The Road Ahead

Article excerpt

"Because a society is measured by how it treats the weak and vulnerable, we must strive to build a culture of life."-President George W. Bush, State of the Union Address, Feb. 2, 2005

Are you better off than you were four years ago? Most pro-lifers would say yes, while adding that the true weight of President Bush's legacy will be placed on the scales in his second term. As biotechnology speeds up to a frightening gallop, and political forces intent on skewing the issues converge for the 2008 election, we will see if Bush's incremental approach to pro-life issues was a true advance-or a dead-end path that will leave prolifers frustrated and riven by faction.

Bush uses the term "culture of life" to describe the goals of his administration, and has been hailed by some as the most pro-life president since Roe v. Wade. So it is time to take him at his word, and reflect on how we intend to get there from here. Is our president on track for the culture of life? Is our movement?

Before select groups, Bush is quick to rehearse an impressive list of prolife achievements from his first term: the restoration of the Mexico City Policy, which prohibits tax money from going to organizations that perform and promote abortion overseas; the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act, which protects children who are born alive even if they were targets of abortion; the Partial-Birth Abortion Act, the first federal law limiting abortion since the Roe decision (though the law was struck down by federal courts, and the administration is appealing); the Unborn Victims of Violence Act (Laci and Conner's Law), which recognizes an unborn child as a second victim when a pregnant woman is assaulted; and the recess appointment of William Pryor to the federal bench, after Pryor had been filibustered by Senate Democrats who objected to his strong statements against Roe.

And Bush has kept the momentum going in his second term. In his most dramatic move, the president interrupted his Easter vacation, flying from his ranch in Crawford, Texas, to Washington to wait a weekend for Congress to pass a bill to aid Terri Schiavo, whose feeding tube had been removed by judicial decree. He signed the legislation-at 1:30 a.m. on a Monday-in a noble though fruitless effort to save Terri's life.

Early this year, he renominated a host of pro-life judicial nominees who were blocked during his first term, including Pryor, Janice Rogers Brown and Priscilla Owen. The filibustered three were finally approved by the Senate after an infamous deal that apparently heaved other nominees overboard. This battle is a prelude to the ultimate showdown over the Supreme Court appointment(s) that Bush is being called on to make-and on which the fate of Roe and a host of other life issues will depend. ("The courts are absolutely the key to the whole pro-life movement at the national level," said Austin Ruse, president of the Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute. "This is why the pro-abortion forces have been fighting Bush nominees tooth and nail, because they know that they cannot prevail at the polls. They need appointed judges to do their bidding and block the pro-life cause in the courts.")

Standing firm on his 2001 decision not to supply federal funds for stemcell research that would destroy human embryos, Bush recently promised to veto a bill approved by Congress that would allow experimentation on frozen embryos "left over" from in vitro fertilization procedures.

Add to the president's solid record the election last November of seven new pro-life members in the Senate and 20 new pro-lifers in the House-according to the count of the National Right to Life Committee-and we have good reason to "Envision Pro-Life."

Good Bush, Bad Bush

Yet while acknowledging these positive points, some pro-lifers are skeptical that significant progress will be made in Bush's second term-and, quite ironically, they base their skepticism on Bush's own record. …