Skip to comments.Reaganís Darkest Hour
Posted on 01/22/2008 1:56:33 PM PST by Checkers
As president, Ronald Reagan was an unflagging champion of unborn human life. Today there is a wound in our national conscience, Reagan told a joint session of Congress in his 1986 State of the Union. America will never be whole as long as the right to life granted by our Creator is denied to the unborn.
But honest discussions of Reagans record on the abortion issue admit that as California governor he signed into law a liberalization of abortion that led to an explosion of abortions in the nations largest state. Reagan critics and supporters alike recognize this fact one that is particularly tough to swallow for staunch pro-lifers. The full story, however, is more complicated and worth setting straight now, 35 years after Roe v. Wade.
On June 14, 1967, Ronald Reagan signed the Therapeutic Abortion Act, after only six months as California governor. From a total of 518 legal abortions in California in 1967, the number of abortions would soar to an annual average of 100,000 in the remaining years of Reagans two terms more abortions than in any U.S. state prior to the advent of Roe v. Wade. Reagans signing of the abortion bill was an ironic beginning for a man often seen as the modern father of the pro-life movement. How did this happen?
When the issue surfaced in the first months of his governorship, Reagan was unsure how to react. Surprising as it may seem today, in 1967 abortion was not the great public issue that it is today. Reagan later admitted that abortion had been a subject Id never given much thought to. Moreover, his aides were divided on the question.
(Excerpt) Read more at article.nationalreview.com ...
Reagan began to vigorously study the issue and the Therapeutic Abortion Act. He asked his longtime adviser and Cabinet secretary Bill Clark a devout Catholic who had contemplated the priesthood for counsel. Bill, Ive got to know more theologically, philosophically, medically, Reagan confided. Clark loaded up the governor with a box of reading materials, which he took home and read in semi-seclusion. Edmund Morris later said that, by the time the Therapeutic Abortion Act reached his desk, Reagan was quoting Saint Thomas Aquinas. Years later, Reagan remarked that he did more studying and soul searching on the issue than any other as governor.
Nonetheless, he signed the bill. Reagan and his staff calculated that if he vetoed the bill, his veto would be overridden by the state legislature. Therefore, he decided to do what he could to make the bill less harmful, arguing for the insertion of certain language that eliminated its worst features and allowed for abortion only in rare cases such as rape or incest, or where pregnancy would gravely impair the physical or mental health of the mother.
The Therapeutic Abortion Act became law. And as would happen with nearly every abortion law in the years ahead, the mental-health provision was abused by patient and doctor alike. Reagan biographer Lou Cannon notes that even the bills Democratic sponsor confessed to being surprised that physicians so liberally interpreted the law.
Reagan was shocked at the unintended consequences of his action. Morris said Reagan was left with an undefinable sense of guilt after watching abortions skyrocket. Cannon claims this was the only time as governor or president that Reagan acknowledged a mistake on major legislation. Clark called the incident perhaps Reagans greatest disappointment in public life.
For Reagan, one good thing did come out of this disappointment. As Georgetowns Matt Sitman notes, It is impossible to understand his later staunchly pro-life positions without grasping the lessons he learned from this early political battle. Reagan, says Sitman, survived the ordeal with a profoundly intellectual understanding of the abortion issue . It was in 1967 that his ideas concerning the beginning of human life were fully formed. He now had a cogent understanding, politically and morally, of abortion and its implications.
Reagan would later denounce abortion so strongly and so frequently from the Oval Office that Bill Clark has compiled a 45-page document of Reagans quotes on abortion, collected from the official Presidential Papers. Reagan even authored a small book Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation, featuring contributions from Bill Clark, Malcolm Muggeridge, and Mother Teresa that was published by the Human Life Foundation in 1984. White House moderates wanted Reagan to delay publication until after the 1984 election, fearing it would turn off pro-choice Republicans, but Reagan refused. He would not be burned again on abortion. No more compromises.
