Sunday, January 21, 2007

Each January from all corners of the nation, hundreds of thousands descend upon the nation’s capital. They come — often in freezing conditions — for a most significant march on Washington. They come for the March for Life on the anniversary of the tragic Supreme Court decisions in Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton that made abortion legal during all nine months of pregnancy.

Youth is the most remarkable feature of the gathered, peaceful crowd. Observing the sea of people, you see faces of all colors and creeds; you see the young and the old; you see hope; you see cheerfulness; you see energy. Most of all though, you see the youth. Such a sight will disabuse most anyone of the notion that old men or politicians are the leaders of this movement. The young are the driving force. They will not stop coming; they are paying attention to the actions of their elected leaders; and they want a change in policy.

The youth understand that a large number of their generation were aborted before they ever had a chance in life. Since the tragic 1973 Supreme Court cases of Roe and Doe, more than 40 million of their peers’ lives have been snuffed out because of abortion.The youth know that one of those 40 million could have been their spouse, and, for some, they realize that they too came very close to being one of the 40 million.

Life is beautiful. One’s value is not contingent upon external features, such as one’s bank account, one’s successes or one’s lineage. A human being’s value is intrinsic, not earned. Without this basic moral understanding, few of our laws would make much sense. Laws against murder, for instance, would fail to make sense if we did not deem human life to be intrinsically valuable and worthy of protection.

Rather than choose an arbitrary starting point for valuing human life, we should go to the point when life begins. For this, science gives us clear understanding of when a new human life begins. Science tells us that life begins at the moment of conception, when the combination of 23 chromosomes from each pronucleus results in the 46 chromosomes present in the zygote embryo. From the moment of conception onward, a new human being is present until that life is ended in a laboratory, by an abortionist, or at some point after birth. Sadly, our current life-related policy in the United States ignores science, choosing capricious points at which to protect innocent human life. Our current policy is inconsistent, defying both logic and decency.

In the past Congress, had Republicans come out of the gate on issues central to advancing the cause of life, there is little doubt that values voters would have been inspired. Instead, in November, Republican majorities in both houses of Congress were swept from power, in part, according to some commentators, by the fact that frustrated values voters were unmotivated. The election was not a repudiation of the values for which Republicans stand; it was a repudiation of Republican performance when it came to living up to those values. As one example, consider that in the Senate the first Republican-initiated vote on abortion did not take place until late in the Congress with passage of the Fetus Farming Prohibition Act in July 2006; and this was followed by a vote on commonsense parental-notification legislation right before the election. The voters are well-educated and it was obvious to them that the past Congress did not share their priorities, except when it was close to election time.

Americans are a life-loving people. They always have been. Whether Republicans are returned to power by the voters will in large part depend upon whether Republicans embrace a Culture of Life both philosophically and in practice. The voters are watching.

I have great confidence that the leadership of our party will embrace the culture of life more consistently, and I am hopeful that they will, even from the minority, help us chart a course to find ways to get pro-life policies enacted. These are policies that are embraced by the majority of Americans. This past election was a wake-up call for pro-lifers, and the extent to which Republicans act with constancy and integrity will determine when the pro-life party of Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan is returned to the majority.

Sen. Sam Brownback, Kansas Republican, is the ranking member on the Joint Economic Committee, Financial Services Committee and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee. He also chairs the Senate Values Action Team and co-chairs the Human Rights Caucus.

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