Cover Story

What George W. Bush should say

Issue: "Supreme arrogance," July 8, 2000

The Republican presidential candidate can expose the radical position of his pro-abortion opponent-and begin to move public opinion in the right direction-if he would give a speech along the following lines » by Hadley Arkes I'm saddened to learn of the decision announced by the Supreme Court on the law in Nebraska dealing with partial-birth abortions. The American people, in about 30 states, made use of the democratic process to protect children at the point of birth from one of the most grisly, inhumane procedures, and the court has essentially blocked all of these efforts-at least for the moment. Even people who are pro-choice think that a right to abortion must find a limit, and if that limit is not found at infanticide, in the killing of a child at the point of birth, then where would it be found? And yet, the court has suggested then that-in order to accept a policy of abortion-on-demand, with no restrictions or limitations-it becomes necessary for us to turn our eyes away from the destruction of children at the point of birth. That is the most radical of policies, dressed up in the trappings of law. It is my hope that the Supreme Court will revisit this question before too long, perhaps with the passage of the federal bill on partial-birth abortion. I hope that a new court, with one or two new people and a different perspective, will take a sober second look at this matter and come to a different judgment. But in the meantime, there is something we can do. Rep. Charles Canady has introduced a bill to Congress called The Born Alive Infants Protection Act, that seeks to engage the issue of abortion with the most modest of first steps. It begins at a point that should be able to bring together all people of moderation in the country, Democrats and Republicans, pro-choicers and pro-lifers: The bill would simply seek to protect the life of the child who "survives" an abortion. Apparently, there have been cases in which a child survives, but where judges and doctors have argued that this child, marked for abortion, is not protected by the laws that protect other newborns. We may be divided on many things in this country, but this should not be one of them. The situation calls out for us to say that this child has a claim to the protection of the law, and that her claim cannot hinge on whether he or she is wanted or unwanted. If there is no moment at which that can be said, for any of us, the rights of all of us would be imperilled-for none of us would ever have rights that do not depend on the interests or convenience of anyone else. This matter of abortion has been ruled so long by the courts that the rest of us have fallen out of the practice of talking about it, and indeed we are often quite uncomfortable in talking about it. And yet, the issue involves one of the most elementary questions that runs to the core of any government and any community: May we not deliberate together as a community in deciding just who is protected or left unprotected by our laws on homicide? That question has troubled our politics for over 25 years, and yet the American people are not as divided on this question as many people suggest. But that consensus needs to be brought out, and so I would suggest that we start a conversation at the simplest level: No one doubts that we are talking about babies, about small human beings, not fetuses. I would suggest that we begin the conversation by coming to an agreement, between the two political parties, to protect the child who survives the abortion. If that is not the ground on which we would protect this life, I would be open to hearing an alternative account. But for that, we need a conversation, and so I would invite our friends in the other party to join the conversation.

-Hadley Arkes is the Ney Professor of Jurisprudence and American Institutions at Amherst College

We see you’ve been enjoying the content on our exclusive member website. Ready to get unlimited access to all of WORLD’s member content?
Get your risk-free, 30-Day FREE Trial Membership right now.
(Don’t worry. It only takes a sec—and you don’t have to give us payment information right now.)

Get your risk-free, 30-Day FREE Trial Membership right now.


You must be a WORLD member to post comments.

    Keep Reading


    Troubling ties

    Under the Clinton State Department, influence from big money…