The Meaning of Life

Last week a House committee voted to "clarify" the Hyde Amendment. That's the amendment, you'll remember, that forbids the use of federal tax dollars to pay for abortions. Ever since the Hyde Amendment was passed in 1975, the pro-abortion lobby has tried to repeal it. Two years ago, when the Clinton Administration came to office, Henry Hyde was forced to compromise to save the statute bearing his name. The compromise changed the law's language to "permit" states to use federal Medicaid dollars for abortions in cases of rape or incest. Notice, I said "permit." That's how small the compromise was. But the Clintonites interpreted the new wording to mean the states are required to pay for Medicaid abortions. This was the conflict Congress clarified last week: States may use Medicaid funds in cases of rape or incest, the House panel declared. But they are not "required" to do so. Seems like a modest enough policy change, doesn't it? Especially since only two Medicaid-paid abortions are performed each year for rape and incest cases. Well, pro-abortion advocates were apoplectic. Nita Loowey, a congresswoman from New York, said the action was draconian, would victimize the victim. And Mike McMurry, the president's spokesman, denounced the vote as "a back alley approach to taking away a woman's right to choose." Why such a fierce reaction? The answer exposes the real issue behind abortion. And it explains why abortion is the moral issue of our time. You see, the twisted logic of the pro-abortion lobby isn't really based on a woman's supposed "right to choose." The real basis of pro-abortion rhetoric is the bizarre modern notion of utter personal autonomy. Think for a moment of what the Supreme Court declared in its infamous 1992 ruling in Casey v. Planned Parenthood. Liberty, the Court majority declared, is "the right to define one's own concept of existence, of the meaning of the universe, and the mystery of human life." Under such a sweeping, almost New-Age concept, the right to an abortion becomes the basis of the very "meaning of life!" It says there is no authority—no family code, no social mores, no political obligation, no religious tenet—no God—to which the individual human being is accountable. Therefore each of us has the "right" even to kill an unborn baby if we want to. And that's why the abortion lobby went ballistic last week. The so-called prochoice folks know that any restriction on abortion— even one affecting two cases a year— challenges the very basis of their philosophy. So you see, the battle over abortion is a battle over the very meaning of life. And if the pro-abortion lobby wins this fight, they'll have gotten America to declare that there is no objective basis for any custom or law that holds the individual accountable to any principle beyond the autonomous self. And if that happens, civil society, politics as we've know it, and the law itself will be imperiled. So the next time somebody tells you that prolifers are obsessed with abortion, tell them what's really at stake: Not only babies' lives, but the very meaning of life and our ability to govern ourselves in these United States.


Chuck Colson


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