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Choosing Life: How pro-lifers become pro-lifers
The Weekly Standard ^ | 09/01/2006 | Fred Barnes

Posted on 09/01/2006 4:47:00 AM PDT by Caleb1411

HOW DO PEOPLE BECOME PRO-LIFERS? What turns people into passionate foes of abortion and related issues like euthanasia and embryonic stem cell research? I'm not referring to those who supported the pro-life position because of their family upbringing or religious faith or because of a political requirement as, say, a Republican candidate in a red state. I'm talking about people who, as adults or mature teenagers, were either pro-abortion or basically indifferent to the issue. Then something changed their mind, prompting them to take up the anti-abortion cause. Perhaps they began defending the pro-life position without realizing they'd flipped. In any case, what caused the change? What happened?

The answer can be found in the experiences of five people: Ronald Reagan, Henry Hyde, Ramesh Ponnuru, Wesley Smith, and myself. And their stories, I think, are roughly representative of what a multitude of others went through as they came to embrace the cause of saving unborn children. The five experienced two things in common that should be easy to spot as we look at their five cases.

Let's begin with Reagan. In his first year as California governor in 1967, the legislature passed a bill to legalize "therapeutic" abortions. It was an issue Reagan hadn't thought much about and he was torn over whether to veto the measure. Many Republicans in legislature strongly urged him to sign the bill. And so did aides on his staff, including conservatives Ed Meese and Lyn Nofziger, who later followed Reagan to Washington. Reagan was assured it would result in only a handful of abortions.

His instinct was to veto the bill and the Catholic archbishop of Los Angeles urged him to follow that course. But he signed it into law. Reagan was disturbed by his decision, however, and continued to think long and hard about abortion. The bill, according to Lou Cannon in Governor Reagan, "permitted more legal abortions in California than occurred in any other state before the advent of Roe v. Wade." Reagan's worst fear was realized.

By 1980, Reagan had changed his mind and become a firm opponent of abortion. He insisted on a pro-life plank in the Republican platform for the first time. In 1983, he published a passionate pro-life essay, Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation. It turned out that signing the abortion bill in 1967 was the only political mistake that Reagan ever admitted.

HENRY HYDE had been a member of the Illinois legislature for five years when he first was confronted by the abortion issue. It was the early 1970s--before the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion-on-demand nationwide. Hyde was asked by another legislator to co-sponsor a bill easing the state's ban on abortion. And he was receptive.

When he read the proposed legislation, however, his thinking changed. Hyde, too, had never given much thought to abortion. But suddenly he had to. And the result was he wound up rejecting, rather than sponsoring, the pro-abortion bill and leading the successful opposition to it on the floor of the Illinois assembly.

Hyde was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1974 and quickly became a leading pro-life voice. In 1976, he won enactment of legislation barring the use of federal funds to pay for abortions. Thirty years later, the Hyde Amendment is still the law of the land.

RAMESH PONNURU, a writer for National Review who grew up in Kansas City, Kansas, remembers as a teenager "not wanting to be a pro-lifer." In America, he told me, "it's just easier to be pro-choice. You're running with the tide."

In 1991, people he knew in Kansas City joined the Summer of Mercy anti-abortion protest in Wichita. The demonstration drew enormous media attention and the protesters were reported to have created a tense standoff, a near-crisis. Ponnuru followed the event closely enough to know that the protesters were "about as tense as a church picnic." In fact, his friends who took part "were the kind of people who go to church picnics."

The effect of the Wichita demonstration on Ponnuru, miles away in Kansas City, was profound. That summer, he thought about the morality of abortion. And by the time he entered Princeton at the end of the summer, he was a full-blown pro-lifer. Since then, his opposition to abortion "has deepened every year." And this year, he published Party of Death, a compelling account of the Democratic party's emergence as a strongly pro-abortion party.

AS A LAWYER and colleague of Ralph Nader, Wesley Smith was an unlikely prospect to become a pro-lifer. He got there in an unusual way that led him to become America's leading critic of euthanasia, cloning, and embryonic stem cell research.

A little over a decade ago, a friend of Smith, a 76-year-woman named Virginia, committed suicide. She had often talked about killing herself, telling Smith and other friends how painless, gentle even, it would be. They had tried to talk her out of it, but to no avail.

