by Cathy Cleaver
January 12, 2001
President-elect Bush announced the names of those he wanted for his Cabinet, and immediately the media focused on its physical characteristics. There must be women to show gender diversity. There must be minorities to show ethnic diversity, and there must be a sufficient variety of ethnicities. And although it would be the Cabinet of a Republican Administration, there must be Democrats to show political diversity. But when the President-elect chose Senator John Ashcroft from Missouri for Attorney General, pandemonium broke loose from the champions of diversity. Diversity, it seems, has its limits: There must be "pro-choicers" but pro-lifers must be excluded. Welcome to the establishment's new bigotry.
People promoted for public service are now mocked for their pro-life views, as if no thinking person could be pro-life. Those who pledge to defend Roe v. Wade are held up for praise, while those who defend the fundamental human rights of all persons equally, including unborn children, are regarded as, well, un-American. Now, one must not only discriminate against a class of persons, but must oppose anyone who regards them as worthy of equal treatment. Scorn the unborn, and scorn those who won't scorn them.
One of Ashcroft's strongest critics, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), opined recently in the New York Times that Ashcroft's pro-life beliefs call into question his fitness to be Attorney General. "It is entirely legitimate," said Schumer, "to explore whether a nominee for attorney general holds views that would disable him from enforcing and defending the laws of the land" and urged the Judiciary Committee through hearings to "illuminate whether the nominee's views . . . put him so far out of the mainstream that we would have little confidence in his ability to enforce and uphold these laws." Since Ashcroft "freely admits" he is pro-life, the "obvious question," says Schumer, is "will Mr. Ashcroft devote adequate resources to enforcing federal laws that criminalize violence at abortion clinics?" It is a question "obvious" only to those who subscribe to the belief that to be pro-life is to make one incapable of holding public office. What does this say for pro-life judges? Or prosecutors? Or police officers?
A decade ago diversity in politics was called the "big tent" model. But don't forget that it was a pro-life tent that was to be expanded to include those who held a "pro-choice" view. Indeed, the tent poles were pro-life principles. It cannot be any other way. The latest in bigotry would erase this history and, if it can be done, drive pro-lifers from their own tent.
As we begin a new millennium, and as we mark Roe v. Wade's 28th year of utter contempt for the most innocent and vulnerable among us, let us keep in mind the words of the U.S. Catholic Bishops in Living the Gospel of Life: "[F]or citizens and elected officials alike, the basic principle is simple: We must begin with a commitment never to intentionally kill, or collude in the killing, of any innocent human life, no matter how broken, unformed, disabled or desperate that life may seem."
Those seeking public office should be encouraged in their commitment to respect and defend every human life without discrimination. Isn't that a welcome attribute in a person who seeks the public's trust?
Cathy Cleaver is the Director of Information and Planning for the Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops