‘The Duty to Protect the Weakest and Most Vulnerable”

 

Editor’s note. Elsewhere at NRL News Today, NRLC Senior Legislative Counsel Susan T. Muskett, J.D., writes about the honor bestowed on Pro-life Rep. Chris Smith and his wife, Marie Smith, by The Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture. The following are excerpts from the remarks Congressman Smith delivered April 5 upon receiving the Evangelium Vitae Medal.

Pro-Life Congressman Chris Smith

Pro-Life Congressman Chris Smith

Special thanks to Professor Carter Snead and the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture for your faithful, disciplined and comprehensive scrutiny of some of the most vexing issues facing society. The political culture of our day is addicted to surface-appeal argument making the mission of the Center—sharing the richness of the Catholic moral and intellectual tradition—more necessary than ever. As former General Counsel to the President’s Council on Bioethics under George W. Bush, Professor Snead earned a reputation for extraordinarily deep and incisive analysis and effectiveness.

Thank you for this special honor tonight and that goes double for my wife Marie who has made an enormous, enduring difference over four decades in the struggle to defend the vulnerable. Like some of the other great leaders in the pro-life movement, Marie tenaciously, selflessly and effectively promotes the culture of life as service to God and neighbor—expecting nothing whatsoever in return.

Everyone in this room knows that we live in difficult and challenging times—some good, much of it not.

We live in an age of Orwellian-like double speak.

Today, far too many people accept euphemism over reality, convenience over sacrifice and cheap sophistry over truth.

All about us, bedrock moral and spiritual foundations seem to be cracking and crumbling with lightning speed. …

The culture of death has been a decades-long megatrend in society—slavishly promoted by many politicians for temporal gain, doctors for profit, journalists, academics, environmentalists, misguided clergy, and some human rights groups like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. The new intolerance disenfranchises the weakest, youngest, oldest and most vulnerable while masquerading as enlightened and progressive. But this evil, like any other, need not be forever.

Both my dear wife Marie and I have been in the pro-life movement for well over 40 years each. We—like you—believe the culture is changing in the right direction albeit slowly and that the younger generation is emerging as the most pro-life ever. These new faith-filled idealists including so many here at Notre Dame, take seriously our Lord’s command to treat the “least of these” as God Himself.

But much remains to be done. There are always too few laborers in the vineyard—especially those willing to take ownership of these difficult challenges. Going forward, nothing is guaranteed—things could get worse, or better depending on what we do.

So it falls to us to speak truth to power, no matter the sacrifice or cost. Silence isn’t an option. Who we elect to public office matters. More people need to recognize that politics is a calling—like other vital faith-based ministries. Systemic reform—His will be done on earth as it is in heaven—will only be achieved by persevering prayer, fasting and hard work.

It falls to us to promote and establish a sustainable culture of life both here and overseas.

Since the murder convictions last year of Dr. Kermit Gosnell, Americans are beginning to recognize an extremely ugly reality: there are Gosnells all over America—predators, child abusers and exploiters of women, making money on the pain of others. The media systematically ignores the violence and exploitation—and far too often enables it. We can’t. We are in a race to protect and mitigate risk. Someday, we will all be called to give an account before the Lord.

Abortionists are victim-makers and since 1973 more than 56 million children have been killed—a death toll that equates to the entire population of England.

The passage of time hasn’t changed the fact that abortion is a serious, lethal violation of human rights, and that women and children deserve better, and that the demands of justice, generosity and compassion require that the right to life be guaranteed to everyone.

Rather than dull our consciences to the unmitigated violence of abortion, the passage of time has only enabled us to see and better understand the cruelty of abortion and its horrific legacy—victims—while making us more determined than ever to protect the weakest and most vulnerable.

Several weeks ago, the House passed a bill that I and Illinois democratic Congressman Dan Lipinski sponsored called the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act (HR 7) designed to reverse the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) massive new public funding for abortion. No action is expected in the Senate however—not even a vote—and President Obama publicly vowed to veto it if sent to his desk.

Let’s not forget that in the run-up to passage of the Affordable Care Act, Americans were repeatedly assured by President Obama himself—including in a speech to a joint session of Congress in September of 2009—that “under our plan, no federal dollars will be used to fund abortion.”

On March 24, 2010, President Obama issued an executive order that said the Affordable Care Act “maintains current Hyde Amendment restrictions governing abortion policy and extends those restrictions to newly created health insurance exchanges.”

We now know that’s not true at all. The ACA does not—I say again does not—extend Hyde Amendment restrictions to the newly created health insurance exchanges. Public funding for abortion is embedded throughout Obamacare, it is the norm not the exception. One example: every member of congress and staff have been forced onto Obamacare. Of the 112 insurance plans available to us, 103 plans subsidize abortion on demand.

Nor are conscience rights protected. In his May 2009 Notre Dame commencement address, the President solemnly promised to respect conscience rights. He said: “Let’s honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion, and draft a sensible conscience clause…” Well, that hasn’t happened.

Astonishingly, religious freedom is now under vicious assault. I never thought that could happen here. The Catholic Church in America—and other faith based entities including individual business owners of conscience—are being coerced to violate fundamental religious tenants or face ruinous fines and penalties under the so-called HHS mandate.

Rather than honor conscience rights, the President dishonors and employs coercion. Ninety-four lawsuits have been filed against Obamacare representing over 300 plaintiffs including cases brought by the Little Sisters of the Poor and Notre Dame.

Sadly, the culture of death has made recent inroads in many parts of the world—Kenya, Uruguay, even Ireland. The United Nations (UN), Organization of American States (OAS), African Union (AU) and European Union political institutions are today seething battlegrounds in the struggle for life.

It falls to us to warn others in the world of the deception and lies so skillfully employed by the abortion industry. We need to admonish policy makers worldwide that the legacy of abortion in America has been 40 years of victims—dead babies, wounded mothers, shattered families.

Thirty years ago—on May 9, 1984—I authored the first amendment ever to a foreign aid bill to deny funding to organizations such as the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) that are complicit with China’s forced abortion and involuntary sterilization policies. It passed. After all these years, it is astonishing to me that so many policy makers remain callously indifferent or worse supportive of these massive crimes against women and children.

Not only has the Obama Administration turned a blind eye to the atrocities committed each day pursuant to China’s one child policy—a coercive policy that makes brothers and sisters illegal—but the Administration continues to financially support, contrary to US law, the UN Population Fund.

As a direct result of the Chinese government’s barbaric attack on mothers and children, tens of millions of girls are “missing”—the victims of sex-selective abortion. Because of the missing girls, China today has become the human sex trafficking magnet of the world.

I wrote America’s landmark law to combat this hideous crime—the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000—a law designed to prevent sex and labor trafficking, prosecute the traffickers and protect the victims. Under that law, China has been designated one of the most egregious sex trafficking violators in the world. Women and girls from outside China are being sold as commodities—a direct consequence of the one child policy.

Of course sex-selective abortion occurs here too. Pro-life leader Congressman Trent Franks authored legislation to outlaw sex-selective abortion that garnered a significant majority in the House.

Ditto for a bill that received a majority in the House to ban abortions on pain-capable babies—little children who suffer excruciating pain before the abortion is completed.

The Senate democratic leadership, however, unalterably opposes both bills—won’t even allow an up or down vote—and the President has said he will veto both bills if ever sent to his desk. …

Being at Notre Dame—home of the “Fighting Irish”—brings Ireland and St. Patrick to mind and some lessons we might learn from him.

St. Patrick faced huge obstacles and dangers and challenges in his day. In The Confession of St. Patrick: “So how is it that in Ireland, where they never had any knowledge of God but always, until now, cherished idols and unclean things, they have become a people of the Lord, and are called children of God.”

St. Patrick understood the power of God and His mercy to heal and restore and sanctify not only individuals and families but nations as well. The Church and the pro-life movement tirelessly reach out to post abortive women with a roadmap to healing and reconciliation. We even pray for the abortionists.

Ever humble and grateful, St. Patrick wrote that “God watched over me before I knew him, and before I learned sense or even distinguished between good and evil and He protected me and consoled me as a father would his son…Therefore I cannot keep silent…our way to repay Him is to exalt Him and confess His wonders before every nation under heaven.”

We can’t be silent either. All of us must persevere in the defense of life. We have a duty to protect.