37th anniversary of “Sanctity of Human Life” Sunday, January 17, rapidly approaching

“Abortion has denied them the first and most basic of human rights, and we are infinitely poorer for their loss” — Ronald Reagan

By Dave Andrusko

My great admiration for pro-life President Ronald Reagan’s eloquence and powers of persuasion is no secret to even casual readers of NRL News Today. I have written about those qualities dozens of times, often in the context of his extraordinary essay turned into a small book, “The Conscience of a Nation,” but also in his proclamation of the national “Sanctity of Human Life Sunday.”

The date is always the Sunday closest to the anniversary of the January 22, 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. This year, it is January 17.

President Reagan’s genius was an uncanny capacity for cutting through superficialities to get to the core issues. Mr. Reagan demonstrated that the abortion fight is not over when life begins–that was old hat even in the early 1980s. Everyone understood that human life begins at conception. The divide was over what value we place on that vulnerable life.

President Reagan understood fully that in the final analysis we either accept or ascribe. That is, as a nation we either accept that our equality before the law is an endowment to all of us from our Creator, or we hold that we can ascribe worth/value/protection of the law to whomever we please, based on some arbitrary criteria we dream up.

Another way of saying this is that President Reagan believed fervently in the equality of life ethic while pro-abortionists subscribe to the quality of life ethic.

In 1984, President Ronald Reagan designated Sunday, January 22, as Sanctity of Human Life Day. This proclamation was another example of his ability to prod our conscience, of how he could gently offer reminders that we are in this together.

The opening paragraph captures the distilled essence of the pro-life commitment to the equality of all life, not just to the planned and the perfect:

The values and freedoms we cherish as Americans rest on our fundamental commitment to the sanctity of human life. The first of the “unalienable rights” affirmed by our Declaration of Independence is the right to life itself, a right the Declaration states has been endowed by our Creator on all human beings — whether young or old, weak or strong, healthy or handicapped.

To President Reagan, as it was/is to all pro-lifers, legal protection is not doled out, based on power rankings. Every single one of us comes before the bar of justice as equals (there’s that word again).

Rather than paraphrase President Reagan’s 1984 message, and rob it of its power, let me quote his remarks in their entirety:

Since 1973, however, more than 15 million [now over 62 million] unborn children have died in legalized abortions — a tragedy of stunning dimensions that stands in sad contrast to our belief that each life is sacred. These children, over tenfold the number of Americans lost in all our Nation’s wars, will never laugh, never sing, never experience the joy of human love; nor will they strive to heal the sick, or feed the poor, or make peace among nations. Abortion has denied them the first and most basic of human rights, and we are infinitely poorer for their loss.

We are poorer not simply for lives not led and for contributions not made, but also for the erosion of our sense of the worth and dignity of every individual. To diminish the value of one category of human life is to diminish us all. Slavery, which treated Blacks as something less than human, to be bought and sold if convenient, cheapened human life and mocked our dedication to the freedom and equality of all men and women. Can we say that abortion — which treats the unborn as something less than human, to be destroyed if convenient — will be less corrosive to the values we hold dear?

We have been given the precious gift of human life, made more precious still by our births in or pilgrimages to a land of freedom. It is fitting, then, on the anniversary of the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade that struck down State anti-abortion laws, that we reflect anew on these blessings, and on our corresponding responsibility to guard with care the lives and freedoms of even the weakest of our fellow human beings.

Now, Therefore, I, Ronald Reagan, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim Sunday, January 22, 1984, as National Sanctity of Human Life Day. I call upon the citizens of this blessed land to gather on that day in homes and places of worship to give thanks for the gift of life, and to reaffirm our commitment to the dignity of every human being and the sanctity of each human life.

In Witness Whereof, I have hereunto set my hand this 13th day of January, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and eighty-four, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and eighth.

                                                — Ronald Reagan