a situation where folks are lying. I have said repeatedly that I would have been completely in, fully in support of the federal bill that everybody supported — which was to say — that you should provide assistance to any infant that was born — even if it was as a consequence of an induced abortion. That was not the bill that was presented at the state level. What that bill also was doing was trying to undermine Roe vs. Wade.”
From what we can tell, Obama misrepresented the facts during this interview. The 2003 bill addressed his concerns about undermining Roe v. Wade, and it matched the federal legislation that he supported virtually word for word. PolitiFact determined that the claim about a neutrality clause in the federal legislation was True. FactCheck.org said “Obama’s claim [about the committee lying] is wrong.”
For what it’s worth, The Fact Checker in 2008 appears to have overlooked the neutrality clause while awarding Two Pinocchios in a column that examined a separate claim from then-GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin . . . .
The evidence suggests we could have awarded Four Pinocchios to the former Illinois senator for his comments to the Christian Broadcasting Network, but that interview is several years old now, and it’s not the focus of this particular column. The president’s campaign did not respond to requests for comment on the matter of whether Obama’s 2008 comments on the Christian Broadcasting Network contradicted his 2003 vote against Illinois’s Born-Alive Infants Protection bill.”
Five Four years too late.
Rick Garnett and others have taken note of the “media blackout” of the homidice trial of Philadelphia abortionist Kermit Gosnell. Grassroot efforts to shame the journalistic establishment into at least mentioning the trial seem to be working, however. Now, in a rather transparently desperate ploy, the President of NARAL Pro-Choice America is trying to spin the coverage her way by claiming that the gruesome practices that went on in Gosnell’s abortion clinic give us a “window into the world before Roe v. Wade.”
This picture of the “world before Roe” is a recycling of long exploded myths confected by the abortion movement in its early days. The late Dr. Bernard Nathanson, a founder of the movement (and himself an abortionist) who later became a pro-life champion, spilled the beans many years ago in his memoir. I discuss the matter a bit in the tribute I did to Dr. Nathanson shortly after his death.
I’m pleased to announce the publication by Oxford University Press of Reason, Morality, and Law: The Philosophy of John Finnis (edited by John Keown and Robert P. George). This volume of original essays on the thought of the great Oxford (and Notre Dame) legal, political, and moral philosopher includes contributions by Joseph Raz, John Haldane, Jeremy Waldron, John Gardner, Joseph Boyle, Timothy Endicott, Germain Grisez, Christopher Tollefsen, Leslie Green, Gerard V. Bradley, Neil Gorsuch, Matthew Kramer, Anthony Kenny, Julie Dickson, Bishop Anthony Fisher, Thomas Pink, Roger Crisp, and other luminaries.
It also includes a long essay by Professor Finnis, responding to each of the contributors. Unfortunately, even at the dicounted price offered by Barnes and Noble, the book costs $102. So I will understand if folks want to wait for publication of the paperback edition! For those who cannot defer gratification, however, here is the link.
Well, in case there was any doubt, we now have an ex cathedra announcement from the hierarchy of the New York Times:
“At some point, the church will accept contraception and female and non-celibate priests. Could it be in the next papacy?” – Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times
Although I ought to be used to it by now, I still find the parochialism of liberal secular elites stunning. Their small-minded preoccupation with sex and gender is, in its way, amusing. A pope abdicates for the first time in centuries, and what immediately pops into the mind of Nicholas Kristof and his ilk? Contraception, women’s ordination, and celibacy. Oy vey.
Also amusing is his uncritical–indeed unthinking–embrace of Hegelian-Marxian certainty about the trajectory of history. “At some point, the church will [embrace the ideology of the New York Times editorial board]. It just will, you see. History is open to no other possibilities. It’s a done deal. Already determined. Kristof was no doubt prevented only by the character limit on Twitter from saying “the correlation of forces . . . .”
National Review, the flagship journal of the conservative movement, has published an editorial that is broadly sympathetic to the Justice Department’s “white paper” laying out the Obama administration’s legal argument for the targeted killings of individuals (including U.S. citizens) aligned with terrorists, without judicial recourse. But the editors make a damning point of criticism despite their sympathy for the administration’s legal claims:
To be fair, it is true that the Obama administration fetishizes drones and over-relies on them in its prosecution of the War on Terror. This is due in no small measure to its own undermining of the Bush-era institutions and procedures built up to deal with captured enemy combatants. In its distaste for these institutions and procedures, the current administration has increasingly relied on death from above — collateral damage and intelligence collection be damned — as the more palatable alternative.
