I was originally simply going to write a response in the comments section of Vassar Bushmills blog titled “The Republican Pro-Life Plank, a Philosophical Stance or a Political Stance? Or Both?” but decided that it was a complex enough subject with enough people on both sides of the issue that it was more appropriate to simply spell out a counter argument in my own diary.
The first issue I have with the point of view expressed is the premise. This is not an issue that needs any moral standing in order to be conservative. The simple fact is that the founders of this country believed that there were granted rights and that there were natural rights. Natural rights include life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. They saw the truth in these rights to be self evident, as in beyond contestation. To deprive an American citizen of life completely at the behest of another (in other words not a death row inmate who was convicted by a jury of his peers) is to deprive them of one of the most basic natural rights. A right which our government, according to our founding documents, does not have the authority to grant or deny. You do not have to be a Christian to subscribe to this point of view, nor do you have to be a “Bible thumper.” This is basic stuff related to our founding and for conservatives is the only step we need to go to in order to defend the pro-life position.
Empowered individual states are of course an important fortification against the possibility of tyranny by a central federal government. And the right of states to differentiate themselves from one another allows people to “vote with their feet” and live where the laws and regulations suit their ideologies. I choose to live in South Carolina because it is closer to my values and beliefs then living in New York. I live in SC vs NC because SC has lower state taxes, etc etc. This does not detract from the role and responsibility of the Federal Government to enforce certain laws ahead of the desires of the states.
When Terry Schiavo was being forcibly starved to death at the whim of her soon to be ex-husband, the Republican congress stepped in and the battle cry from the left was predictable and hollow. “I thought Republican’s were for state’s rights!”, they cried. Being for state’s rights does not mean NEVER being for federal pre-emption. For instance if Texas decided to go to war with Mexico, I have a feeling that the Federal Government might be allowed to step in and exert some authority over it’s Governor.
If we can all agree that State’s rights does not including trumping that which falls under the discretion of the federal government then the obvious next question would be the basic pro-life vs pro-choice argument. Is a fetus alive?
I’ll save us the drama of going through the arguments since this is a conservative website and say simply this: If you’re of the position that a fetus is not alive, then the argument we need to have is clearly scientific (not philosophical) in that we need to determine when a life begins in order to move forward. If you’re of the position that a fetus IS alive, then, as a conservative, you have no business trying to make this a state’s rights issue. Life is a basic natural right which no state has a right to make decisions on. I’d sooner hear the argument that assisted suicide should be a state’s rights issue then to hear that killing babies is.
The other premise that I reject is that this is somehow a losing or divisive point for Republicans & Conservatives. Last I checked, the public was much more pro-life then pro-choice. Why do we need to start sacrificing our belief that there are natural God given rights that are protected by the government but in no way granted by them? To have a “bigger tent”? No thanks. First of all, the “big tent” doctrine has failed miserably. If these last 15 months have proven anything it is this: It’s not the size of the tent or the people you “allow” in; it’s whether or not you are standing by a clear set of principles that relate directly to our founding. All of our differences don’t have to be separate legislative issues. We only need to agree on a few to be in good company and let the rest live themselves out in the market of ideas and in the culture. One of those few that we should agree on is the defense of an American citizen’s right to be alive. To exist. That should, I would think, be a fairly basic conservative and Republican principle.
There’s just some things that are too important for us to pretend that they are simple disagreement that should be left up to the states. We may have separate governments, separate laws, and separate beliefs. But ALL states are unified by the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence & The Bill of Rights. Find me within these documents where it indicates that a state has the right to determine life and death for citizens with no voices and you’ll make a constitutional revisionist out of me.