In honor of Judge James L. Buckley’s centennial birthday, today, we are reprinting here his speech when he accepted our Great Defender of Life Award, in 2012.
Thank you all. I am deeply touched by the honor you are conferring on me tonight, but I am truly undeserving and I say that sincerely. On a few occasions I have been in a position to speak out against the abomination of abortion, but so many others have done so much more to champion the pro-life cause over the almost four decades that have passed since Roe v. Wade. To cite just one example, consider the members of the remarkable McFadden family.
The Human Life Foundation’s founder, founding father Jim, his extraordinary wife and collaborator, Faith, and now their daughter Maria; how for 37 years their journal has provided the moral and intellectual ammunition that has sustained the tens of thousands who have been manning the human life barricades year in and year out. And their cause is gaining strength.
But as you insist on honoring me tonight, I just wanted to inform you that Mike Uhlmann, who gave me that gracious introduction, is the one who deserves primary credit for crafting the language of both our Human Life Amendment, and the statement I delivered on the floor of the Senate, which had the honor of later been reprinted as the lead article in the first edition of the Human Life Review. Mike is now an adjunct professor in California, informing young minds in basic truths. Forty years ago, however, he was a key member of my Senate staff. After I decided to introduce an amendment to protect life, Mike consulted with a medical ethicist at Georgetown, and came up with language that would protect not only the unborn, but the aged and dysfunctional as well. This was required because the Supreme Court had adopted a purely utilitarian standard for determining what life was entitled to legal protection. It justified abortion on the basis that its victims are not persons “in the whole sense” and that they lack capabilities for “a meaningful life”; phrases that can be applied with equal force to all helpless human beings whether in or out of the womb.
In short, the Court had discovered, had adopted, a definition of life that turns a respect for its sanctity on its head; a utilitarian view that today tolerates the advocacy of infanticide at Princeton, and the legalization of medically assisted suicide in three states (and depending on what happens in Massachusetts this coming election, perhaps a fourth). If unopposed, this concept of life will lead inevitably to an acceptance, here in the country, of Dutch-type involuntary euthanasia as well. And given how we handle things these days, no doubt, in a committee consisting of 15 bureaucrats who will be given absolute authority as to determine who it is that will be put to rest.
Nevertheless, the news on the abortion front is enormously encouraging these days; if you don’t believe me just ask Planned Parenthood, which is now diverting extraordinary amounts of money from its abortion clinics in order to fight and try to revoke a torrent of new state laws that place roadblocks in the way of abortions. Better still, just read the article by William Murchison in the current issue of the Review. It lists the many ways that state legislators across the country are requiring women to pause; to inform themselves and to reflect before they proceed to order the destruction of the life they carry within them. And their initiatives—which an indignant New York Times recently described as a “state by state assault on women’s rights and the Constitution” —are now saving lives.
Also, what’s happening in the country today came to the attention of The Economist; and let me read just one paragraph—this came out just two or three weeks ago—
According to the Guttmacher institute, an abortion rights advocacy group, in 2011, state legislatures enacted 92 provisions restricting access to abortion services; nearly three times the previous record of 34 in 2005. That trend has continued this year. The proposed restrictions take a variety of forms—six states have enacted laws allocating funds for services designed to encourage women not to have abortions; three states have banned all abortions after 20 weeks, four states have banned the legal exchanges (to be created under Obamacare) from financing abortions, three states have banned doctors from prescribing abortifacient medicine remotely, as it is often done in rural areas; such prescriptions now account for one in five of non-hospitalized abortions in America. Last year Virginia enacted a law requiring abortion clinics to meet the same building, parking, and record-keeping requirements as hospitals.
So what the legislators are doing to abortion factories is more or less comparable to what government is doing to business. But the most effective of these laws, which was not described in what I just read to you from The Economist, consists of those 21 states that have now enacted legislation requiring that women have sonograms of their unborn children before they have them destroyed. And this brings me back to Mike Uhlmann. While we were working on our amendment, he often stated that if women’s bellies were transparent, abortion would be unthinkable. Well, thanks to modern technology, more and more women are able to see the realities of a developing, unique human being, and are coming to that same conclusion. And this is undoubtedly responsible for the fact that a majority of Americans now describe themselves as pro-life, and that an overwhelming majority of them reject abortion for any of the reasons that most women now give for having one.
And so today, 25 states are listed by the Guttmacher Institute as hostile to abortion as opposed to just 13, ten years ago. That is extraordinary progress. Unfortunately, thanks to the Supreme Court, it will take more than a public revulsion to close our abortion clinics. It is romantic at this stage to believe that a Human Life Amendment could secure the support of the two-thirds majorities in both houses of Congress, and the three-fourths of support of the states that would be required to adopt one. It isn’t too late, however, for the Supreme Court to come to its senses. The avalanche of new restraints on abortion are leading to legal challenges, and Federal courts are finding at least some of them to be constitutional. So it seems inevitable that at least one of these challenges will reach the Supreme Court sooner rather than later, and the Court may have the occasion to review, once again, its holdings in Roe.
Now, the last time the Court did so was in 1992, in the case of Planned Parenthood v. Casey. It upheld Roe in a convoluted plurality opinion signed by three justices that seemed to say that it was more important in a case of this significance, that the Court be seen as consistent than that it be right, even in a case literally of life and death. And it also seemed to be lecturing the pro-life forces—advising them to grow up; to accept the fact that Roe was law; to fold their tents and quietly leave the scene. But the pro-life forces have declined the invitation; they haven’t folded their tents, and they won’t go away. And year after year the question of abortion remains a burning political issue, and efforts to constrain it now have the momentum in state legislatures. So it is not at all romantic to believe that the Court could screw up the courage to acknowledge its terrible mistake. Contrary to the expectations of the Casey Court the issue has not gone away; it continues to dominate America’s conscience, and with two of the three justices who signed the Casey opinion now retired, there is no reason to believe that that could not in fact happen. And for this evening, and for all that we in this room stand for, we have to continue to work and to pray. Thank you for the honor you provided me, and God bless you all.
Also, here’s a link to our very first issue, which featured the text of his Senate speech introducing his Human Life Amendment .