President Trump has reinstituted the policy intended to make sure the US government does not provide international organizations and agencies with funds to subsidize abortions. This reverses the worldwide promotion of abortion that was a centerpiece of Barack Obama’s foreign policy. This is a step welcomed by Americans who support the God-endowed unalienable right to life. It ought to be welcomed by all Americans who want to see American government conducted on a basis that reflects the founding principles that inspired so many of our people, in every generation, to fight for the standard of right and justice those principles uphold. It sends a signal to the world that the American people have not abandoned the heritage that inspired people around the world—both those who came to build a way of life that respected that standard; and those around the world who were inspired to demand respect for it wherever they lived.
Of course, the President’s action challenges those in Congress, and especially the leaders of the GOP majority in both Houses, to forestall critics who will be eager to point out the incongruity of withholding funds from people overseas, supposedly as a matter of principle, while continuing to provide funding for the misnamed prime mover of abortion in the United States, Planned Parenthood of America. If they move expeditiously, they will take good advantage of President Trump’s forthright demarche.
As they do so, they should eschew the sly maneuvers that have all too often characterized (and degraded) Congressional action in the past. It’s long past time for the people of the United States to witness a forthright and thorough debate on the issue of legally sanctioned abortion in our country. Like slavery, this is not an issue that can be settled by the dictatorship of any one of the branches of the U.S. government. Nor should we let it fester until it becomes one of the running sores that impel the nation toward dissolution.
There are strong arguments that prove that abortion contravenes the basic premises on which the character and perpetuation of Constitutional self-government (of, by and for the people) in the United States depends. Like the debate over tariffs that helped to inform the heart and conscience of Americans when the crisis of decent liberty was coming to a head in the 19th century, people now, and in future generations, will benefit from a debate over the incongruous notion of “abortion rights” in the 21st century, as America advances toward what could be an equally fateful moment of decision.
Wil America’s premise of liberty and justice for all survive the ongoing elitist effort to undo the resounding proof and affirmation the people of the United States have so far afforded it? Or will the return to oppressive and inequitable oligarchic rule consolidate, in politics, the retrogression already too far advanced in our economic and social life? In his inaugural address, President Trump proclaimed the return of the people to their rightful place as the arbiters of government power. But unless and until we reaffirm our dedication to the decent character self-government requires, no such return is possible, however loudly it is proclaimed.
Abortion epitomizes the de facto reversion to “might makes right” as the basis for justice. What else is involved in the notion that we have the right to slaughter our offspring in the womb simply because their physical condition leaves them helpless against the assault? And it makes no difference whether the inequality of power is the result of the consensus of a majority of ballot votes, dollar votes or votaries of war and conflict — they are all of them different versions of the same unruly assertion of raw power.
When the first generation of Americans asserted their right of self-government against the British king, they did so first and foremost with an appeal to right and justice, in light of premises of justice disarmed of any forceful power except that of reason, informed by conscience and respect for the laws that govern its deliberations, which God has woven into the very fabric of our common humanity. Even if it were true that our scientific advances demonstrate our somewhat greater knowledge of material things, the use we have made of them demonstrates even more cogently that the premises of moral reasoning, on which America’s founders relied, are more than ever necessary, not just for our good, but for our very survival.
We have better tools, but we have not, for all that, become wiser and better people. Instead, we almost exclusively champion an understanding of rights that conflates right and freedom. In consequence, freedom armed with greater power claims the name of right, and demands that those powerful enough be left unconstrained to do murder, else they will not be free. (“Without abortion rights, women will not be free!”)
Distracted by the misdirecting shibboleth of “racism,” we have more and more neglected the issue of right, though opposition to racism makes no sense apart from it. Even if only a few of the members of Congress rise to the occasion, a serious debate over the funding of Planned Parenthood could offer them an opportunity to reclaim and reiterate the premises of God-endowed right and justice that have informed the good will of Americans since the nation began. It has never been easy, but until recently, it has always been done. Thanks to President Trump’s move to stand against the murder of human posterity around the world, Congress is called to renew that vocation of justice. Removing funds from the evil of abortion may forestall evil for a time. But a debate that renews America’s understanding of the grounds in which our way of life is rooted, would not only inform America’s good conscience, it could remind the world of the good hope the standard that guides it still upholds for people of good will throughout the earth.