Ronald Reagan, Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation

Sunday, February 6, AD 2011

There are no easy answers but there are simple answers. We must have the courage to do what we know is morally right.

Ronald Reagan

Today is my 54th birthday.  I am pleased that I share my natal day with the man I consider the greatest president of my lifetime:  Ronald Wilson Reagan, who was born one hundred years ago today in Tampico, Illinois.  I greatly admire Reagan for many reasons:  his wit, eloquence and good humor;  his prime role in bringing about the destruction of Communism as a ruling ideology in the former, how good it is to write that adjective!, Soviet Union and Eastern Europe;  his restoration of American prosperity by wringing inflation from the American economy;  his rebuilding of the nation’s defenses;  his restoration of American pride and optimism.  However, there is one stand of his that, above all others, ensures that he will always have a special place in my heart, his defense of the weakest and the most vulnerable among us, the unborn.

In 1983 Reagan submitted an essay on abortion to the Human Life Review, then and now, the scholarly heart of the pro-life movement.  He entitled it, Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation.  Go here to the Human Life Review’s website to read it.

Reagan in the article attacked Roe on its tenth anniversary and stated that Roe had not settled the abortion fight:

Make no mistake, abortion-on-demand is not a right granted by the Constitution. No serious scholar, including one disposed to agree with the Court’s result, has argued that the framers of the Constitution intended to create such a right. Shortly after the Roe v. Wade decision, Professor John Hart Ely, now Dean of Stanford Law School, wrote that the opinion “is not constitutional law and gives almost no sense of an obligation to try to be.” Nowhere do the plain words of the Constitution even hint at a “right” so sweeping as to permit abortion up to the time the child is ready to be born. Yet that is what the Court ruled.

As an act of “raw judicial power” (to use Justice White’s biting phrase), the decision by the seven-man majority in Roe v. Wade has so far been made to stick. But the Court’s decision has by no means settled the debate. Instead, Roe v. Wade has become a continuing prod to the conscience of the nation.

Reagan saw that abortion diminished respect for all human life and quoted Mother Teresa as to the simple truth that abortion is the “greatest misery of our time”:

We cannot diminish the value of one category of human life—the unborn—without diminishing the value of all human life. We saw tragic proof of this truism last year when the Indiana courts allowed the starvation death of “Baby Doe” in Bloomington because the child had Down’s Syndrome.

Many of our fellow citizens grieve over the loss of life that has followed Roe v. Wade. Margaret Heckler, soon after being nominated to head the largest department of our government, Health and Human Services, told an audience that she believed abortion to be the greatest moral crisis facing our country today. And the revered Mother Teresa, who works in the streets of Calcutta ministering to dying people in her world-famous mission of mercy, has said that “the greatest misery of our time is the generalized abortion of children.”

Continue reading...

16 Responses to Ronald Reagan, Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation

  • Thank you Larry. I will enjoy it in my customary style of celebration with my family, and thinking that 54 isn’t so old if one views it in dog years!

  • Happy Birthday, Mac!

    Happy happpenstance your birthday coincides with President Reagan’s.

    Not only a great president, Mr. Reagan, was a truly gentle and good man.

    He is much like Washington.

    They are to be emulated. We should each day resolve to be as good as these two examplars Christian mahood, who unlike some others who held the executive, were good and honest men.

    Now, get down and give us 54 pushups.

  • Ah, T. Shaw, I used to do 10 pushups a night until I was 50. Then I noticed that I was often spending a few days recuperating from the pushups, so I moved on to other exercises. Now I fear if I attempted to do 54 correct pushups, I’d never live to see 55!

  • Happy birthday to two great Americans.

    Oh man, now I sound like I should be calling to the Hannity Show.

  • Why, thank you Paul! Babe Ruth was also born on February 6, and it is nice of you to bring him up! 🙂

  • Thank you RL. Any day I get to spend with my family and not at my office is always happy enough for me! 🙂

  • A huge THANK YOU! Ronald Reagan had it right–he understood what America is truly all about–He needs to be remembered among other American “greats”–like Washington and Lincoln.

  • Happy Birthday Don.

