In a week of news about tragedy, despair, pointless violence and death, the U.S. Supreme Court has brought us tidings of hope.
With the court's 5-4 ruling upholding the constitutionality of the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act, passed in 2003, the court confirmed that this is a decent, moral, and civil nation. The ruling secures this fact in our present, and shines light of hope for our future.
If anything might be contributing to the sense of gloom that that seems to grip American hearts and minds these days, it is doubt about this. We forget that nothing unsettles the human mind more than a feeling that the social fabric is unraveling.
More disappointing is that what we have is a decision that only touches how an abortion may be done, not whether it may be done. The brutal and inhuman procedure that is banned _ partial delivery and then destruction of the unborn child _ accounts for a small percentage of the almost 1 million abortions that are now being done each year.
Although the nature and scope of the problem that has been addressed is limited, we measure the preservation of human life one at a time. So this is a great victory.
Justice Anthony Kennedy included in the decision he wrote graphic discussion describing the horror of this procedure. Liberal and pro-abort journalist Dahlia Lithwick calls this the "business of grossing us out."
In a graphic scene in the recent movie "Amazing Grace," about William Wilberforce's crusade to end the slave trade and slavery in the British Empire, Wilberforce pulls a boat of British elite, quietly and politely sitting and dining, alongside a docked slave ship. Wilberforce disturbs their peaceful respite with the stench of the slave ship.
So Justice Kennedy has done here. He includes the testimony of a nurse who participated in one of these procedures:"The baby's little fingers were clasping and unclasping, and his little feet were kicking. Then the doctor stuck the scissors in the back of his head, and the baby's arms jerked out ... The doctor opened up the scissors, stuck a high powered suction tube into the opening, and sucked the baby's brains out ... Now the baby went completely limp. He threw the baby in a pan, along with the placenta, and the instruments he had just used."
I believe that Kennedy was conveying a message here, appropriately, that it is inconceivable that a free, moral, and civil society can tolerate this.
To state what should be obvious, law exists to sustain life, not the other way around. It is clear that certain lines, when crossed, create circumstances that, on the simplest levels of human intuition and sensitivity, are unacceptable. And, if indeed somehow, we seem to think they are acceptable, this should serve as an alarm to the state of our own humanity.
Partial birth abortion clearly crosses this line.
This said, I think we know a lot more today also about the moorings of our two political parties.
The leading Republican candidates _ Giuliani, McCain, and Romney _ uniformly celebrated this decision.
The leading Democratic candidates _ Clinton, Obama, and Edwards _ uniformly condemned it.
The rationale justifying opposition to upholding this ban because the act does not provide a "health exception" does not hold water. As has been pointed out, the act does provide exemption when the life of the mother is endangered. A health exemption beyond this is simply legal gymnastics for neutering the ban.
It should be clear today what Clinton is willing to tolerate and where her priorities are. And they certainly are not life, family, and the most core standards of human decency.
How about Sen. Barack Obama?
After the debacle at Virginia Tech, he gave a speech talking about the "...rising level of violence that ignores our common humanity and claims to civilization alike." He condemned the "coarsening of our culture."
Can Senator Obama really be a credible source on these matters when he is willing to justify and tolerate the horror and brutality of partial birth abortion?
The Supreme Court, in its current form as a result of appointments by our Republican president, has demonstrated it can and will address the erosion of principle which is causing our society to unravel.
We have little reason to believe today that we can expect the same from the Democratic Party.