Ronald Reagan emerged from 1967 repentant, but ready for future battles. The damage was done; of course, the results were nothing compared to the travesty that a group of men in black robes in Washington were planning six years later.
Paul Kengor and Patricia Clark Doerner are co-authors of The Judge: William P. Clark, Ronald Reagans Top Hand. Paul Kengor is also author of The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism and professor of political science at Grove City College.
Just guessing here, but his ALzheimer’s was maybe God’s way of forgiving him because he was so sorry for what he had done.....so he wouldn’t be haunted.
Reagan’s darkest hour was not doing anything about the nearly 300 US Armed Forces personnel murdered in the Beirut barracks bombing.
Just guessing here, but his ALzheimers was maybe Gods way of forgiving him because he was so sorry for what he had done.....so he wouldnt be haunted.
I know that you cdertainly did not mean to offend, but I can assure you that God has never dispensed alzheimers as a gift. From seeing it very closely, I can promise you that it is never a gift.
“I know that you cdertainly did not mean to offend, but I can assure you that God has never dispensed alzheimers as a gift. From seeing it very closely, I can promise you that it is never a gift.”
My late Dad did not deserve alzheimers.
And National Review seems to want to soften the battlefield for Romney.
The story that came out about Reagan and the Secret Service agents from just before his death still makes my eyes leak a bit. Reagan loved to skim the leaves from the pool. He would spend hours doing it. How could it take hours, you ask. Well, every time he turned his back, the security detail threw more leaves in the pool. They served him to the end.
Ah...don't tell Alaska or Texas, they might be somewhat miffed.
Do you not know what I was saying?? It wasn’t a slam at all.
Have you heard of a piece of history called the Cold War?
One lesson learned is that there are always unintended consequences of any legislative action.
Thanks for this post.
I didn’t know all these details, but this is about what I thought had happened. At the time Reagan was presented with this bill, nobody had thought about abortion. NARAL and Planned Parenthood and the Population Controllers were making plans for the future, but no one had any idea what they were really up to.
Rape, incest, life and health of the mother. It’s still wrong, but these are the hard cases, and, as I had always presumed, Reagan took these words at face value. He had no idea that “health” didn’t mean serious risk of the mother’s life, but mere convenience under the guise of “mental health.”
The added detail I wasn’t aware of is that Reagan thought if he didn’t agree to a modified bill, the legislature would pass a worse bill over his veto.
Abortion had been condemned by everyone throughout our history, and throughout most of the history of western civilization. Who could have guessed what was about to descend on our country? The Rockefellers knew. Probably Justice Brennan, the man who was really behind Roe v. Wade, knew even as early as this. But the country as a whole was still in happy ignorance of the future holocaust.
Was partial birth abortion banned? I remember Senator Santorum worked hard against that horrid law.
Yes, by all means. Though that has little to do with islamism’s war on us.
That is exactly right. Not being completely sold to evil himself, Reagan was completely blindsided and shocked by the abortionists' malevolence. Which is why Nitmitt's intermittent attempts to paint himself as the Second Coming of Reagan, after the passage of 35 years of mass butchery which he publicly supported as an adult man, in opposition to Ronald Reagan, is so reprehensible. His supposed "conversion' to being pro-life because of stem cells story" strikes me as phony as a three dollar bill. Where was this adult man for the last 35 years, in a freaking cave? Could he really be that stupid or uninformed, or is he just an opportunist, willing to wade through the blood of the innocent to further his political ambitions? He's still wrong on abortion-killing and his medifascism. Someone that stupid and uniformed has no business being POTUS. Let him go back into business.
This is a man who, as far as I can tell, never gave a conservative speech or wrote any conservative words prior to running for President. I trust him as far as I can throw a nine-foot Steinway grand piano.
“Just guessing here, but his ALzheimers was maybe Gods way of forgiving him because he was so sorry for what he had done.....so he wouldnt be haunted.”
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