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No Profile in Courage

by | Dec 31, 2011

By Dave Andrusko

The late Senator Ted Kennedy

In a little over three weeks, we will (alas) commemorate the 39th anniversary of the wretched Roe v. Wade decision. If you are a grizzled old veteran of the Movement like me, you will recall that in the early days after the 1973 decision there were many, many Democrats who were passionately and vocally pro-life. Now they are as rare as hen’s teeth in Congress.

There are several points/goals/objectives in an editorial opinion that appeared yesterday in the Boston Globe, written by Matthew Storin, the Globe’s editor from 1992-2001. But for pro-lifers the preeminent consideration is that we will never know why the late Senator Edward Kennedy became a ferocious pro-abortion demagogue after making at least some gestures early in his career that suggested he was pro-life.

It is my impression that few people who were around in those days believe that Kennedy was authentic pro-life. This distinguishes him from the Rev. Jesse Jackson who was so pro-life that he wrote “How We Respect Life is over-riding moral issue” for National Right to Life News. That essay is as inspiring today as it was when it appeared on page five of the January 1977 issue.

After explaining that all can “come to the mercy seat and find forgiveness and acceptance” for having had an abortion, Jackson asks what happens if we become “so hard-hearted and so indifferent to life” that we assume “that there is nothing for which to be forgiven?” He continued,

“What happens to the mind of a person, and the moral fabric of a nation that accepts the abortion of the life of a baby without a pang of conscience? What kind of person, and what kind of society, will we have 20 years hence if life can be taken so casually?”

Tragically, as Jackson became an influential player in Democratic Party politics, Jackson pitched his pro-life convictions overboard.

Storin was a reporter for the Globe in 1970 and he wrote yesterday about following Kennedy on a long-day of campaigning. (Kennedy was running for a second term as senator.) Kennedy ‘s opponent that year was a pro-abortion Republican, Josiah Spaulding. Storin writes about an impromptu debate that ensued that day.

“Spaulding favored legalizing abortion, which was then outlawed in Massachusetts and nearly every other state. Kennedy, in a booming voice that would become more familiar to voters in future years, lashed out at Spaulding, Referring to adoption, he said, ‘Don’t tell me there’s not enough love in the world to take care of all the babies that are born.’  I had never seen him so worked up on an issue.

“Earlier that month on ‘Meet the Press,’ he had asserted that a ‘fetus has some rights,’ including ‘the right to life.’’’

Storin concludes his column by saying no one he talked to about this professed to know Kennedy’s personal views on abortion or why he changed (assuming his earlier comments were sincere). His explanation is between the lines—“[T]he dynamics of the abortion issue were beginning to change.” In New York, a very liberal abortion law was passed in 1970; Roe was three years away.

Storin turns to pro-abortion former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo who was an early and most [in]famous practitioners of the “personally pro-life but” position. However “Kennedy never publicly echoed Cuomo, who said he was personally against abortion but determined it was not a practical interdiction to be applied to society as a whole,” Storin adds.

What we do know is that as the years passed Kennedy’s pro-abortion monologues grew increasingly fiery, indeed it would be fair to characterize them as hysterical. His assault on Supreme Court nominee Judge Robert Bork—his confirmation would lead to “a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions’’–is painful to read even now, especially in light of Bork’s failure to win confirmation. (As Joe Nocera observed a few months ago, “The Atlanta Journal-Constitution coined the angry verb ‘to bork,’ which meant to destroy a nominee by whatever means necessary.”)

At this point in history the Democratic Party is as strongly pro-abortion as the Republican Party is staunchly pro-life. There is no way of telling, of course, the impact the brother of President John F. Kennedy could have had if he had stayed the course.

But what we can say (to borrow the title of President Kennedy’s book) is that Ted Kennedy’s behavior was no Profile in Courage.

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