Catholics and others who believe that not all is fair in love and war (or at least not in war) should have been speaking out against Obama’s overuse of drones long ago. The basic facts were known well before we learned about the “white paper.” Too many liberals were more interested in protecting their man than in speaking truth to his power; too many conservatives were cheering him on when it came to targeted killing by predator drones. For anyone paying attention, the thirteenth chime of the clock should have been heard before the election when Obama campaign adviser and former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs, responding to a question about the death of Abulrahman al-Awlaki, the 16 year old son of al-Qaeda propagandist Anwar al-Awlaki, in a drone strike two weeks after his father was slain in a presidentially ordered targeted killing, said that the boy “should have had a more responsible father.” I myself raised concerns about the President’s increased use of drones in a comment here at Mirror of Justice last summer. I am taking the liberty of re-posting it:
June 18, 2012
Since assuming office (and receiving his Nobel Peace Prize) in 2009, President Obama has massively increased the use of unmanned predator drones in what used to be known as the war against terror. According to Chris Kirk, writing in Slate, Obama has authorized five times the number of drone attacks authorized by President Bush. Liberals, who would be screaming bloody murder if it were Bush, have gone strangely (well, not so strangely) quiet about this, while conservatives are cheering on a president whose other policies they abhor.
The use of drones is not, in my opinion, inherently immoral in otherwise justifiable military operations; but the risks of death and other grave harms to noncombatants are substantial and certainly complicate the picture for any policy maker who is serious about the moral requirements for the justified use of military force. Having a valid military target is in itself not a sufficient justification for the use of weapons such as predator drones. Sometimes considerations of justice to noncombatants forbid their use, even if that means that grave risks must be endured by our own forces in the prosecution of a war.
The wholesale and indiscriminate use of drones cannot be justified, and should be criticized. This is something that Catholic intellectuals across the spectrum ought, it seems to me, to agree about. If we don’t speak, who will?
On the lethal side effects of the Obama drone strategy, see this article by Clive Smith.
Those of us who are fans of pro football don’t want to think about the subject of this article on sex trafficking as we prepare to enjoy the Super Bowl, but we must.
The scale of the trafficking of women—often girls—into sexual slavery and other forms of exploitation in the United States is unknown to most Americans. Many people are aware that human trafficking is a reality, but have no idea how many women and girls are victims. They imagine that it is a handful. In truth, it is a massive number, probably about 200,000 annually. Some are runaway teenagers; some are women from Eastern Europe, Southeast Asia, and parts of Latin America who have been lured here by promises of respectable and remunerative labor; many are addicted to drugs–often by design of the pimps who, for all intents and purposes “own” them; they live in fear of beatings or abandonment in a land where they have no connections and cannot even speak the language.
I was recruited into the fight against trafficking more than a decade ago by my friends Bill Saunders, Michael Horowitz, and Nina Shea. I am filled with admiration for the courageous and dedicated men and women with whom I have had the privilege of working in the movement—especially University of Rhode Island Women’s Studies Professor Donna Hughes and her extraordinary young colleague Melanie Shapiro. They fight at the “macro” level to improve policies and achieve greater and more effective law enforcement, and at the “micro” level to help individual victims to escape and rebuild their lives.
Unfortunately, some people think that the way to help victims of trafficking is to legalize prostitution and even make it respectable (using non-pejorative terms like “sex workers”). Anyone who is tempted to think such a thing should talk to people like Donna and Melanie and to women who have had the experience of being lured or forced into prostitution, but who have escaped from it.
Donna led the fight to recriminalize prostitution in Rhode Island after the state had several years of experience with de facto legalization. In addition to having to fight the shadowy criminal interests who were very happy indeed with the status quo, she and those of us supporting her efforts had to fight “civil libertarian” organizations who think that laws against prostitution violate people’s human rights, and even “women’s organizations” who suppose that having the right to sell sex “empowers women.” The opposition of the “civil libertarian” organizations did not surprise me–they are drunk on the ideology of radical expressive individualism and sexual liberationism; the opposition of he “women’s organizations” did. Still, Donna is a force of nature, and she prevailed.
Well, do enjoy the Super Bowl, but please pause for a moment to remember that, to our national shame, there will be many victims trafficked by evildoers to New Orleans to meet the demand for prostitutes. Some women will be forced, as the article reports, to “go through” 25 or even 50 men per day. These women are our sisters. They need our help. To begin with, they need us to recognize their plight, and to care about the issue. If you want to learn more about what can be done to fight human trafficking, please check out Citizens Against Trafficking, the excellent organization founded by Donna and Melanie; and the website of the Renewal Forum, which I helped to found with my pal Steve Wagner.
Thomas Sowell tells it like it is on Benghazi-gate. But Professor Sowell is a conservative and a Republican. Where are the voices of our liberal and Democratic friends and fellow citizens? Why the lack of curiosity about critical questions of governmental responsibility and accountability? Why the silence?