After her death, Smith went to her home in California and found stacks of literature by advocates of euthanasia, particularly the Hemlock Society. And he recognized some of things Virginia had said in the literature, such as tales of people supposedly enjoying death. Smith was appalled and it altered his thinking and his career.

Soon he was devoting more and more time to writing and speaking against euthanasia--until it became a crusade and his full-time work. Nader asked him at one point why he was "doing so much on euthanasia." Smith explained the issue to him. This led to a controversial statement by Nader during his presidential campaign in 2000. While in Oregon, he denounced the state's assisted suicide law as "Oregon's shame."

FINALLY, THERE'S MY OWN EXPERIENCE. For years, I rarely gave abortion a passing thought. That an unborn child was killed often as a matter of convenience--well, I just never thought about that. As a reporter for the Evening Star newspaper in Washington in 1973 covering the Roe v. Wade ruling, I considered the issue a legal matter, not a moral one.

The rise of the anti-abortion movement in the late 1970s and Reagan's stand on abortion caught my eye, but only a political matters. Then my wife Barbara's obstetrician recommended she have amniocentesis when she was pregnant with our third child. This involves injecting a fluid into the womb so the unborn child can be examined for problems or defects.

We'd heard amniocentesis referred to as a "search and destroy mission" that often led to abortion in the case of a child with birth defects or Down's Syndrome. This caused us to think about what we would do in such a case--really to think seriously about abortion for the first time. As it happened, our child was fine. But as we left the doctor's office, my wife and I agreed she'd never do amniocentesis again. And she didn't when she became pregnant again three years later. Without recognizing it immediately, we had become pro-lifers.

So think for a moment about these five experiences: Reagan's deciding on signing an abortion bill, Hyde's mulling whether to co-sponsor a pro-abortion measure, Ponnuru's watching as the Summer of Mercy unfold, Smith's reading pro-euthanasia tracts as his dead friend's home, and our--my wife and I--adverse reaction to amniocentesis. One common thread is obvious. All of us, because of the circumstances we found ourselves in, were forced to think about the taking of a life and what that means in both practical and moral terms. Most people avoid thinking about troubling moral issues like abortion or euthanasia. We couldn't.

And the other common thread is that something happened to make us choose life and choose it firmly and reject death. I think it was our conscience that intervened or, if you prefer, the basic human instinct that favors life over death. Or it you are a Christian, as I am, it was God.

Now I'm sure there are many exceptions to our experience. Not everyone who contemplates abortion or euthanasia is bound to take the intellectual path that five of us--six, including my wife--did on the way to becoming pro-lifers. But I suspect there are many more than like us than not. And many more to come.

TOPICS: Culture/Society; Editorial
KEYWORDS: abortion; epiphany; fredbarnes; moralabsolutes; prolife
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1 posted on 09/01/2006 4:47:01 AM PDT by Caleb1411
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To: BibChr;; rhema


2 posted on 09/01/2006 4:47:33 AM PDT by Caleb1411 ("These are the days when the Christian is expected to praise every creed except his own." G. K. C)
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To: Caleb1411

I don't think most of us "become" pro-life, I believe that God makes us this way. Unfortunately, many eventually disavow their need for God and fall prey to the Culture of Death.

3 posted on 09/01/2006 4:51:29 AM PDT by wagglebee ("We are ready for the greatest achievements in the history of freedom." -- President Bush, 1/20/05)
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To: Caleb1411; Alexander Rubin; An American In Dairyland; Antoninus; Aquinasfan; BIRDS; Bellflower; ...
Moral Absolutes Ping!

Freepmail wagglebee or little jeremiah to subscribe or unsubscribe from the moral absolutes ping list.

FreeRepublic moral absolutes keyword search
[ Add keyword moral absolutes to flag FR articles to this ping list ]

Incredible commentary!

4 posted on 09/01/2006 4:53:27 AM PDT by wagglebee ("We are ready for the greatest achievements in the history of freedom." -- President Bush, 1/20/05)
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To: cgk; Coleus;; Mr. Silverback; 8mmMauser; T'wit; floriduh voter


5 posted on 09/01/2006 4:54:25 AM PDT by wagglebee ("We are ready for the greatest achievements in the history of freedom." -- President Bush, 1/20/05)
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To: Caleb1411
Those on the fence about abortion should go the the following:

It took pictures to finally convince doubters of the holocaust.
6 posted on 09/01/2006 5:03:28 AM PDT by motoman
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To: wagglebee

I like what the Prez said.....Have you ever noticed that all the people that support abortion, have already been born?

