Gore’s Gaffe

  There has been heated debate this year by conservative and liberal politicians over the death penalty. But Vice President Al Gore really raised eyebrows when he couldn't decide whether or not he would support a law prohibiting executions of pregnant prisoners. When asked about it on NBC's Meet the Press, Mr. Gore said he would have to "think about it." Apparently he is so beholden to the rhetoric of a "woman's right to choose" that he was unable to see what was obvious to anyone else—that the state killing an innocent child for his parent's crime is unjust. Well, the entire House of Representatives, including Gore's fellow Democrats, just presented the Vice President with a stinging rebuke. The House unanimously passed this week a bill making it illegal to execute a pregnant woman. The House bill—called the "Innocent Child Protection Act"—seems little more than common sense. It's wrong to execute an innocent child, in or out of the womb, for his parent's crimes. But the implications of this bill extend far beyond the capital punishment debate. For the first time in my memory, Congress has voted unanimously on a question central to the issue of abortion. That's right, abortion. This law provides legal precedent for recognizing that the fetus in the womb is a child—and this could sound the death knell for Roe v. Wade. Roe's legalization of abortion, remember, rests on the Court's belief that it couldn't say when life begins. In the Roe decision, Justice Harry Blackmun wrote, "When those trained in the respective disciplines of medicine, philosophy, and theology are unable to arrive at any consensus, the judiciary... is not in a position to speculate as to [when life begins]." As a consequence, Blackmun demanded that women must have the right to abort their children. But in passing this latest bill, Congress, one of the three co-equal branches of government, has just unanimously expressed the belief that life begins at conception. Gore's gaffe would have been quickly forgotten—these things happen in campaigns—except that it has exposed the flaw in the pro-abortion case. It shows that it doesn't stand on common sense. And as my good friend, Princeton professor Robert George, has argued, medical evidence is now emerging that shows that life indeed exists in the womb. Contrary to the claim that pro-life arguments are theological, Dr. George demonstrates that science is firmly on the side of life: In our age of ultrasound and genetic screening, he writes that we see clearly that every unborn child is "a distinct, unified, self-integrating organism." And by affirming the existing of life in the womb—without making any viability distinctions—the House may have repudiated not only Vice President Gore, but Roe itself. Should it pass the Senate and makes it to the President's desk, it could provide the legal finding for the Supreme Court to overturn this tragic ruling. All of this depends, of course, on which justices are sitting on the bench when a case challenging Roe is heard by the Court. But Roe v. Wade is vulnerable, and it could be overturned on this very issue. Happily—providentially, I might say—in responding to a miscue by the Vice President, the Congress has taken a first big step in that direction.


Chuck Colson


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