ANNIVERSARIES ARE A NATURAL invitation to reflect on the past, to relive memories as well as to ponder the changes that have taken place since the remembered event. The 30th anniversary of Roe v. Wade (January 22, 2003) is a prevalent theme in this issue of the Review, as our contributors join many in the pro-life movement in taking stock of our struggle.
Our lead article takes as its starting point, however, another anniversary-it has been twenty years since the unveiling of the Seamless Garment, the sanctity of life strategy, if you will, offered in 1983 by the late Cardinal Joseph L. Bernardin. James Hitchcock, prolific Catholic author and professor of history at St. Louis University, critiques the concept of the Seamless Garment and its effects, specifically on liberal Catholics. He confronts the liberal Catholic community with its own record on abortion-as chronicled in the weekly paper, the National Catholic Reporter, the "principal organ of American liberal Catholicism for almost forty years."
Although the paper formally accepts the Catholic position on abortion, Hitchcock finds little evidence in its pages of pro-life commitment. Focusing on the January 17th issue, which was largely devoted to assessing thirty years of Roe, Hitchcock objects to the tone set by left-friendly pro-life activist John Cavanaugh O'Keefe, who pronounced the "pro-life movement a failure." Hitchcock writes:
Although pro-lifers of course regret their failure to achieve their ultimate goals, the movement has had a profound effect on American society scarcely noticed by the NCR's writers. The movement has successfully blocked most kinds of public funding of abortion and has finally achieved legislation to prohibit partial-birth abortions. . . . Above all the movement has kept the issue alive in the United States, in contrast to most other Western countries.
That last point resonates-when my late father, founding editor J.P. McFadden, began his anti-abortion campaign soon after Roe, he sought, at the very least, to keep the issue alive. He worked relentlessly, for the rest of his life, to do that, to keep the issue an issue, amidst the ups and (crushing) downs of the legislative struggles, believing the very worst thing that could happen to American society would be for abortion to cease being controversial.
My father was also among the anti-abortion activists whom Hitchcock remembers as being "sceptical, even dismayed" by Cardinal Bernardin's Seamless Garment. Whatever good intentions there may have been-to transcend, for example, single-issue politics-critics of the approach feared the message of inclusivity would "distract Catholics from the primacy of the abortion issue," and actually lend "legitimacy to the pro-abortion stance by broadening the definition of pro-life." Hitchcock argues here that this is precisely what occurred.
Some of our readers may disagree with the severity of Hitchcock's assessment (though I have no doubt my father would find it on-target). The fact is, though many wish it were not so, there are substantial disagreements among those committed to the pro-life struggle, obviously not just within the Catholic community. Our next piece illustrates another such debate-about the Constitution. "Constitutional Persons: An Exchange on Abortion," between Nathan Schlueter and Robert Bork, caught our eye-it appeared originally in one of our favorite journals, First Things. Schlueter begins by energetically objecting to a position held by many pro-life leaders, a position he calls the "restoration interpretation": that "a proper reading of the Constitution would reject the concept of a privacy right to abortion, and thus return the nation to the pre-Roe status quo" in which abortion law would be "left to the states." Against this position he posits what he believes is the "proper" interpretation-the "unborn person interpretation": that is, "one which would extend the protections of the Fourteenth Amendment to unborn persons. …