    54 eh ? Still some very good years ahead – even if you can do only 5 pushups.( Don’t like to boast, but when I was 54 I was still doing 30 + per day 😉 )

    You share your birthday with the NZ National Day, known as Waitangi Day – when in 1840 many of the maori chiefs of NZ signed the Treaty of Waitangi, ceding sovereignty of NZ to the British crown. (Although today, amny maori claim that this was not the case, and there have been growing radicalisation and protest at Waitnagi every year, so much so that the bulk of NZ pakeha (European descent kiwis) and many conservative maori are getting a gutful of it and are starting to call for a different day to mark as a

  • Don’t know what happened there – wordpress apeared to cut me off.

    To continue…..
    are starting to call for a different day to mark our national day.

    And this day last year, my dear mum died after a fall. Mum always had the ability to pick the appropriate moment for an entrance or departure and she certainly chose well a year ago. Or should I say, the Lord ensured she had an auspicious exit. 🙂

    So after a hiccoughed comment, again, happy birthday Don. I’ll have a beer for you, and perhaps even a coke (without the rum).
    Kia kaha. (stay strong)

  • I recall reading some time ago that Reagan was originally not phased about abortion, but later changed his mind to being strongly pro-life, and I seem to recall reading a letter he wrote – perhaps embodied in this post – which explained his change of heart.

    During his presidency, Reagan was much maligned by sections of the press, and I recall our press down here were in the van of that criticism, and many, including myself initially, followed that vein of thought. However, when he commenced his co-operation with JP II in his condemnation of comunism and actively working to defeat it, I started to see him in a different light, and radically changed my opinion of him.

    He was certainly a great American. It is a pity that his attempt to overturn Roe v Wade was unsuccessful. That piece of disgusting legislation was the trigger that opened the floodgates and the rest of the western world rushed madly after the US, not the least here in Godzone, and it is a huge stain on our society – around 25% od pregnancies in this country end in abortion – around 18,000 per year. I pray that the USA wiill find a way to eradicate Roe v Wade from there statute books, so that the rest of the world can follow again, this time for right.

  • Thank you for the kind birthday wishes Don! 30 pushups, eh? I doubt if I’ve been able to do that since I turned 40!

    In regard to Reagan, in 67 he signed a liberal California abortion law. He agonized over it, but ultimately signed it with restrictions because he feared that the legislature would pass one without those restrictions. Here is a section of a letter he wrote to Congressman Henry Hyde on the subject in 1976:

    “The only circumstance under which I felt [abortion] could be justified was self-defense, a concept deeply rooted in our laws and traditions. If a mother’s life is endangered by her own unborn child, she has a right to protect her life. I do not believe, however, that abortion of a less-than-perfect child, or abortion for convenience sake or abortion because “a mistake” has been made can be justified.

    The bill I signed followed the self-defense concept. As time was to prove, however, it contained one flaw. The self-defense concept also included a provision in cases where a mother’s mental health might be irreparably damaged. This required professional certification, but as we were to learn, it became subject to very liberal interpretation by some psychiatrists to justify abortions that should not have been made.”

    Reagan was a proud man and hated to admit a mistake, but he frequently acknowledged that signing the 67 abortion law was one of the biggest mistakes of his life.

  • Here is more on Reagan and the 67 California abortion law:

    “For Reagan, one good thing did come out of this disappointment. As Georgetown’s Matt Sitman notes, “It is impossible to understand his later staunchly pro-life positions without grasping the lessons he learned from this early political battle.” Reagan, says Sitman, survived the ordeal with a “profoundly intellectual understanding of the abortion issue…. It was in 1967 that his ideas concerning the beginning of human life were fully formed.” He now had a cogent understanding, politically and morally, of abortion and its implications.

    Reagan would later denounce abortion so strongly and so frequently from the Oval Office that Bill Clark has compiled a 45-page document of Reagan’s quotes on abortion, collected from the official Presidential Papers. Reagan even authored a small book — Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation, featuring contributions from Bill Clark, Malcolm Muggeridge, and Mother Teresa — that was published by the Human Life Foundation in 1984. White House moderates wanted Reagan to delay publication until after the 1984 election, fearing it would turn off pro-choice Republicans, but Reagan refused. He would not be burned again on abortion. No more compromises.”

  • Happy belated birthday, Don, to you and to President Reagan. I concur with Paul on this one: two “great Americans”.


  • Thank you Jay. I agree with you as to Reagan!