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Mistaken identity

Commentary from American Life League president Judie Brown

Have you ever had an "I think I know you, but I can't recall your name" moment when you see a familiar face at a gathering? And even worse, have you said, "Hi, Jane," only to blush in embarrassment at the reply, "I'm sorry but my name's Ruth"? It's certainly an uncomfortable moment. But after the initial embarrassment, it always turns out fine.

But what happens when an "I think I know you" moment happens among organizations that all claim to have the same goal? What happens when the face we think we know turns out to belong to a total stranger?

For many years there has been a sort of subdued, yet perceptible disagreement among factions in the pro-life movement. We all claim to be headed down the same road, but actions speak a whole lot louder than words. So there have been numerous times when I've had to ask whether "pragmatism" was really working – or "incrementalism," or whatever other "ism" our pro-life cousins have attempted to pursue.

Recently, however, it became clear that the time for quiet consternation was over. The occurrence that caused this change in attitude is, to my mind, both shocking and gravely disturbing.

On July 29, Senator Bill Frist announced that he had "changed his mind" and decided to support human embryonic stem cell research. This physician-turned-politician claimed that scientists need to pursue the "truly magnificent, truly remarkable properties" of stem cells taken from days-old human embryos.

As a point of information, human embryonic stem cell research can only be done by killing innocent boys and girls in the embryonic stage of development. So while Frist claims this research will save human beings' lives, he ignores the fact that it always begins with a sacrifice of other human beings.

In response to this "change," the National Right to Life Committee made the following statement on July 29:


National Right to Life is very disappointed that Senator Frist has expressed support for a bill that would mandate federal funding of research that requires the killing of human embryos, which National Right to Life opposes. It is worth noting, however, that Senator Frist also stated that the creation of human embryos by cloning should be banned, and we call on the Senate to pass such a ban promptly, in order to prevent human embryo farms from springing up in the United States.

My initial reaction to this was horror, which turned to anger, which turned to sorrow. The National Right to Life Committee took yet another step in their quest to get a wink from the "stars" (i.e., the Beltway political power brokers). Rather than having the courage to criticize a Republican, they chose to sell out the babies.

How could NRLC say that anything is "worth noting" when a United States senator turns his back on the most vulnerable members of the human family and chooses to support their direct killing? Why pander to a clearly pro-death pronouncement by this Republican senator? Why not excoriate him for his abuse of power? Why not challenge his warped sense of science?

The answer to all these questions is the same. The National Right to Life Committee has chosen to play politics with the big boys. They've been doing it for years. But now they have gone too far. They have publicly excused a man who is willing to permit the wholesale slaughter of innocent human beings for the vacuous promise of "magnificent" research that is, at its core, unethical and immoral. Senator Frist is not pro-life. Nobody who has studied his record would have ever made that connection.

My question is more fundamental, however: Just how pro-life life is the National Right to Life Committee?

NRLC has been around a long time and they've convinced millions of pro-lifers – especially pro-life Catholics – that they are 100 percent pro-life and they will never compromise on even one baby's life.

However, NRLC is corrupting the very meaning of the term pro-life. A human being is a person the instant his life begins, be it in a petri dish or safely within his mother. There is no such thing as an expendable human being. How can you say you genuinely care about all the babies when you publicly make excuses for a man who doesn't mind condoning their direct killing?

"Pro-life" is not a term defining degrees of attitude. You are either for or against the killing of the innocent. It is really quite simple.

It grieves me that so many good pro-life Americans actually think that NRLC is unflinching in its defense of the babies. Every year, thousands of good people offer their prayers, their efforts and their hard-earned money to an organization they believe will aid in bringing about a culture of life.

The next time you hear someone from the National Right to Life Committee proudly claim "another important victory," sit down and think real hard and see if you can convince yourself that even one baby in the womb is going to be saved as a result of that claim. Think about the thousands of embryonic children who are dying because NRLC's friends, like Senator Bill Frist, can condone murder and still get a "wink" from their pals.

There are some 1.3 million preborn babies killed annually in America by a variety of surgical methods. There are even more than that dying because of human embryo research and deadly types of birth control. As long as powerful organizations like NRLC continue to put politics ahead of principle – and refuse to face the truth about abortion-causing methods of birth control – babies will continue to die at alarming rates.

It's time to make a distinction between those who prefer politics to principle and those who speak with conviction and never count the cost.

The unity pro-life Americans hope for is not based on ignoring, avoiding or overlooking travesties against principle. To be pro-life is to be united in our genuine commitment to babies, not politicians. To be pro-life is to be courageous in our unified efforts to expose unethical, immoral, evil practices that are never, in any case, regardless of the excuse, acceptable.

Is National Right to Life's recent announcement surprising? No, it's to be expected. It's part of a long pattern. But it's time for their frivolous, irresponsible embrace of all that is Republican to stop.

For too long the folks at NRLC have introduced themselves as 100 percent pro-life and gotten away with it. If there ever was a case of mistaken identity, this has got to be it. Once again, it seems more important for the National Right to Life Committee to be pro-Republican than to be pro-life.

Pro-life activism is not about party politics. It's about babies. Period.

Release issued: 22 Aug 05