The Human Life Amendment

Critics are pounding all over the Republican platform. Their target: its anti-abortion plank. Last week the White House press secretary charged that Republican candidate Bob Dole "caved" to the "very extreme anti-choice point of view." He described the Republican position as "an unrelenting, intolerant assault on a woman's right to choose." And to judge by press accounts, one would think the Republican convention is under siege by the Ayatollahs of the Far Right. It's time to get a few facts straight. First, the Republican's anti-abortion stance is nothing new. Back in 1972 when I helped manage Richard Nixon's re-election campaign, we were stridently pro-life, attacking George McGovern for his pro-abortion stance. Then in 1980 the Republicans adopted a party platform calling for a human life amendment to the Constitution--a plank reaffirmed in 1984, 1988, and 1992. That social conservatives are today trying to impose their own views on the Republican Party is simply not true. They are merely preserving a moral vision with which the Republicans have won for nearly three decades. Second, support for a human life amendment does not mean by-passing the democratic process. Quite the contrary. Passing a constitutional amendment would achieve a restoration of the democratic process, for ratification will involve an extended, formal process by which the people, not the courts, can decide the most divisive issue of our time. It could be a national referendum on the legal status of unborn children. Once passed, the issue would then be mediated in the state houses where it belongs. What could be more democratic than that? Finally, the claim that the human life amendment would instantly ban all abortions is preposterous. A constitutional amendment is not a criminal law. It confers certain rights which then become the basis for various laws. All it does is specifically bring unborn children--as well as the infirm and elderly--under the protections of the Fourteenth Amendment. It would forbid state action depriving the unborn of life without due process of law. How could anything be more American than this? Protecting unalienable rights is the very best of the American tradition. By contrast, the current regime of unrestricted abortion is anything but democratic. It was imposed on the nation by a judicial fiat of nine appointed justices. They arrogantly assumed they could deal better with the complexity of the abortion issue than the collective wisdom of freely elected legislatures of the 50 states. All the noise about "tolerance" by pro-choice Republican politicians is a ruse. A human life amendment would remove the straitjacket the courts have imposed on public debate, allowing the abortion issue to be resolved by the democratic process. The result of all this misinformation is that weak-kneed politicians sound almost ashamed of their party's platform. If the Republicans were smart, they would turn it into a political asset. The human life amendment represents a very decent, democratic solution to a national tragedy. You and I ought not to be defensive. In the face of so much distortion, we need to help set the record straight.


Chuck Colson


  • Facebook Icon in Gold
  • Twitter Icon in Gold
  • LinkedIn Icon in Gold

Sign up for the Daily Commentary