For heaven’s sake, an American ambassador and three other Americans were brutally murdered by terrorists (terrorists who appear to have links to Al Qaeda). This is a serious business, not a minor political dust up in which partisans can be excused for circling the wagons.
Why have so many on the liberal side of the political spectrum praised Secretary of State Clinton’s theatrical performance before the Senate committee, rather than damning her appalling evasions of the central questions? Why are so few–indeed, none, so far as I am aware (but someone please correct me if I am wrong)–demanding that President Obama tell the public when he became aware of the fact that the murders of Ambassador Stevens and the others were premeditated attacks by a terrorist unit, not (as he and others in the administration stated or implied for nearly a month) acts of spontaneous violence by a mob enflamed by an anti-Islamic film. Where is the Democratic “Howard Baker”?
Is there no one left in the party of Franklin Roosevelt and Adlai Stevenson, the party of my grandparents and parents—the party to which I myself once gave allegiance—with the integrity and courage to demand answers to the key questions: What did the President know and when he know it?
If it is only conservatives and Republicans demanding answers, they will be dismissed as partisans simply trying to harm their political opponents—and the questions will go unanswered. No one will be held accountable for the falsifications and deceptions that went on for weeks in the run up to a national election. If the public good is to be served—and if we are to deter government misconduct of this nature in the future—it is critical that demands for accountability be bipartisan. Someone must be willing to break the (in this case blue) wall of silence. Someone on the Democratic side must speak.
I was struck yesterday, on the 40th memorial of Roe v. Wade, by several statements by those favoring legal abortion who stressed the “need to protect the right to choose for the sake of our daughters.” Our daughters. Hmmmm. . . . Every child (or, if you prefer, since it changes nothing, every “fetus”) slain in an abortion is male or female. The victim is not a male or female mosquito or rat. He or she is a male or female human—a son or daughter. As it happens, worldwide more often the child killed is a female, a daughter, and very often the child is killed precisely because she is female. A daughter is destroyed in the womb because her father or mother or both want a son, not a daughter. She is not good enough. She will not do. She must be gotten rid of. How sad an irony that the defense of the legal right to take the life of a child in the womb is made in the name of protecting “our daughters.”
Shortly before his death, Richard John Neuhaus, speaking at the annual convention of the National Right to Life Committee, delivered what I believe to be the greatest pro-life speech ever given. It will inspire the pro-life faithful of all traditions and stations until the field is finally won. It was, I believe, his final gift to the movement and to all men and women of goodwill. In this period of January between the anniversary of Fr. Neuhaus’ death and the anniversary of the Supreme Court case that licensed the deaths of millions of our tiniest and most vulnerable borthers and sisters, it is worth recalling his words, found here.
Yesterday was the fourth anniversary of the death of Richard John Neuhaus. Those who knew him intimately and those who knew him only through his writings share the pain of his loss. Since he was irreplaceable, it is scarcely a surprise that no one has taken his place in American intellectual and public life. Here is the tribute to him that I published at First Things shortly after his death.
My book with Sherif Girgis and Ryan Anderson, What is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense, was recently published by Encounter Books. Brandon Vogt has now interviewed me for Our Sunday Visitor Newsweekly about the principal themes, claims, and arguments my co-authors and I advance.
Let me also take this opportunity to encourage people to read a splendid new book by Baylor University philosopher Alexander Pruss entitled One Body: An Essay in Christian Sexual Ethics. It appears in the Notre Dame Studies in Ethics and Culture book series. In my review of the manuscript for the University of Notre Dame Press, I said:
This is a terrific—really quite extraordinary—work of scholarship. It is quite simply the best work on Christian sexual ethics that I have seen. It will become the text that anyone who ventures into the field will have to grapple with—a kind of touchstone. Moreover, it is filled with arguments with which even secular writers on sexual morality will have to engage and come to terms.
John Finnis was similarly enthusiastic in his review:
Alexander Pruss here develops sound and humane answers to the whole range of main questions about human sexual and reproductive choices. His principal argument for the key answers is very different from the one I have articulated over the past fifteen years. But his argumentation is at every point attractively direct, careful, energetic in framing and responding to objections, and admirably attentive to realities and the human goods at stake.
Professor Pruss has thought as deeply and rigorously about the meaning and moral significance of human sexuality, and about the norms by which sexual choices should be guided and sexual conduct governed, as anyone of whom I am aware writing today.
So now, it seems, we have rather a good test for the elite media. We know how reporters and commentators would be reacting to this story on the arrest of an Occupy Wall Street protestor and his girlfriend if the people arrested were (or were thought to be) tea party activists, do we not?
