What many call a concern for social issues, I call a passion for protection of the human person. With Democrats on a winning streak, some Republicans are asking why that passion is so strong in our party. Does it even belong in American politics? Thinking the question through, you’ll see that it does and it always has.
Imagine you’re an Irish cop living in a Chicago slum. In the neighborhood you meet Barry and Shelley, a black couple who help the poor. You’re impressed with their efforts to bring the community better jobs, doctors, and schools. But one day you are ordered to raid their home and arrest them.
Barry and Shelley are not criminals. They have harmed no one. But the year is 1858, and a man from Mississippi named Davis claims to own them as property. Federal law requires Illinois to enforce his claim. The black man “has no rights which the white man is bound to respect,” according to a US Supreme Court ruling in 1857.
You see your friends hauled away in chains. A month later you learn that Davis has sold the man into Alabama and taken the wife as his concubine. Their young daughters were put to work as field hands. The older one, rebellious and defiant, dies after a whipping. Mississippi brings no charges.
After witnessing this, if a new political party called for changing the law so it would safeguard the life and liberty of all persons equally, wouldn’t you vote for them? If the same party insisted on strong marriage laws to protect women and children, wouldn’t you support that too?
I have just described the origins of the Republican Party in this country 150 years ago, during the crisis over human slavery in the South and plural marriage in Utah. Both injustices were condemned in the earliest GOP platforms on which Abraham Lincoln and his fellow partisans appealed to Americans’ moral conscience. A passion for protection of the human person is bred in our party’s DNA.
Bring the scenario forward to 1978. You’re an Italian nurse in Denver, mother of a pregnant 17-year-old. The whole family, even the expected child’s father, wants to see it born and either raised or offered for adoption. But your daughter wants the baby aborted.
Coloradans once made their own laws to balance this difficult issue where precious lives are at stake. Now they can’t. A US Supreme Court ruling in 1973 has barred state action, effectively saying that the child in the womb has no rights which adults are bound to respect.