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Brian Johnston

Getting it Right on Life

[Publisher’s Note:  Today marks an infamous and somber anniversary — 41 years ago the United States Supreme Court handed down a decision decriminalizing abortion.  To recognize this occasion we feature this important column — Flash]

Important issues sometimes require a renewed call for clarity.

Such is the case in the Right to Life debate. I have been involved in this battle since 1977 and it never fails to amaze me that many proponents as well as opponents, have a habit of debating and wrangling over things that are in fact NOT part of the debate.

To put it simply the Right to Life debate is a civil rights issue. Either there is a human life ended in abortion or there is not. In 1973’s Roe v. Wade decision, the laws of all 50 states were overturned. Each and every state recognized in the law that you were dealing with a young and vulnerable human life in the womb. Some states had more restrictions – others – like California had slightly fewer restrictions, but ALL of the several states recognized the purpose of the law is to protect the lives of those unable to protect themselves.

Each state in our nation had its own protective law regarding the life of the unique child in the womb because of the incredible state-by state effort of American physician, Dr. Horatio Storer. Trained in Edinburgh he studied pregnancy and childbirth in depth. Dr. Sir James Young Simpson, medical pioneer, had mentored him. In the late 19th Century Storer toured all of our nation’s state capitols. The invention of the modern microscope and advances in technology proved beyond doubt the uniqueness of the child in the womb.

Dr. Storer’s efforts were entirely based on the objective facts then being demonstrated by medical science. His heroic and successful work in each of the state legislatures was based entirely on those objective and demonstrable facts – the child in the womb is a unique and vibrant human being.

Science since then has only re-enforced and illumined the noble doctors efforts. We can now measure a child’s heart beating 21 days after conception; often the mother may not know she is pregnant. We know that the child may often have a different blood type than the mother, in about half the cases of pregnancy we know the child VERY different from the mother because, “It’s a boy“. This is clearly not part of the woman’s body.

We now know the DNA of each child is unique in all of human history. He or she has never before existed and never will again exist (sorry, Buddists and New Agers, we’ve got to look at objective facts). Science has only underscored Dr. Storer’s work as an advocate for his vulnerable and defenseless patients.

This isn’t a debate about faith or beliefs or opinions.
It is a bit difficult to ascertain what Dr. Storer’s faith was. It doesn’t matter.
Dr. Storer’s medical observations and the laws, which he successfully sought to put in place, had nothing to do with his belief or other people’s beliefs; they were simply objective, observable facts.

I believe that Dr. Storer was likely a Christian of some kind. This likely contributed to his motivation to see those children and mothers protected. Throughout all civil rights struggles it seems that religious individuals have been deeply involved, and that speaks very well of their faith. They apply their faith to life.

But there is a HUGE distinction between one’s internal, personal motivations and their objective goals. Others may share those goals, but not their personal faith.
The objective goal is a distinctly different, freestanding thing than their beliefs.

Our nation is built on a fundamental premise: the government gets all of its authority, all of its ‘worth‘ from the lives of the human beings whose duty it is to guard and govern.” And “to secure these rights governments are instituted among men.”

Since the dismissal of the Right to Life in the Roe decision, a growing dystopia of euthanasia, infanticide, medical experimentation, embryo farming and worse has continued to expand. This can only change as citizens are actively involved, as Horatio Storer was, in seeing to it that the government does indeed ‘secure these rights.

The facts objectively demonstrate that the child in the womb is a unique human individual. As we do our work in restoring the Right to Life, we do well in emulating Dr. Storer who brought about their legal protection.

The facts are on our side, and facts are terrible things to waste.

Brian Johnston is the Director of National Right to Life’s Western Office. He has served in many capacities as a public advocate for those whose life was in immediate danger, including as California Commissioner of Aging, the State Board of Nursing Home Examiners, and on the board of the National Legal Center for the Medically Dependent and Disabled. He is a contributor to, and author of several books, including Death As A Salesman:What’s Wrong With Assisted Suicide.