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History’s Yes-Man

July 25, 2000

Vice President Al Gore used to be a pro-lifer who believed — or said, anyway — that human life begins at conception. Now he favors legal abortion, even when the unborn child is fully formed and ready for birth.

In a recent interview with NBC’s Tim Russert, Gore explained that he changed his mind after talking to women and learning to understand their problems. His consciousness having been raised, he rethought his position, and somehow concluded that the beginning of life is a much more gradual process than he had believed. It’s as if he were to change his position on the dangers of the internal combustion engine after hearing drivers complain about gasoline prices.

The vagueness, awkwardness, and illogic of Gore’s explanation raise the natural suspicion that his conversion on abortion was political: when he decided to seek the Democratic presidential nomination in 1988, he realized that the prize he sought would never be given to a pro-lifer. So he changed his position.

It’s that simple — and that cynical. And Gore’s supporters aren’t bothered by his obvious insincerity. But Gore wants to disguise his new position as a rooted conviction, so until recently he tried to deny that he had ever opposed abortion, insisting falsely that he had “always” supported the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade.

[Breaker quote: Gore's 
latest Asked whether a pregnant woman should be executed, Gore, who favors capital punishment, said he needed time to think that one through. A day later, having consulted his inner circle of philosophers, he held a news conference and delivered his Solomonic answer: the woman should be able to decide whether to be executed during her pregnancy or to delay her execution until she has given birth. “The principle of a woman’s right to choose governs in that case,” he explained.

It sounds like a macabre joke, but it wasn’t. To Gore’s mind, the unborn child’s life really has no intrinsic value; only its mother’s “right to choose” is absolute, even when her own life is forfeit.

Thanks in large part to politicians like Gore, it’s now safer to be a murderer than a human fetus. The percentage of deaths of unborn children far exceeds that of murderers, because murderers enjoy many safeguards denied to the child.

If you kill an adult in cold blood, you still have rights. You are presumed innocent until proven guilty by very strict procedures and standards of evidence. You have a right to counsel, a right to a trial, a right to confront accusers and to cross-examine witnesses. If convicted, you have a right to appeal. Even then, your conviction may be overturned on a mere technicality.

Your judge and jury have to be impartial; friends and relatives of the deceased are disqualified. You can’t be convicted or sentenced by anyone who may have reason to want you dead. You may even be able to choose the method of your execution. Even if you are clearly guilty, you have rights.

The unborn child has no rights. It need not be proved guilty of anything. It has no advocate to represent its interests. It is entirely at the mercy of one person, its mother, who may want it dead. Her interests alone decide its fate; nobody who wants the child to live (such as the father) has any say in the matter. Death may be inflicted immediately, without appeal to any impartial party.

That is the difference between the rights of an unborn child and those of a murderer. Al Gore approves of this difference, though in some hypothetical cases he would allow a murderer to spare the child — not because the child has rights, but because the murderer does!

Pressed for reasons, Gore stumbles and fumbles. His political interests have trapped him into a position he can’t justify except in feminist clichés. He has no permanent standards by which to recognize a change in public morality as evil.

Gore is widely perceived as Bill Clinton’s flunky, a weak yes-man. But his real flaw is not that he always says yes to Clinton; it’s that he always says yes to new moral fashions, however monstrous. One can’t imagine him taking an unfashionable position because he believes in it. He is one of history’s yes-men.

Joseph Sobran

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