Thursday, January 24, 2013

A society's first task

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The White House recently released a photo showing President Obama as he was told about the Newtown massacre. I'm not sure why such a photo was taken or why the White House felt the need to release it. Not even the president's staunchest political foes would doubt that he was as grief-stricken at the tragic news as every other decent American.

Even someone as opposed to the president and his policies as I could see that the man in that photo — and the man who spoke at the Newtown memorial service — was genuinely brokenhearted. The president is the father of two beautiful girls, after all. He could hardly help imagining himself and his wife in the place of those grieving parents.

But as I watched the president speak at the memorial service and again, with four children flanking him, at the signing of his 23 executive orders meant to curb gun violence, I couldn't help but think of the many other children who were also brutally killed in our country on the day of the Sandy Hook tragedy — children who will likely never have a memorial service given in their honor and on whose behalf this president will never sign an executive order.

Jan. 22 was the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the notorious Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion virtually on demand. Since that decision was handed down, some 50 million children — a disproportionate number of whom were African American — have been its victims. It grieves me that the president and the great majority of the members of his political party have no grief for them.

A recent Time cover story ("They've Been Losing Ever Since," Jan.14) even laments the fact that pro-life advocates have won some victories in the battle to protect the lives of the unborn, particularly in the arena of public opinion. According to the article's author, Kate Pickert, "[i]n this age of prenatal ultrasounds and sophisticated neonatology, a sizable majority of Americans supports abortion restrictions like waiting periods and parental-consent laws."

Who knew it would be technology and not moral reasoning that would turn public opinion in a pro-life direction?

But while, as the article states, a May 2012 Gallup poll found that "just 41percent [of Americans] identified themselves as pro-choice," the president and his party continue to make abortion the most fundamental plank in the party's platform; Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest abortion provider, continues to receive millions of taxpayer dollars; and just more than a million children a year continue to die in the abortion clinics in this country.

In the signing speech for his executive orders, Obama, referencing the children flanking him but including by inference the nation's children, said, "What we should be thinking about is our responsibility to care for them, to shield them from harm."

For once, I agree with the president. But those words — coming from a man who seems fine with some 3,000 children dying daily in the country's abortion clinics and who, through the contraceptive mandate, intends to coerce conscientious objectors into becoming unwilling participants in at least some of those abortions — are ironic indeed.

If, as the president said, "our first task as a society [is] keeping our children safe," America has failed abysmally at that task for the past 40 years. And not a single law or executive order directed toward gun violence would have changed that fact. All that separates the children who died at Sandy Hook from the children who died in our abortion clinics that day is five or six short years in age. The lives of both groups of children were equally valuable and worthy of protection.

A president and nation that can't see that truth need to do a great deal more than restrict the availability of certain guns and ammunition. They also need to do a great deal of soul-searching. For it's most surely by how we protect our children that, in the president's own words, "we will be judged."

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