he Republican Party has a century-and-a-half tradition of standing for
certain principles and for an identity different from other parties. This difference
between the parties is essential to our process of self-government.
The Republican Party was born on the principle that no human being
should be considered the property of another. That is our heritage as
Republicans, and it would be a fatal mistake to abandon that fundamental precept
This does not mean that every Republican thinks alike. The Republican
Party is not a fraternity with a hazing procedure for admission. We impose no
ideological or religious tests on anyone who calls himself a Republican, and we
invite all Americans to vote for our candidates. We do not demand to know the
reasons why people vote for Republican candidates, and there is no space in
those little boxes on the ballot to record their reasons.
The most famous political debates in American history were the Lincoln-Douglas Debates of 1858. During those seven debates up and down the State
of Illinois, Abraham Lincoln enunciated the position of the then-new Republican
Party that slavery was "a moral, a social and a political wrong," and that he "looks
forward to a time when slavery shall be abolished everywhere."
The Democratic candidate, Stephen A. Douglas, argued that the Supreme
Court's ruling in Dred Scott v. Sandford had settled the slavery question once and
for all. Saying "I choose to abide by the decisions of the Supreme Court as they
are pronounced," Douglas said that everyone was bound to accept the Court's
opinion that the U.S. Constitution protects an individual property right in slaves
throughout the United States and its Western territories.
Abraham Lincoln did not dispute the authority of the Supreme Court to
decide a particular case, but he forthrightly "opposed that decision as a political
rule which shall be binding on the voter." "We do not propose to be bound by it
as a political rule," Lincoln said. "We propose to have it reversed if we can, and
a new judicial rule established upon this subject."
In Quincy, Illinois, Lincoln argued that we should "deal with [slavery] as with
any other wrong, insofar as we can prevent its growing any larger, and deal with
it that, in the run of time, there may be some promise of an end to it. We have
a due regard to the actual presence of it amongst us and the difficulties of getting
rid of it in any satisfactory way . . . [but] we oppose it as an evil . . ."
As authority for saying that slavery was "wrong," Lincoln sited our nation's
founding document, the Declaration of Independence, which asserts as a "self-evident" truth that each of us is "endowed by their Creator" with unalienable rights
of life and liberty, and that government is instituted for the purpose of securing
In reporting the Lincoln-Douglas debates, the biased press of the 1850s
called Lincoln "a dead dog" walking to his "political grave," and reported
Douglas's arguments as "logical" and "powerful." Lincoln lost that Senatorial
election to Douglas. But two years later, in a rematch against Senator Douglas,
Abraham Lincoln was elected our first Republican President -- and the verdict
of history is on Lincoln's side.
"The real issue in this controversy," Lincoln said in the Alton debate, is that
the Republican Party "looks upon the institution of slavery as a wrong, and [the
Democratic Party] does not look upon it as a wrong." Lincoln proclaimed that the
slavery issue represented "the eternal struggle between these two principles --
right and wrong."
Abortion is the right-or-wrong issue of our time. We should parallel the
words of Abraham Lincoln today and say: The Republican Party looks upon
abortion as a wrong, and the Democratic Party does not look upon it as a wrong.
That's the crucial difference between the two parties.
In the 1990s, the Republican Party must not adopt the Stephen Douglas
position that a wrong Supreme Court decision is infallible and irrevocable. It is
our duty to reject the 1973 Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade, which
legalized the deliberate killing of unborn babies.
The Declaration of Independence does not mention slavery. But, in the
Galesburg debate, Lincoln pointed to the clear meaning of the Declaration's
words that "all" of us are endowed with "unalienable rights," and he challenged
Douglas that "the entire record of the world, from the date of the Declaration of
Independence up to three years ago, may be searched in vain for one single
affirmation, from one single man, that the negro was not included in the
Declaration of Independence."
Likewise, the Declaration of Independence does not mention abortion, but
you will search in vain for a single affirmation that the Creator-endowed right to
life was to be withheld from a baby until the moment of birth. Every new advance
in science, especially the DNA and the ultra-sound photographs of babies in the
womb, confirms that the unique, individual identity of each of us is present,
human, alive and growing before the mother realizes she is pregnant.
Roe v. Wade, combined with its companion case, Doe v. Bolton, legalized
the killing of the unborn baby throughout nine months of pregnancy, and that
effectively makes the baby the property of the mother. That proposition is
inconsistent with respect for individual human life.
A party platform is a standard, a banner to raise on high, to proclaim our
general principles and display our convictions. It is not legislation. Our Platform
should be strong on strategic principle, while leaving the details and the tactics
to the legislative process.
The pro-life position of the Republican Party Platform was arrived at
through the democratic process and has been consistently maintained through
seven Republican National Conventions. Speaking through its Platforms adopted
in 1976, 1980, 1984, 1988, 1992, 1996, and 2000, the Republican Party has consistently upheld the right to life of unborn babies ever since the Roe
v. Wade decision. The text has remained remarkably constant ever since 1984
and offers the voters a clear difference from the Democratic Platform.
The media clamor for Republicans to abandon -- or at least
modify -- their pro-life position. To do that would not only be wrong, it would not
only be a betrayal of our honorable tradition, but it would be politically stupid.
Since, in politics, perception is reality, waffling would be perceived as
abandonment. The Republican Party cannot afford to make the mistake
President George Bush made when he reneged on his 1988 campaign
promise ("Read my lips -- no new taxes"). More importantly, the pro-life constituency has been a major, even decisive, factor in the unprecedented
growth of the Republican Party in the 1980s and 1990s. Dozens of Republicans in
Congress were elected only because they were steadfast in their pro-life position.
Despite naive hopes, abortion cannot be removed from public controversy.
It is a moral issue because it confronts fundamental issues of right and wrong,
of life and death. It is a social issue because it goes to the most deeply held of
human relationships and our respect for the worth of our fellow human beings.
It is a political issue because, every year, dozens of bills pertaining to abortion
are introduced into the Congress and state legislatures, and public officials must
vote aye or nay on those bills.
Furthermore, abortion is a fundamental issue that affects so many other
current problems. Roe v. Wade is the fountainhead of the now-imperial federal
judiciary that has violated, not only the rights of the unborn, but American rights
of self-government. Roe has led activist federal judges to presume to overturn
state laws and referenda designed to protect babies, mothers and parents from
the most egregious demands of the abortion lobby, including partial birth
abortions. Abortion is a perennial issue in the appropriations process. The
legislative process is manipulated every year to secure the spending of
taxpayers' money for thousands of abortions.
The Republican Party must continue to uphold the principle that every
human being, born and unborn, young and old, healthy and disabled, has a
fundamental, individual right to life. Like Abraham Lincoln, we rely on the
Declaration of Independence for our authority to assert that every individual
human being has a Creator-endowed right to life, and that it is the duty of
government to protect that right. In the tradition of Abraham Lincoln, we assert
that no human being, born or unborn, can be considered the property of another,
and we repudiate the Roe v. Wade decision which presumed to give some
individuals the so-called "right" to terminate the life of others.