WASHINGTON, D.C. – Sen. Orrin Hatch spoke on the Senate floor Thursday regarding the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision.
A press statement released by Hatch’s office Thursday referred to Roe v. Wade as having a “tragic legacy.”
Among his comments to the Senate, Hatch said:
Two nights ago, in his State of the Union Address, President Obama spoke about the values that are at stake in the public policy choices we must make. Is there any value more important than life itself? He spoke about expanding opportunities for individuals, but the first opportunity that must be secured is the opportunity for life itself. For many, the right to abortion is a symbol of progress. However, the idea that an act resulting in killing a living human being should be held up as a step forward, as a light to guide our way strikes me as deeply misguided. We should instead be deepening the conviction that all human beings have inherent dignity and worth. That has been and should remain the foundation for our culture, society, and even our politics.
Full text of Hatch’s speech as prepared
Mr./Mdm. President, today is the anniversary of a tragedy. Forty-two years ago today, the Supreme Court announced its creation of a right to abortion for virtually any reason at virtually any time. The result of that decision is a tragedy for our society, for our culture, and for each precious life lost.
Since even before America’s founding, the law was on a steady march toward protecting human beings before birth. Through the 19th century, medical professionals and civil rights activists led a movement that succeeded in prohibiting abortion in every state except to save the mother’s life. America had reached a consensus on the importance of protecting the most vulnerable.
Unfortunately, the Supreme Court swept all of that aside, imposing upon the country a permissive abortion regime that the American people, to this day, have never chosen or accepted.
The debate over the morality, legality, or policy of abortion begins with one inescapable fact. Every abortion kills a living human being. Many have tried mightily to avoid, obscure, distract from, or ignore that fact but it will not go away. Every abortion kills a living human being. That fact informed President Ronald Reagan when he wrote a moving essay titled Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation in 1983. He wrote: “We cannot diminish the value of one category of human life – the unborn – without diminishing the value of all human life.”
The real question, President Reagan said, is not about when human life begins but about the value of human life. I believe that remains the real question today.
Today, the United States is one of only seven nations in the world to allow abortion into the sixth month of pregnancy and beyond. That list of nations includes such champions of human rights as China and North Korea. Yet the United States in 1948 voted in favor of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which recognizes in its preamble the inherent dignity and inalienable rights of “all members of the human family.” Article 3 of the declaration states that “everyone has the right to life.”
Words such as universal and inherent and all are unambiguous and clear. Our embrace of the inherent dignity and worth of all human beings in 1948 stands in jarring contrast to the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe just 25 years later that the life of any human being may be ended before birth.
The Supreme Court might have thought in 1973 that it was settling the abortion issue. By 1992, however, the Court conceded that the rules it created in Roe simply did not work and issued revised regulations in a case titled Planned Parenthood v. Casey. The Court said that the contending sides in the abortion controversy should “end their national division by accepting a common mandate rooted in the Constitution.”
National division on any issue, let alone one so profound as the taking and the value of human life, will not end simply because the Supreme Court says so. The division over abortion not only continues, but has remained largely unchanged even after dozens of Supreme Court decisions and four decades of insisting that abortion is a constitutional right. The Supreme Court can render opinions on constitutionality, but it is limited in its ability to forge lasting consensus—that is the provenance of our great deliberative bodies where the people are truly represented.
More than 70 percent of Americans believe that abortion should be illegal in most or all circumstances. That figure has not changed in 40 years. What has changed is that more Americans today identify themselves as pro-life than pro-choice. Large majorities favor a range of limitations on abortion and last November elected scores of new pro-life legislators at both the state and federal level.
Mr./Mdm. President, we must not avoid the fundamental question of the value of human life, for no question is more important. Do we still, as we once did, believe that every human being has inherent dignity and worth? Two nights ago, in his State of the Union Address, President Obama spoke about the values that are at stake in the public policy choices we must make. Is there any value more important than life itself? He spoke about expanding opportunities for individuals, but the first opportunity that must be secured is the opportunity for life itself.
For many, the right to abortion is a symbol of progress. However, the idea that an act resulting in killing a living human being should be held up as a step forward, as a light to guide our way strikes me as deeply misguided. We should instead be deepening the conviction that all human beings have inherent dignity and worth. That has been and should remain the foundation for our culture, society, and even our politics.
In his 1983 essay, President Reagan wrote that “we cannot survive as a free nation when some men decide that others are not fit to live and should be abandoned to abortion.” Today’s tragic anniversary is a reminder of how our nation’s survival depends on respecting the essential dignity and worth of every individual. Resting in the balance is how we ultimately define who we are as a people and what we strive to be as a nation.
Submitted by the Offices of Sen. Orrin Hatch
Ed. note: Updated to include the full text of Hatch’s remarks and a link to video of the speech.
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