Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Again, A House Divided: A Dream Speech for 2009

[Executive Summary: During last year’s Republican National Convention, staring at the television set and the Oprah/Infomercial setting, and overwhelmed by the unrelenting banality of the whole event, I drifted off to sleep...and dreamed of a tall, plainspoken, bearded man standing before the assembly, speaking words nobody else had the courage to say.....]

Mr. President and Ladies and Gentlemen of the Convention:

We are now many years since a policy was initiated with the avowed object, and confident promise, of putting an end to anti-abortion agitation.

Under the operation of that policy, that agitation has not only not ceased, but has constantly augmented. In my opinion, it will not cease, until a crisis shall have been reached and passed.

"A house divided against itself cannot stand." I believe this society cannot endure, permanently half for life and half for death. I do not expect our society to be dissolved—I do not expect the house to fall—but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other.

Either the opponents of abortion, will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become alike lawful in all hearts.

Have we no tendency to the latter condition?

Let any one who doubts, carefully contemplate that now almost complete legal combination—piece of machinery so to speak—compounded of President Clinton's policy and the Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision of 1993. Let him consider not only what work the machinery is adapted to do, and how well adapted; but also, let him study the history of its construction, and trace, if he can, or rather fail, if he can, to trace the evidences of design, and concert of action, among its chief bosses, from the beginning.

The new year of 1973 found abortion excluded from almost every state by state legislation, and from the national territory by congressional prohibition. Twenty-three days later commenced the struggle that ended in repealing those prohibitions. This opened all the nation to abortion; and was the first point gained.

This had been provided for, as well as might be, in the notable argument of "women's rights," otherwise called "sacred right of self-determination," which latter phrase, though expressive of the only rightful basis of any government, was so perverted in this attempted use of it as to amount to just this: That if any individual choose to kill another not yet born, no third shall be allowed to object.

Over the course of the following twenty years, the struggle between the idea of a state's ability to preserve the life of an unborn citizen and the idea of a woman's ability to control her own reproductive life continued, almost invariably supporting the right of the woman over the right of her unborn child and of the state to protect that child. Finally, a law case, involving the question of the ability of the State of Pennsylvania to prohibit even to a limited extent the ability of a woman to kill her child; and both the Pennsylvania law and law suit were brought to a decision in the same month of October, 1992. The name of the Pennsylvania governor defending the bill was "Casey," which name now designates the decision finally made in the case.

Before the then next presidential election, the law case came to, and was argued in the Supreme Court of the United States.

Under the Casey decision the trimester division was divided out of existence, tumbled down like temporary scaffolding—leaving the core like the mould at the foundry served through one blast and fell back into loose sand: leaving the heart of Roe v. Wade kicked to the winds.

The election came. Mr. Clinton was elected, and the indorsement of a pro-choice position by the government, such as it was, secured. That was the second point gained. The indorsement, however, fell short of a clear popular majority, and so, perhaps, was not overwhelmingly reliable and satisfactory.

The then new President indorsed and strongly construed that decision, and expressed his astonishment that any different view had ever been entertained. The President as impressively as possible echoed back upon the people the weight and authority of his indorsement of the right to self-determination.

The several points of the Casey decision, in connection with President Clinton' policy—in his recent studied and deliberate veto of the Partial Birth Abortion ban—constitute the piece of machinery, in its present state of advancement. This was the third point gained.

The working points of that machinery are:

First, that no unborn child, short of birth, regardless of state of development in the womb, even in the ninth month, can ever be a citizen of any state, in the sense of that term as used in the Constitution of the United States. This point is made in order to deprive the unborn child, in every possible event, of the benefit of this provision of the United States Constitution, which declares that—

"The citizens of each state shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of citizens in the several states."

Secondly, that "subject to the Constitution of the United States," neither Congress nor a State Legislature can exclude abortion from any land under United States constitution.

This point is made in order that individuals may fill up the nation with abortion clinics, and thus to enhance the chances of permanency to the institution through all the future.

Thirdly, that whether the unborn child is a human being or not, the United States courts will not decide, but will leave to be decided by the conscience of the individual carrying the unborn child and to her doctor.

This point is made, not to be pressed immediately; but, if acquiesced in for a while, and apparently endorsed by the people at an election, then to sustain the logical conclusion that what a child's mother might lawfully do to the child, in the state of Pennsylvania, then any individual may lawfully do to themselves, in Pennsylvania, or in any other state.

Auxiliary to all this, and working hand in hand with it, the President's veto, to educate and mould public opinion, to not care whether abortion is voted down or voted up.

This shows exactly where we now are; and partially also whither we are tending. It will throw additional light on the latter, to go back, and run the mind over the string of historical facts already stated. Several things will now appear less dark and mysterious than they did when they were transpiring. The people were to be left "perfectly free" "subject only to the Constitution." What the Constitution had to do with it, outsiders could not then see. Plainly enough now, it was an exactly fitted niche, for the Casey decision to afterwards come in, and declare the perfect freedom of the people, to be just no freedom at all.

