The following was originally posted September 18, 2023 from the blog of Edward Mechmann “Stepping Out of the Boat”. It is reprinted with permission.
We can never expect perfection from politicians. But when they claim to be pro-life, we should at least expect some commitment to principle.
Recent comments by former President Trump are a perfect example of what happens when politicians put pragmatism ahead of principles, to the extent that they have any of those to begin with. And they are a reminder of the moral imperative of the pro-life movement – to perpetually advocate for the fundamental principles at the heart of our cause.
The Ex-President’s Comments
In an interview with a news reporter, the ex-president was asked about abortion.
The discussion is important to read. I have excerpted some of his comments, and put them in italics. My responses are in plain text.
After some colloquy, he was asked a straight-forward question: Would you sign federal legislation that would ban abortion at 15 weeks?
No, no. Let me just tell you what I’d do. I’m going to come together with all groups, and we’re going to have something that’s acceptable. Right now, to my way of thinking, the Democrats are the radicals, because after four and five and six months. But you have to say this, after birth. You have New York State and other places that passed legislation where you’re allowed to kill the baby after birth.
He’s absolutely correct that in some states, like New York, abortion is legal through all nine months of pregnancy for any reason. He’s also correct that New York repealed a law that guaranteed the right to medical treatment for babies born accidentally during an abortion. The official position of the Democratic Party nationwide is in favor of those radical positions.
Later on in the interview, the ex-president affirmed that he did not believe that late-term abortion should be legal. That puts him in line with the great majority of Americans. A ban on late-term abortions is an important step towards ultimate abolition.
But it is very disturbing that he rejected a 15-week ban, or that he thinks that there is some kind of compromise that is “acceptable”. It’s an unrealistic expectation that the Democratic Party will agree to any limits on abortion. They are sponsoring the radical “Women’s Health Protection Act” that would legalize abortion throughout pregnancy. It’s also very troubling that he thinks that any compromise would deter pro-lifer’s from our ultimate goal – ensuring legal protection for all human beings in the womb.
But that’s clearly what he does think, as he explained further:
I would sit down with both sides and I’d negotiate something, and we’ll end up with peace on that issue for the first time in 52 years. I’m not going to say I would or I wouldn’t. I mean, DeSanctus [sic] is willing to sign a five-week and six-week ban. I think what he did is a terrible thing and a terrible mistake. But we’ll come up with a number, but at the same time, Democrats won’t be able to go out at six months, seven months, eight months and allow an abortion.
It is appalling that the ex-president thinks that it’s a “terrible thing” to enact a bill that would ban abortion after the baby’s heartbeat is detectable (i.e., at about six weeks).
Twenty-four states already have laws that ban abortion either totally or after six weeks. Not all are in effect due to litigation. But the Susan B. Anthony List estimates that these laws could save over 280,000 lives each year. Nobody with a moral compass could describe that as a “terrible thing”.
Now, one could justify those statements if they were a comment about the most prudent and effective political tactics to achieve a temporary compromise, on the way to full protection of unborn children. But that’s not what he was saying, as he went on to make clear.
We’re going to agree – no – we’re going to agree to a number of weeks or months or however you want to define it. And both sides are going to come together and both sides – both sides, and this is a big statement, both sides will come together. And for the first time in 52 years, you’ll have an issue that we can put behind us.
Something is going to happen. It’s going to be a number of weeks. Something is going to happen where the both sides are going to be able to come together. And then we’ll be able to go onto other things, like, the economy, our military.
There it is. The principle doesn’t even enter into the equation. All that matters is coming up with a deal that would “put behind us” the greatest moral political question of our time, and then “go onto” other issues.
That is the truly “terrible thing”.
A Politician of Principle
Whenever we’re looking for an example of how a politician can pursue principles while making pragmatic compromises along the way, our eyes should turn to Abraham Lincoln.
Lincoln was the great apostle of the fundamental moral principle that America stand for — the equality of all human beings. The Declaration of Independence’s bold proclamation of the inalienable truth that all men are created equal was the centerpiece of Lincoln’s and our political philosophy. Lincoln tirelessly pursued and promoted that principle against the egregious moral evil of his day – slavery.
Legalized abortion is the great moral evil our day. As Lincoln clearly perceived about slavery, we see that abortion violates the basic charter of America, the intrinsic values that brought our nation into being and sustain it in existence. It is fundamentally incompatible with everything America was, is, and hopes to be. That is why we must always oppose it with all our might until it is finally eradicated from our nation.
We all understand that politics is the art of achieving the possible, and that we can’t let the perfect impede us from accomplishing the good. But we can never sell away moral truth in the interests of an illusory final pragmatic compromise. We must take what we can get, but keep pushing for the final goal of our movement.
Here is how Lincoln put it, speaking of the legacy of the authors of the Declaration:
They meant to set up a standard maxim for free society, which should be familiar to all, and revered by all; constantly looked to, constantly labored for, and even though never perfectly attained, constantly approximated, and thereby constantly spreading and deepening its influence, and augmenting the happiness and value of life to all people of all colors everywhere. (Speech at Springfield, June 26, 1857, in response to the Dred Scott decision)
I am not a Republican, so I have no business telling them whom they should nominate for president in 2024. Perhaps the ex-president will reconsider his comments. But pro-lifers need to look for a candidate who speaks of principle and pragmatism like Lincoln, and not like a deal-maker who wants us to take what we can get today and then go away.