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On Friday afternoon, the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) hosted a panel on pro-life issues. It was moderated by Julie Hocker of the American Conservative Union Foundation. Panelists included Congressional candidate Lenny McAllister, abortion survivor and pro-life activist Gianna Jessen, and Father Ben Johnson the U.S. Bureau Chief of LifeSiteNews. This panel discussed abortion, but also considered a wide range of sanctity of life issues including euthanasia, eugenics, and cloning. When Hocker introduced the panel, she stated that “on matters of life and death, we cannot be wrong.”

The panelists were first asked “What crystallized your pro-life views?” McAllister poignantly identified two moments in his own life. The first is when he was 21 and some felt he was too young to be a father and the second was when he was 41 and some felt he was too old to be a father. He said that at young age he “fell in love” with an ultrasound image of his unborn child. Unlike President Obama, he does not view a pregnancy as a “punishment.” He stated that “life is a gift from God and we have an obligation to embrace and elevate the unborn.” Jessen said that she became pro-life when she gave her life to Christ. “Not the cocktail party Jesus, but the Jesus that raises the dead and makes the lame walk,” she said.

The panel also spent a considerable amount of time discussing physician-assisted suicide. During the introduction Hocker stated that assisted suicide is currently legal in 5 states and legislation that would legalize assisted suicide is under consideration in 18 states. Johnson said the pro-lifers have reason to be concerned. “First, assisted suicide violates the Hippocratic Oath,” he said. Johnson also had reason to believe that assisted suicide may lead to coercion. He gave the story of Barb Wagner who lives in Oregon where assisted suicide is legal. The state Medicaid program would not pay for her medication, but offered to pay for her suicide. Johnson also warned attendees about what is happening in Europe, stating that in Netherlands the age of consent is 12 and in Belgium there is no age of consent for assisted suicide.

The panel discussed other issues as well. Gianna Jessen talked about her disabilities. “Cerebal Palsy is a gift.” she said and added that “sometimes we learn wisdom from the weakest among us.” She talked about completing two marathons and added that she aspires to climb a mountain. When embryonic stem cell research came up, Johnson stated that such research has been “overhyped.” In 2004 Democratic Vice-Presidential nominee John Edwards promised that embryonic stem cell research would allow Christopher Reeves to someday walk. However, actor Michael J. Fox, who suffers from Parkinson’s disease and who used his own money to fund such research, recently stated that “it is not producing.” Fox plans to redirect his donations to other kinds of research.

The final question asked of all the panelists is what attendees can do to build a culture of life in their hometown. McAllister said that “America is a nation of hope” and encouraged people to ask “Why can’t the unborn have hope?” Jessen encouraged attendees to communicate with love and respect. She also hoped attendees would educate their friends about the good work of pregnancy resource centers. Johnson said the CPAC audience is full of future elected officials and encouraged attendees to make the best use of their own talents. He reminded everyone that “unless life is secure, no other freedom is secure.” Overall, the panel received a good response from attendees, and it was heartening to see CPAC devote some attention to sanctity of life issues.

Michael J. New is a Visiting Associate Professor of Economics at Ave Maria University and an Associate Scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute

Photo via Flickr user Gage Skidmore

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