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Contending For Life

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Editors' note: This piece is co-authored by Bob Morrison, a senior fellow at the Family Research Council.

In a polite post on his “Contentions” website, former Bush White House aide Pete Wehner takes issue with James Davison Hunter’s new book. Hunter, a respected Sociology prof at the University of Virginia, has written To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianityin the Late Modern World, in which he cautions Christians about trying to prevail in the culture wars by employing the force of law. Hunter says the law is a blunt instrument, based on coercion. Pete Wehner cites civil rights laws as an example where the law is not a mere blackjack, but a thoughtful teacher. It can be a moral guide.

Pete Wehner is right about this. When I [Bob Morrison] was a student at University of Virginia in Charlottesville, the university was de-segregated, but the state and city were not. As the great Civil Rights Act passed in 1964, a number of restaurants "closed" and became private eating clubs. As well, a number of lakes and swim clubs became private. Some of my fellow students sported their private members' cards. Five dollars and a white face was all that the membership committee required of them. Happily, within just one year, every one of those segregated institutions had folded. Respectable people did not think it proper to patronize such.

This experience taught that the vast majority of white Southerners were quietly glad to see the end of Jim Crow. It offended their sense of justice, their sense of decency. Segregation required an essentially Christian and conservative people to behave in un-Christian and even radically offensive ways. That is why Dr. King always stressed that his movement was a Christian movement, a justice movement.

The media focused then--as it always does--on the few, scattered instances of resistance. If you want to see what resistance really looks like, you need to look to the anti-Stamp Act agitation. Sam Adams and the Sons of Liberty in 1765 made that unjust exaction practically unenforceable. Similarly, the Civil War shows us what massive resistance looks like. It looks like Arlington National Cemetery.

The pro-life movement has been overwhelmingly a peaceful and Christian movement. We can credit the Christians with the fact that resistance to this slaughter of innocents has taken the form of lawful, prayerful agitation. The few, very few, murders of abortionists have been denounced by every responsible pro-life leader, writer, thinker.

Here again we have a quandary. Change hearts, says Prof. Hunter. We want very much to do so. Americans in their hearts are pro-life. The vast majority of Americans already oppose the vast majority of abortions. Few Americans realize how many abortions are done or the reasons for which they are done. A relentlessly biased media persists in misinforming Americans.

So, we have a country where the people are more pro-life than the laws are. Europe’s case is the reverse. There is a small pro-life remnant, but Europeans provide vastly more legal protections for mothers and their unborn children. In no European nation can you find abortion-on-demand until the moment of birth and even, as was the case in Illinois, after birth.

If changing hearts were all that is required, we would already have a host of pro-life laws on the books. Instead, we have had only a few federal laws enacted since 1973 that affect abortion in the U.S. The Hyde Amendment ban on funding abortions has been passed every year since 1977. It will be severely undermined by ObamaCare's indirect subsidies for abortion, if that law is allowed to stand.

The Partial-Birth Abortion Ban was passed by a pro-life Congress in 2003 and signed by George W. Bush. It was grudgingly upheld by the Supreme Court only because of the readily available alternative of dismembering the feeling, suffering unborn child.

The Infant Born-Alive Protection Act covers those children born following failed abortions, like those whom state Sen. Barack Obama refused to protect in Illinois.

This law should have been the beginning of a great national dialogue over protection, as its father Hadley Arkes hoped, but it has been drowned in a sea of words.

This law, like the ban on Partial-Birth Abortion, relies for its enforcement on U.S. attorneys who know and care about the fate of unborn and just-born children. President Obama will take care that no such are appointed as U.S. Attorneys.

The fourth federal protective law is the Unborn Victims of Violence Act. Known popularly as the Laci and Conner Peterson Law, after the wife and unborn child of convicted murderer Scott Peterson, this law applies only to federal enclaves, military forts, U.S. naval ships at sea, U.S. Embassies, etc.

This law should be applied in the case of the fourteenth victim of the Fort Hood shooter. Nidal Hasan killed a pregnant woman and her unborn child. Will Hasan be charged with violation of this law?

As with Hadley Arkes’ Infant Born-Alive Protection Act, the Unborn Victims of Violence Act ought to initiate a great national dialogue on just when the government can act to protect human life. For that very reason, we suspect Barack Obama will take care not to allow it to be invoked in the trial of Nidal Hasan.

Hadley Arkes and Pete Wehner are right about the law as moral guide. Which is why we suspect the constitutional law professor in the White House will prefer set this law aside, to let it die quietly, just the way gasping children who survived abortions were set aside. They died in a soiled linen closet. In a Chicago hospital called Christ. Christ have mercy!

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