7 posted on 09/01/2006 5:05:35 AM PDT by thepresidentsbestfriend
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To: Caleb1411
I have a good friend of many, many years, who was conservative in all areas except she supported abortion. I was sickened when I discovered that fact. Then one day she told me she had changed her mind about it and was pro-life.

She said it occurred to her one day that possible future presidents, research scientists and others who could make a great difference to our world were being aborted.
8 posted on 09/01/2006 5:12:29 AM PDT by YellowRoseofTx
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To: wagglebee; Caleb1411
Pinged from Terri Dailies


9 posted on 09/01/2006 5:51:16 AM PDT by 8mmMauser (Jezu ufam Tobie...Jesus I trust in Thee)
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To: Caleb1411

I saw an ultrasound where the baby appeared that she was aware of being observed and was waving to us, I had to question the entire premise of abortion...

10 posted on 09/01/2006 6:25:21 AM PDT by Sir Francis Dashwood (LET'S ROLL!)
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To: Coleus; nickcarraway; narses; Mr. Silverback; Canticle_of_Deborah; TenthAmendmentChampion; ...

We must start with being mindful that young children are naturally Pro-Life. Ask a young child who has a pregnant mother what is inside his mother's “tummy,” and he will likely respond that it is his baby brother or sister. It is so simple to a child. Truth usually is simple. Christian educators must work with this incredible advantage: That their students minds' are open vessels for learning about the sanctity of life-from conception to natural death.

Among the current students who are in kindergarten through twelfth grade in the United States, over twelve million are in Protestant schools or Bible study, 6.8 million are in Catholic schools or Confraternity of Christian of Doctrine (CCD), and over one million are being home schooled. Imagine how different our culture would be if all of these children were to receive a Pro-Life education. These are monumental numbers that can no longer be ignored. The impact of these additional Pro-Life voters would be so tremendous, that the shift in our culture would be of historic proportions. Experience mandates that we must no longer take for granted that children will remain “naturally” Pro-Life if they are not receiving comprehensive education over a significant portion of their formative years.

The spirit in the schools of one generation,
is the spirit in the Government of the next.

Culture of Death: A Failure to Educate: The large majority of post abortive women regret their abortion. A frequent comment is “If only I knew then what I know now about unborn babies I never would have…”

Ignorance sustained by denial is crippling this nations' response to the holocaust of abortion.

For the millions of Christian-schooled people who have accepted choice, one cause is the same: They were not educated as to WHY they are supposed to BE Pro-Life and to VOTE Pro-Life. THEY WERE NOT TAUGHT THE TRUTH, so they swallowed the lies of “choice”.

What will change the culture? At the heart of it, this is truly a basic problem and there is a straightforward solution. The sanctity of life is a simple truth that can and must be taught like any other subject. In Christian schools it should be the preeminent subject and receive the greatest attention. Christian leaders who control schools, Bible study, CCD etc. need only the will to make this happen. Each day this does not happen is another day of victory for the pro-abortion forces, because ignorance of the masses is the only hope they have for survival.

A Catholic

Respect Life Curriculum

High School
and Adult Study






11 posted on 09/01/2006 6:25:23 AM PDT by (A Catholic Respect Life Curriculum is available at
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To: Caleb1411
The 'pro choice" movement is predicated on lies.

Confession Of An Ex-Abortionist by By Dr. Bernard Nathanson

12 posted on 09/01/2006 7:03:27 AM PDT by Tribune7
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I had a similar experience which forced me to choose life (see my tagline). I was working in a small county hospital laboratory in the late seventies. My husband and I had been married five years at the time and had started thinking about having a child. I had stopped taking the pill, but had not become pregnant.

This hospital had (and still has) on staff a doctor who has made millions of dollars by performing abortions. I worked the 3-11 shift. That shift was when the "salines" who were far enough into their pregnancy that they were required to spend the night in the hospital would be admitted. I had thought that abortion was not legal beyond 20 weeks (four and a half months), but I drew blood from many woman who were seven and a half and eight months pregnant. The nurses told me that in the past babies had been born alive after abortions and were adopted. This prompted a change in the procedure that would insure that did not happen. They also told me that the girls were required to pay for three days stay in the hospital, but they often left after the first night. Their money was not refunded, but the hospital was free to give that room to another patient - IOW, abortions were profitable for the hospital as well as the abortionist. In addition, many of these young women,some of whom came from out of state, were having their second and third abortion at the same clinic.

