Paul Greenberg

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"Law sharpens the mind by narrowing it." --Edmund Burke

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Our governor here in Arkansas now has vetoed not one but two anti-abortion bills that made it past the state legislature this session. One bill sought to protect the unborn starting at the 20th week of pregnancy. The other would go into effect after 12 weeks' gestation if a fetal heartbeat could be detected. Both are now law, passed over the governor's objections.

The Hon. Mike Beebe is ordinarily the most reasonable and agreeable of men -- even if he is a lawyer by trade and a politician by career. And his vetoes made some good points. For the governor has aligned himself with those who have come up with powerful arguments -- legal, economic, and just about every other variety -- against attempting to put limits on abortion.

I say almost every other variety. For the governor overlooked one small point that may explain why our legislators have overridden his now repeated vetoes by overwhelming margins: the inalienable dignity of human life.

That minor detail may be lost in all the learned arguments of constitutional experts and others committed to the most modern, advanced Darwinian concept of humanity as but the latest and highest-evolved of life forms. But to those of us who believe -- yes, preposterous as it may be -- that we are created in His image, that one small point is all-important. And we choose life.

The governor explains that he vetoed these pro-life bills because he has taken a solemn oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States, a document replete with provisions to protect a wide array of rights great and small, from freedom of religion to due process. Yet he asks us to believe that the Constitution cannot protect the first and most fundamental of human rights, the one that precedes all the others, and without which all the others are meaningless: the right to life. And there are many others learned in the law who agree with him, if for their own purposes.

But this issue is far from closed. Even the U.S. Supreme Court has moved closer and closer over the years to protecting the unborn in a series of decisions recognizing the states' -- and the people's -- interest in protecting the next generation, each time softening the harsh decree that was Roe v. Wade in 1973. Maybe it's because the composition of the court has changed since the 1970s, or maybe it's because even justices of the Supreme Court of the United States have a conscience that can be awakened, however gradually.


Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.