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FIRST-PERSON: Partial birth abortion, the law and morality

McMINNVILLE, Ore. (BP)–President George W. Bush called the U.S. Senate’s overwhelming passage of a bill banning the atrocious procedure known as partial birth abortion “an important step toward building a culture of life in America.” The president was right in his assessment.

The House of Representatives must still ratify the bill (and it will). From there the legislation will land on the president’s desk, where he will sign it into law.

Then the “fun” will really begin, as it will only be a matter of time before the legislation is challenged in a court of law. No matter the initial judicial decisions concerning the ban on partial birth abortion, it will be appealed to the Supreme Court. The step will be complete only if the highest court in the land agrees that a baby, only inches away from living outside his or her mother’s womb, has a right to the most fundamental of all rights, the right to life.

If the Supreme Court does hold that partial birth abortion should be unlawful in America, many more steps will have to be taken until abortion on demand is a memory. However, the journey toward a culture that respects life begins with an initial step. At the very least, the Senate has placed one foot in front of the other in passing the ban on partial birth abortion.

The president understands what we all should grasp, and that is that all law includes, in the words of philosopher Os Guinness, the “twin elements of assumption” (certain underlying beliefs rather than other ones) and “exclusion” (this behavior, not that). Thus all law is the imposition of morality. The debate in current American politics is quite simply over whose morality will become law.

The senators who voted in favor of banning partial birth abortion made the assumption, in some shape, form or fashion, that a “fetus” inches away from entirely exiting the uterus is a baby, a living being, a person. Thus they agreed that it is wrong to allow a procedure allowing a baby to be partially delivered only to have his or her skull punctured with a sharp instrument and then his or her brains sucked out.

Even if legislators were agreeing with the ban on partial birth abortion only on the grounds that it is inhumane, it would be a step in the right direction toward respecting human life. If dogs, cats, or any other “non-human companions” were so treated, animal rights activists would have an apoplectic fit.

For almost a decade lawmakers have been trying to take this small step toward re-establishing the respect for life that was undermined by the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. Twice President Clinton vetoed bans on partial birth abortion; a third attempt was derailed in 2000 when the Supreme Court invalidated a Nebraska ban; a fourth effort was blocked in 2002 by Senate Democrats.

The Senate’s passage of what likely will become the first federal restrictions on abortion is a significant step toward a culture that sees human life as special and unique. If the Supreme Court will exercise sound judicial and moral judgment, then perhaps the ban on partial birth abortion will become one small step against all abortion and one giant leap for the sanctity of life.
Boggs is pastor of Valley Baptist Church, McMinnville, Ore.

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  • Kelly Boggs