Prior to that experience, I had been rather neutral on abortion. Since I was raised in a Christian home, I would never have had an abortion myself, but I could see how anyone could make one mistake and it was certainly safer than resorting to an illegal "back alley" abortion. Now, I saw girls literally throwing away the chance to have a baby - something I wanted with all my heart. I saw that without a doubt abortion was being used for birth control because the girls that had supposedly been counseled at the clinic to make better choices were coming back two and three times. I also saw that abortion was a major money maker for many in the health care field who had promised to "do no harm". All of these things caused my formerly neutral position to change to a firmly pro-life position where it has remained for almost 30 years.
13 posted on 09/01/2006 7:07:49 AM PDT by srmorton (Choose Life!)
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To: wagglebee; T'wit; GOPsupporterFL; Twirly Bird; Sun; TheSpottedOwl; tutstar; JulieRNR21; Republic; ..
This Miami hospital chose death by poll. This is excerpted from 8mmmauser's post re: World Net Daily and euthanasia. I believe since hospitals receive federal monies, they violated the separation of powers and other laws for doing a poll Crist v. Gallagher and to add insult to injury, they called Terri's supporters psychochristians. Word of advice, if you end up in a MIAMI hospital, keep away from DOCTOR Linda. It sounds as if DR. Linda knows a lot about this illegal poll where Crist got 96% of their votes.

NEW SLOGAN FOR US: "Keep Away from DOCTOR Linda" EXCERPT: Just thought you'd like to know that most, if not all, medical personnel here in Miami are endorsing and voting for Charlie Crist for governor. I'm a physician in Miami and my colleagues, both doctors and nurses, have been strong advocates against any public official who had the audacity to interfere in what should have been a family medical decision. Yes, that's right. Our hospital had a poll two weeks ago which showed that 96 percent of us are voting for Crist, and we hold politicians accountable.

FV ASKS: Should DR. LINDA BE BROUGHT UP ON ETHICS CHARGES OR WORSE????? I believe Representative Bob Marshall of Virginia is on the committee that funds hospitals. SOMEONE who has a minute, PLEASE contact Bob Marshall of Virginia. He can launch an investigation into DR. LINDA'S POLITICS while accepting Medicare money from the taxpayer or she may be bumping off patients if she's bold enough to do to a post on line in favor of euthanasia which is ILLEGAL in the State of Florida (but can be done thru judge shopping, doc shopping, bad hospices or nursing homes, big Florida hospitals).


Call to Action. Find and contact Rep. Bob Marshal or Marshall from Virginia and report DOCTOR LINDA. THIS IS AN EMERGENCY- STAT.

Thank you. I'll be back later. FV

14 posted on 09/01/2006 7:21:07 AM PDT by floriduh voter ( GALLAGHER & CRIST IMPORTANT STUFF)
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To: YellowRoseofTx
She said it occurred to her one day that possible future presidents, research scientists and others who could make a great difference to our world were being aborted.

Maybe she saw the Stayskal cartoon with a man pointing skyward saying,
"God, why haven't you sent us people with cures for cancer, and aids, and answers to world hunger and all our social problems?".
God replies: "I did!"
Man: "But...but where are they?!"
God: "You aborted them!"

15 posted on 09/01/2006 7:35:34 AM PDT by DrewsDad
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To: Caleb1411
There has been a significant shift in the pro-abortion movement over the last few years. As biological knowledge increases and medical science pushes back the boundary of viability, it has become harder and harder for them to argue that there's ambiguity about when life begins -- in fact, if you see the 'blob of tissue' argument from a pro-choicer now, you know that they are behind the times & out of the loop on the trendy pro-choice arguments.

The current pro-abortion strategy has two main arguments. One, slightly similar to the outdated one, substitutes the nebulous concept of 'personhood' or a 'soul' instead of 'life.' They say that an unborn child does (or might) not have 'full personhood' -- whatever that means -- so their rights are inferior to adults. What's interesting is the shift from a measurable, concrete standard (the existence of human life) to a spiritual/metaphysical one (the existence of a soul). And they say we're the ones trying to legislate our morality.

