Obama v. Reagan on abortion and the conscience of the nation

A few weeks ago President Barack Obama said at a press conference that the enhanced interrogation technique known as waterboarding – “over time” – “corrodes the character of a country.”

While he’s wrong about waterboarding being torture, he’s right that there are policies that can impact – negatively or positively – the character of a country. We’ll take progress wherever we can get it.

When addressing the subject of the “social fabric” or the notion that civilization is behavior, there’s a nagging vagueness to the discussion. But time and time again the sociologists point out that there are times when human beings are influenced en masse by the actions of others or the policies of their government.

A few years ago I noted the fascinating story of how New York City saw a decrease in crime when it began cracking down on the seemingly trivial crime of turnstile jumping in the city’s subway system. You can read about “the broken window theory” here.

Obama says he believes that waterboarding is torture, and that “whatever legal rationales were used [during the Bush Administration], it was a mistake.”

The president must know that his views on the methods for trying to get critical information out of terrorists mirrors exactly how pro-lifers think about abortion:

Whatever the legal or personal rationale that’s used by women who have abortions, it’s not just a mistake, it’s the taking of an innocent human life.

Obama concedes that “abortion is a moral issue and an ethical issue.” Gee, that’s great Mr. President. He said in that press conference that “The reason I’m pro-choice is because I don’t think women take that – that position casually.” Are we supposed to be impressed with this? Let’s repeat:

Whatever the legal or personal rationale that’s used by women who have abortions, it’s not just a mistake, it’s the taking of an innocent human life.

The fact is the radical left’s loosening of sexual mores in all areas negatively impacts our culture. I can’t wait to hear the argument that says somehow homosexual sex “pride” parades are good for the social fabric. Mature Americans understand that private lives should remain private and are not appropriate for the subject of parades.

On my bookshelf at home is a copy of the book “Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation” by President Ronald Reagan. It was published in 1984. In it, Reagan wrote:

“I have often said that when we talk about abortion, we are talking about two lives-the life of the mother and the life of the unborn child. Why else do we call a pregnant woman a mother?”

He also wrote this:

“We must all educate ourselves to the reality of the horrors taking place. Doctors today know that unborn children can feel a touch within the womb and that they respond to pain. But how many Americans are aware that abortion techniques are allowed today, in all fifty states, that burn the skin of a baby with a salt solution, in an agonizing death that can last for hours?”

That’s only one way abortions are performed, of course. None of them compare to the simulated drowning that’s experienced via waterboarding – which everyone knows isn’t lethal.

Writing on National Review’s “The Corner” blog last week, Kevin Williamson made a few good points about what’s needed in a post sarcastically titled “Clearly, Conservatives’ Problem Is Those Religious Nuts.”

Williamson notes that this month’s Gallup Poll reported “that a majority of Americans are describing themselves as ‘pro life’ for the first time since 1995, when Gallup began asking that question.” A majority of respondents said they were, frankly, right where President George W. Bush is on the issue.

Williamson wrote:

“Strangely, conservatives are endlessly informed, by the media and by our own ‘moderates,’ that we need to eject the religious/social conservatives, among whom the pro-life camp is the most high-profile faction, from the movement. As a matter of brute politics, this is foolish…”

He’s right. And here:

“What is needed in the direst way is new leadership and better arguments on the Religious Right. Religiously informed social conservatism has some tremendously sophisticated and persuasive thinking to support it – think Robert George and the last two popes, for starters – but those are not the dominant voices of the Religious Right which, fairly or unfairly, is still associated with the shrill, televangelist-style approach in much of the public mind. Tone and style matter enormously on sensitive moral issues.”

Personally, I’d recommend reading Salvo Magazine for sophisticated and persuasive arguments.

Some additional recommended reading:

The Founding Fathers Knew: Good Government Requires Good Culture

You can’t have a good economy with a bad culture

Can free-market values survive in an increasingly secular world?

The GOP and the social issues: Civilization is behavior

The connection between traditional values and economics

©2009 John F. Biver