Magazine article The Human Life Review

Not Past Praying For

Magazine article The Human Life Review

Not Past Praying For

Article excerpt

On January 22, 1973, the day the Supreme Court legalized abortion in Roe v. Wade, Barack Obama was eleven and a half years old. Although he spent his early school years in Indonesia, he had moved back to Hawaii in 1971-at least a year after Hawaii had legalized abortion. He was then near ten years of age.

Barack Obama is effectively a member of that large cohort of the population that grew up with legalized abortion. It was not part of a political or social revolution that he either applauded or resisted, but a fact of life, well before he reached adolescence. Of course, many of our more stalwart pro-lifers today are part of the same population. Being born after, say, an arbitrary cutoff date like 1958 does not "condemn" someone to pro-abortion convictions, nor does it absolve anyone from the responsibility of working out, though perhaps arduously and over some time, what is very wrong with our country's current legal permission to cut off the lives of its youngest members.

Nevertheless, it does indicate a different mindset, a different starting point, from those people awakening to political or social consciousness earlier-even a few years earlier. Maintaining the status quo in fundamental matters is generally the default position of most people-even most Democrats-most of the time. It also tends to be the default position of the legal profession (in which Obama was trained), as arguments from precedent and stare decisis indicate.

On top of this, two other influences on Obama as child and young adult might have influenced his opinions on human-life issues. First, he lived his late childhood and adolescence in Hawaii, which is a prime contender for the title of the most liberal state in the Union. Second, he was not brought up in a religious tradition. (He attended a Catholic school in Indonesia from kindergarten through third grade, but this reflected the religious views of neither his mother nor his stepfather.) His mother has been described as not formally religious, though "spiritual"; the father who dropped out of the picture when Obama was two was apparently a lapsed Muslim; his Indonesian stepfather thought religion was "not very useful in life," as reported by Obama; and his maternal grandparents in Hawaii, though they had been reared in the Methodist and Baptist traditions, were not churchgoers. Obama's eventual entrance into the United Church of Christ long after childhood seems, from things he has said, to have been at least partially propelled by a sense of solidarity with the black churches that sustained and supported the civilrights movement and by his observation of their importance in Democratic black politics. (This is not a charge of religious hypocrisy or cynicism. We all have multiple motivations for our religious affiliation, just as we do for every other kind of affiliation.)

We know to our cost that religious affiliation does not guarantee a commitment to defend the lives of the unborn, and lack of religious faith doesn't preclude that commitment. However, as a general rule, even in those more liberal churches that institutionally accept abortion or decline to call it sinful, religious belief at least prods its adherents to grapple with the issue, even if their reason for doing so is to find a way to safely shunt the right to abortion past their conscience.

The product of this confluence of factors constituting the "when," "where," and "how" of Obama's early years is now occupying the White House. Barack Obama appears to handily beat even Bill Clinton's commitment to totally unrestricted abortion, having extended that commitment during his years in Illinois not only to partial-birth abortion, but also to guaranteeing aborting mothers a dead baby at the end of the "procedure." (See his rock-solid opposition to Illinois's Live Baby legislation, which would have required medical personnel to give ordinary medical care to infants born alive after abortion or miscarriage. …

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