The other stance is more starkly honest. These pro-abortion types will freely acknowledge that abortion is the voluntary killing of a human being. Some will even use the word "murder." But they argue that circumstances make this choice a preferable or even noble one.

Neither of these are winning arguments in the long run.

16 posted on 09/01/2006 7:54:26 AM PDT by Sloth ('It Takes A Village' is problematic when you're raising your child in Sodom.)
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To: wagglebee
I dunno. It was my experience that I was not pro-life or pro-abortion, but one of these "I can't judge others" types (yes I was a liberal at the time). When I got to college and fell in love with my husband and really started to understand that I wanted children someday, I began to really think about the biology of a pregnant woman and the more I thought about it, the more I realized I couldn't possibly be anything but pro-life anymore.

To me, that is a whole person change. To go from "I can't judge others" to "It's murder and it's wrong." was a significant change in my heart, mind, and soul.

It is, however, my opinion that we are made pro-life, some of us become "pro-choice", and then we may become pro-life again.

17 posted on 09/01/2006 9:20:59 AM PDT by Kaylee Frye
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To: Sloth

The "personhood" argument is self-defeating, if you strip it to its essence.

If the argument is simply: "rights accrue to persons and the unborn are not persons" then it is not an argument, it is so-called begging the question: a restatement of the premise that needs defending in a way that looks like a rpoof of the premise.

If you attempt to analyze the argument and inspect what is there in the word "person" that an embryo lacks, you discover that it is personality. Indeed, an unborn cannot exhibit any personality traits, -- he cannot be funny, or earnest, or kind, or what have you. Accordingly, we, adults, do not develop attachment to them like we do to more developed babies. Let us concede that, at least for the sake of the further argument.

Each time we link a right to a stage in development, we do so because there is an ability to do something, that was previously lacking. Now that the child has the ability, we can consider whether it is also a right. For example, children are not mentally or physically able to drive cars, so they cannot possibly have a right to drive a car on a public road. Some adults have no ability to explain calculus, so they have no right to teach college math (even if the college wants to hire them for that purpose). Learn to drive, and you get a right to drive; earn a PhD and you get a right to teach advanced stuff.

Well, what is the ability needed to live? Answer: be a fertilized egg. If an embryo lives, he is old enough to live. If he is a human embryo, killing him is murder.

18 posted on 09/01/2006 9:39:09 AM PDT by annalex
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To: 2ndMostConservativeBrdMember; afraidfortherepublic; Alas; al_c; american colleen; annalex; ...

19 posted on 09/01/2006 9:46:32 AM PDT by Coleus (I Support Research using the Ethical, Effective and Moral use of stem cells: non-embryonic "adult")
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To: wagglebee; Caleb1411

All anecdotal evidence I have points to children being naturally playful and not hostile to other children. Sure, a child can put another child in danger, but not out of a hostile intent. Form this we can extrapolate that the natural human is pro-life.

Two factors, I think, make people pro-abort. One is selfishness, that comes with sexual activity. Adolescents often have sex or aspire to have sex with someone who is available, rather than someone who they want to marry. As the culture becomes more paganized, scenarios of premarital sex become more common and less oriented toward future marriage. A pregnancy then is a serious problem, something that ruins plans for college, etc. so abortion is seen as a backup contraception, something that is an enabling technology of premarital sex. This is the selfish motivation, that some people carry through to adulthood (perhaps, because they never become fully adult).

The second is a misconception of freedom. It would indeed be an ugly thing if, say, women were subject to periodic preganancy checks in order to ensure they did not commit an abortion, or if they were searched for possession of abortifacients. Since the proaborts skillfully extrapolate just that, and since we see a rapidly expanding state, there is a genuine fear that is prolife politics succeed, the state will be empowered once more.

It is important to distinguish between these two motivations. For example, it would be unfair to accuse the second group of selfishness or immaturuty. It would be pointless to engage in a lengthy discussion about social theory and the role of the state with the first group.

Another factor one might mention is hostility to religion. Since people correctly realize that all seriously religious people are pro-life, they see a threat to their secularism. Their argument is that pro-life is a church dogma. Therefore, they argue, the irreligious are free to be proabort. However, I don't think it is a fundamental reason people become pro-abort; it becomes a rationalization for either of the above-mentioned two.

20 posted on 09/01/2006 10:04:16 AM PDT by annalex
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