Why was the amendment, expressly declaring the right of the people to exclude abortion, voted down? Plainly enough now, the adoption of it, would have spoiled the niche for the Casey decision.

Why the President's continued exhortation in favor of the decision? This looks like the cautious patting and petting a spirited horse, preparatory to mounting him, when it is dreaded that he may give the rider a fall.

We can not absolutely know that all these exact adaptations are the result of preconcert. But when we see a lot of framed timbers, different portions of which we know have been gotten out at different times and places and by different workers—Brennan, Blackmun, Clinton and Schroeder, for instance—and when we see these timbers joined together, and see they exactly make the frame of a house or a mill, all the tenons and mortises exactly fitting, and all the lengths and proportions of the different pieces exactly adapted to their respective places, and not a piece too many or too few—not omitting even scaffolding—or, if a single piece be lacking, we can see the place in the frame exactly fitted and prepared to yet bring such piece in—in such a case, we find it impossible to not believe that Brennan and Blackmun and Clinton and Schroeder all understood one another from the beginning, and all worked upon a common plan or draft drawn up before the first lick was struck.

It should not be overlooked that, by the Pennsylvania bill, the people of a state were to be left "perfectly free" "subject only to the Constitution." In what cases the power of the states is so restrained by the U S. Constitution, is left an open question. Put that and that together, and we have another nice little niche which we may, ere long, see filled with another Supreme Court decision, declaring that the Constitution of the United States does not permit a state to exclude assisted suicide from its limits.

And this may especially be expected if the doctrine of "self-determination" shall gain upon the public mind sufficiently to give promise that such a decision can be maintained when made.

Such a decision is all that self-murder now lacks of being alike lawful in all circumstances, regardless of the state of health of the individual, and regardless of the opinion of the state on the matter. Welcome or unwelcome, such decision is probably coming, and will soon be upon us, unless the power of the present political dynasty shall be met and overthrown.

We shall lie down pleasantly dreaming that the people of the United States are on the verge of slightly curbing the ability to abort; and we shall awake to the reality, instead, that the Supreme Court has made doctor-assisted self-murder a right.

To meet and overthrow the power of that dynasty, is the work now before all those who would prevent that consummation. That is what we must do. But how can we best do it?

There are those who denounce us openly to their own friends, and yet whisper us softly, that President Obama is the aptest instrument there is, with which to effect the object of resistance to assisted suicide. They do not tell us, nor has he told us, that he wishes any such object to be effected.

They remind us that he is a very great man, and that the largest of us are very small ones. Let this be granted. But "a living dog is better than a dead lion." President Obama, if not a dead lion for this work, [is] at least a caged and toothless one. How can he oppose the advances of self-murder? He don't care anything about it. His avowed mission is impressing the "public heart" to care nothing about it.

Does President Obama believe an effort to adopt this standard is approaching? He has not said so. Does he really think so? But if it is, how can he resist it? For years he has labored to prove it a sacred right of women to kill their children in utero if inconvenient. Can he possibly show that it is less a sacred right to kill anyone else who is inconvenient?

President Clinton has done all in his power to reduce the whole question of abortion to one of a mere right of self-determination; and as such, how can he oppose the ultimate in self-determination—the right to commit self-murder? And as the children of the ill, the inheritors, will probably not ask the protection, he will be wholly without a ground of opposition.

President Obama holds, we know, that a man may rightfully be wiser today than he was yesterday—that he may rightfully change when he finds himself wrong.But, can we for that reason, run ahead, and infer that he will make any particular change, of which he, himself, has given no intimation? Can we safely base our action upon any such vague inference?

Now, as ever, I wish to not misrepresent President Obama's position, question his motives, or do ought that can be personally offensive to him.

Whenever, if ever, he and we can come together on principle so that our great cause may have assistance from his great ability, I hope to have interposed no adventitious obstacle.

But clearly, he is not now with us—he does not pretend to be—he does not promise to ever be.

Our cause, then, must be intrusted to, and conducted by its own undoubted friends—those whose hands are free, whose hearts are in the work—who do care for the result.

Two years ago pro-life forces of the nation mustered over fifty million strong. We did this under the single impulse of resistance to a common danger, with every external circumstance against us.

Of strange, discordant, and even, hostile elements, we gathered from the four winds, and formed and fought the battle through, under the constant hot fire of a disciplined, proud, and pampered enemy.

Did we brave all then, to falter now?—not when that same enemy is wavering, dissevered and belligerent.

The result is not doubtful. We shall not fail—if we stand firm, we shall not fail.

Wise counsels may accelerate or mistakes delay it, but sooner or later, the victory is sure to come.


The preceding is the text of Abraham Lincoln's A House Divided speech, first given in 1858 in Springfield, Illinois. It required very, very little change to apply it to the present day. Alas.

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Keep it clean for gene.