Ever Been, Pro-Life?
by Cathleen A. Cleaver, Esq.
August 29, 2003
Today, federal judges have the power to shape the culture. But it was not meant to be this way.
Article III, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution says that the "judicial power" extends to all cases in law and equity "arising under this Constitution, the laws of the United States, and Treaties." The idea was that federal courts were to review cases to determine whether federal laws had been violated or constitutional provisions had been infringed. Impartiality was to be of paramount importance in the countenance of a federal judge, and the mechanics of applying the facts to the law, while tricky at times, was on the order of the mundane and not the sublime. In other words, there was no need for "big thinkers" on the court -- philosophers need not apply.
Indeed, Alexander Hamilton in Federalist No. 78 said that, "from the nature of its functions," the judiciary "will always be the least dangerous to the political rights of the constitution" -- less dangerous than the executive or legislature because it will have the least "capacity" to "injure" those rights. Yet, when you look at the pain and suffering and destruction caused by thirty years of Roe v. Wade it is impossible to believe that this is true today.
Now consider the current judicial nomination debate. Abortion advocates and their allies in the U.S. Senate have embraced a form of "pro-abortion McCarthyism" to disqualify nominees for the federal courts based on their pro-life beliefs. The very people who cry foul when they perceive a litmus test being used by pro-lifers are now pushing one of their own. And since roughly half of Americans call themselves "pro-life" today, their approach radically diminishes the nominee pool, if not the process itself.
Recently Senator Charles Schumer criticized 11th Circuit nominee Attorney General Bill Pryor's "deeply held beliefs" about Roe v. Wade and abortion. Would deeply held beliefs in favor of Roe trouble Schumer? The notion is absurd. Schumer and his colleagues probe nominees to determine whether they satisfy the required, irreducible minimum: personal allegiance to Roe-style abortion.
Scrutiny of an individual's personal philosophy or beliefs was never intended to be the appropriate test for a judgeship. Judges are not meant to make law. They are not meant to be philosophers.
The Declaration of Independence holds certain truths to be self-evident, among them, the truth that all people are endowed by their Creator with the unalienable right to life. The irony today is that, according to some members of the U.S. Senate, belief in the principles of the Declaration -- belief in an unalienable right to life -- is grounds for denying people the opportunity to serve their country as a federal judge.
To demand as a condition for public office obeisance to Roe and its radical approach to abortion is to demean all who believe in the inherent dignity of every human person, and in society's responsibility to its weakest members. It is difficult to believe that there is no room on the bench for those who believe that abortion does not serve a nation as great and as good as ours, that women deserve better than abortion, and that every child deserves a chance to be born.
Cathleen Cleaver, Esq. is the director of planning and information for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities.