David Mall: RIP

By Dave Andrusko

David Mall manning the National Right to Life booth at the annual NRLC National Convention.

A friend of well over 30 years passed away this week. David Mall was not only one of our Movement’s earliest intellectual giants, he also helped found Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL is National Right to Life’s state affiliate) and was executive director of Americans United for Life (AUL).

“David Mall was an important pioneer of the right to life movement and wrote some excellent books which helped shape the early thinking of the Movement’s leaders,” said Darla St. Martin, Co-Executive Director of National Right to Life.

His brother, Roger, wrote, “This was a shock to the family. David loved life and the friends, compatriots, associates and acquaintances that were part of it.”

As a friend said to me when I informed him of David’s unexpected passing, “A great loss. Two books he contributed to and helped edit, ‘New Perspectives on Human Abortion’ and ‘Death, Dying and Euthanasia,’ still sit on the bookshelf right in front of me when I work at my desk.”

David’s contribution to the latter was titled, “Death and the Rhetoric of Unknowing.” To the former, David wrote, “Toward an understanding of the abortion debate: rhetoric as a reticulate structure.”

Rhetoric was the principle subject of David’s academic work. There was, for example, “Stalemate of Rhetoric and Philosophy,” which he contributed to “Abortion and Social Justice” and the preface he wrote for “When Life and Choice Collide: Essays on Rhetoric and Abortion.”

(In an incredible coincidence I was recently going through my book shelves at National Right to Life when I ran across still another book David co-edited: “The Psychological Aspects of Abortion.”)

But David was not only an academician. My earliest involvement, which goes back to the 1970s, was with “S.O.U.L.”—Save Our Unwanted Life—a kind of precursor to Teens for Life. I learned today that David was active in that organization as well as the National Youth Pro-life Coalition. These expressions of his concern for the future of the Movement do not surprise me at all.

In his preface to the aforementioned “When Life and Choice Collide: Essays on Rhetoric and Abortion,” David laid bare his unyielding conviction that truth, if given a chance, will carry the day in the abortion debate no matter how ugly the pro-abortion ethos:

When all is said and concluded about media bias, however, one thing is certain. What is logically and ethically correct about abortion will be decided in favor of justice and love only if rhetoric is left free to assist the process of public decision making. Thomas Jefferson perhaps said it best when he wrote: ‘We are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it.’ In authoring the Declaration of Independence, he also, in turn, supplied the trade name for the right-to-life movement and spoke for all those contributing to this anthology who believe in the proposition that any idea no matter how distasteful must be give a chance to be disproved. Stripped to it essentials what this means is an unflinching belief that truth is not only stronger than falsehood but that it cannot be bested in an unhindered encounter.