His decision to step down after this term in Congress, his sixth, also means the congressman needn't be concerned about rising still further in the Democratic Party's congressional hierarchy. So he can afford to leave on a note of principle. Once again he's raised his voice against pro-abortion legislation. Which would include Obamacare because, embedded in its 2,000 pages of bureaucratic arcana, is a small but sneaky way to subsidize abortions through new, federally mandated insurance policies.
Marion Berry isn't having it, and neither are the other congressmen still standing allied behind Bart Stupak, a Democrat from Michigan, who has given his party's leadership fits by leading a pro-life revolt in Congress. Even the best-laid of convoluted parliamentary procedures can still be thwarted, at least momentarily, by voices of conscience.
The White House keeps saying that its health-care reform won't change the law on this subject, aka the Hyde Amendment, which bars the federal government from paying for abortions. It was passed in 1979 after an aroused public noticed that Medicaid was financing something like 300,000 abortions a year -- in short, a small but bloody bonanza for abortionists. Your tax dollars at work.
In one of the more candid confessions of our times, a pro-abortion justice of the U.S. Supreme Court -- Ruth Bader Ginsburg -- opined last year that a prime rationale for Roe v. Wade, the Dred Scott decision of our time, was to keep the lesser breeds from multiplying: "Frankly I had thought that at the time Roe was decided, there was concern about population growth and particularly growth in populations that we don't want to have too many of. So that Roe was going to be then set up for Medicaid funding for abortion."
It was a shocking confession, at least to those of us still capable of being shocked. Naturally the mainstream media soft-pedaled it. The comment deserved more press, and Madam Justice credit for simple honesty. The ugly motive behind federally funded abortions has seldom been laid out so plainly, like a body on a morgue slab. And by one of abortion's more devoted defenders at that. Mrs. Justice Ginsburg's idea of justice may not be mine, but at least she didn't mince words -- not on this candid occasion. My respects to the lady.
Obama, Reid, Pelosi & Co. now seem prepared to ram their health-care bill into law. Their stealth approach offers a variety of ways to get around the Hyde Amendment and its ban on government-subsidized abortions. It could even wind up not just subsidizing abortions but making insurance coverage for them mandatory.
Nor does Obamacare protect the rights of those medical professionals who refuse to perform abortions on conscientious grounds. And it would provide millions of tax dollars for "community health centers" that could include abortion clinics.
If the claim that Obamacare won't subsidize abortions were sincere, the White House would have no problem adding language like the Hyde Amendment's to its health-care plan. Which is the purpose of Bart Stupak's amendment. Naturally the White House has refused to accept it. Which leaves congressmen of conscience like Marion Berry with little choice but to oppose Obamacare on principle.
In the end, the Democratic Party's powers that be may succeed in re-opening the gates for taxpayer-funded abortions in this country, Hyde Amendment or no Hyde Amendment. But they won't do it without hearing protests like Marion Berry's. He turns out to be more than just a voice for farm subsidies in Congress.
There will always be a few of us who will not remain silent in the face of a grave evil, even after it has become routine. Like this one, embedded in law and by now even custom. Abortion was once recognized as a crime and one of the more despicable ones at that, for its victims are the most innocent and vulnerable. But now it has become a common medical procedure. Legalized abortion for no medical reason has been around so long -- since Roe v. Wade in 1973 -- that it has become a banality. As evil routinely practiced will.
Even if nothing practical comes of standing up for principle, something will have been accomplished. Future generations will know that this whole culture of death, of which abortion has been so central a part, was not imposed on America without resistance. Call it bearing witness. Voices in the wilderness have been known to prove prophetic. Some day, some way they will be heard. Or maybe not. But at least they will have been raised.
Or as Walker Percy concluded a prescient little essay on this subject back in 1981: "To pro-abortionists: According to the opinion polls, it looks as if you may get your way. But you're not going to have it both ways. You're going to be told what you're doing."