In the 1997 movie Amistad about the true story of African slaves who mutinied on the slave ship carrying them to America, President John Quincy Adams delivers a stemwinder to the United Sates Supreme Court on behalf of the slaves:
“James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington… John Adams. We’ve long resisted asking you for guidance. Perhaps we have feared in doing so, we might acknowledge that our individuality, which we so, so revere, is not entirely our own. Perhaps we’ve feared an… an appeal to you might be taken for weakness. But, we’ve come to understand, finally, that this is not so. We understand now, we’ve been made to understand, and to embrace the understanding… that who we are IS who we were. We desperately need your strength and wisdom to triumph over our fears, our prejudices, ourselves. Give us the courage to do what is right. And if it means civil war? Then let it come. And when it does, may it be, finally, the last battle of the American Revolution.”
We fought that Civil War not long after Adams spoke those words, a war finally precipitated by the same Supreme Court in the infamous Dred Scott decision, a war that ended the national tragedy that was slavery.
That same Supreme Court went on to enshrine in law the segregation laws of the South in Plessy v. Ferguson, enshrine eugenic sterilization of the developmentally disabled under Buck v. Bell, enshrine concentration camps for Japanese-American citizens during WWII in Koramatsu v. United States, and finally enshrined abortion in Roe v. Wade.
Again and again the injustice of this Court has poisoned the body politic and torn this nation asunder. Again and again people have marched, and clashed, and spilled one another’s blood in senseless fratricide.
Justice has always prevailed, but never before the effusion of much blood. So it is with abortion.
In New York State, a bill may come to vote before next Friday’s recess of the legislature, the so-called “Reproductive Health & Privacy Protection Act”
• Promote late-term abortions of fully-formed infants
• Authorize non-physicians to perform abortions
• Lift the current age restriction on over-the-counter sales of the “morning-
• Thwart any efforts to involve parents in the abortion decisions of their
In addition, it could:
• Compel hospitals, including Catholic hospitals, to allow abortion
• Compel schools and charitable agencies to facilitate abortion
More from the New York State Catholic Conference Here.
It is clear that we are in the midst of a civil war over abortion, which is only the tip of the spear for the Culture of Death. It has deadened moral sensibilities with its language of radical autonomy. The radical nature of this autonomy has crept into how we view the elderly, infirm and handicapped–as encumbrances to be dispatched if they threaten our ability to realize our ‘potential’.
Such potency has always been rooted in the communal soil of family and church. The fruits of what we ‘do’ have always redounded to the benefit of the family and community. Now however, the self is viewed as answerable only to itself. Family and community are no longer one’s primary means of self-definition so much as a utilitarian means toward a narcissistic end. This is what we have been enshrining as law for five decades. This is the face of the newest civil war, one which has claimed over 52 million human lives. Compare that to a little over 600,000 lives lost in the American Civil War.
The enemies of life have doubled down with such sweeping legislation as is pending in New York. We must meet them on the legislative battle-field and make our politicians hear our voices and fear our wrath at the voting booth more than they fear the opposition’s.
John Quincy Adams appealed to the character and wisdom of the founders, one of whom, John Adams, was his father. We too appeal to the wisdom of our founders, and our forbears in the abolitionist movement. We must present such a positive and noble lineage to our legislators and ask that they too join this lineage which celebrates the authentic freedom of the human person at its very root: The right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The latter two are not possible without the first.
In the decades to come, our posterity too will look back and join in Adams’ words:
“We understand now, we’ve been made to understand, and to embrace the understanding… that who we are IS who we were.”
We have before us today the power and ability to determine for our posterity who we were.
We should choose courageously and wisely.