So how will they react now?
I predict that the story will be covered by Fox News and some conservative journalists (the link I provided is to the report in the conservative-leaning New York Post) and largely ignored by most of the mainstream media—print, broadcast, and on-line. I hope I’m wrong about that. In any event, the folks at the New York Times, NBC, CNN, etc. will certainly not use the story to blacken Occupy Wall Street or the political left. They will not do what they almost certainly would be doing if the persons arrested had been tea party people. Of course, we’ve all more or less gotten used to this double standard; at this point even most conservatives have resigned themselves to it. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a problem. The common good of a democratic polity does not require a pristinely unbiased media, but it requires far more evenhandedness than ours gives us. Especially in circumstances of pluralism such as ours, groupthink in the media is not a good thing. It is even worse than groupthink in academia, though that too is bad—for everyone.
Jewish ultranationalist (and founder of the Jewish Defense League) Meir Kahane, whose Kach party was disqualified on grounds of racism from seeking seats in the Israel’s Knesset, used to say to his fellow Israelis “I say what you think.” After publishing this op-ed in today’s New York Times, Georgetown law professor Louis Michael Seidman might find himself saying much the same thing to his fellow progressives who would have preferred his remaining silent.
A lot of progressives really do think what Seidman (and only a few others) are willing to say: “Let’s give up on the Constitution.” Although Seidman’s declaration is startling to us, early progressives were often explicit in severely criticizing the Constitution. It was, they insisted, an eighteenth century document wholly unsuited to the circumstances of twentieth century life.
In 1908, future President Woodrow Wilson (my own ancestor in the McCormick chair in Jurisprudence at Princeton, but not, I hasten to add, in philosophy) constrasted the “Newtonian” vision of the American founders with a “Darwinian” understanding of government which was, in his view, much to be preferred.
When the public could not be sold on the idea of ditching their Constitution for a progressive alternative, the progressives sought to accomplish by creative reinterpretation of the old Constitution what they could not (or not fully) accomplish by formally altering it by the constitutionally prescribed processes. And so progressive jurists and legal scholars came up with the idea of a “living Constitution”—a Darwinian wolf in Newtonian sheep’s clothing. Professor Seidman is willing to ditch the disguise.
This is horribly sad. NBC is reporting that Chicago has just recorded its 500th murder in the year 2012. Rahm Emanuel, the mayor, says this is “an unfortunate and tragic milestone.” That, I submit, is an understatement. Why is the country not in an uproar? Why is Chicago not in an uproar? Have we become inured to the violence in Chicago and other cities with appallingly high murder rates? Have we stopped asking why so many people hold human life in such contempt? The country was rightly shocked and outraged by the killing of school children in Sandy Hook. That was unpseakably evil. But where is the outrage about what happens virtually every day and night in Chicago and places like it? Many of the victims of these atrocities are children, too. What I am asking for is not lip service from politicians, or cheap, gimmicky, feel good, faux solutions. We need a serious national conversation about the deep sources of the problem. Perhaps this “unfortunate, tragic milestone” will be the occasion for such a conversation. I certainly hope so. It is long overdue.
At a Federalist Society forum in 2008, I was invited to offer some thoughts on Robert Bork’s book Slouching Toward Gomorrah, as part of a panel discussion devoted to the arguments advanced by Judge Bork in the book. Here, in tribute to him, I’m reprinting my reflections. ”May eternal rest be granted unto him, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon him.”
When Slouching Toward Gomorrah appeared, it bore on its dust jacket a few words of mine praising the book and its distinguished author: “The ideological triumph of liberalism among American elites, far from bringing the individual and social enlightenment it promised, has produced unprecedented decay. The principal victims of this decay are the poorest and most vulnerable among us, those most in need of a healthy culture. Bork courageously and boldly states these truths. A judge as wise as Solomon has become a prophet as powerful as Isaiah.”
That is what I thought then, and I believe it even more firmly now. It was not that I agreed with everything that Judge Bork said in the book. I strongly dissented, for example, from Judge Bork’s attitude of suspicion toward the natural rights teaching and equality doctrine of the Declaration of Independence, though it must be said that even in the chapters of Slouching in which he articulates the grounds of his skepticism about the Declaration, I found characteristically Borkian flashes of insight and many important truths. (more…)
Sherif Girgis, Ryan Anderson, and I recently had an op ed piece in the Wall Street Journal defendng the idea of marriage as a conjugal union. Here’s a link.
The piece is a kind of precis of our new book What is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense (Encounter Books). The book develops and strengthens the argument we originally advanced in our article “What is Marriage?” in the 2010 volume of the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy. The book has a website here.