Of Slaves and Babies

(This article courtesy of Seattle Catholic: A Journal of Catholic News and Views. Dr. Droleskey's new book, There is No Cure for This Condition, is available through Chartres Communications.)

Olson argued as follows in Scheidler v. National Organization for Women:

“It is irrelevant under the Hobbs Act whether the defendant is motivated by an economic purpose, as the lower courts that have addressed the issue have correctly recognized. The text of the Hobbs Act contains no requirement of an economic motive. As explained, when a person uses force or threats to compel a business to cede control over what goods or services the business will offer, the defendant obtains the victim's property by acquiring the power to decide how the business will be conducted. That conclusion holds true whether or not the defendant has a profit-making objective.


“A contrary conclusion would allow a defendant to hijack legitimate businesses by wrongful acts of violence, threats, or fear simply because the defendant had a non-economic objective. That result would defeat the government's strong interest in protecting interstate commerce under the Hobbs Act by prosecuting extortionists who are motivated by causes other than financial gain. For instance, an economic motive requirement would immunize a defendant from prosecution under the Hobbs Act even though the defendant threatened acts of murder against a bank that loaned money to foreign nations whose policies the defendant opposed, against a retail store that sold products to which the defendant objected, or against any other business that used its land or other valuable property for a purpose that the defendant found unpalatable.

“Those acts have deleterious effects on interstate commerce, whether or not the defendant directs the use of such property for his own financial gain. To exempt such conduct from the Hobbs Act would retreat from the Act's purpose to 'protect the right of citizens of this country to market their products without any interference from lawless bandits.' In sum, when the defendant uses wrongful force or threats to wrest control over the victim's business decisions, the defendant obtains that property interest.”

The parallels between the arguments found in Olson's 19-page brief and the decision of the Supreme Court in Dred Scott v. Sanford are striking. Rather than arguing that Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided and using the Scheidler v. N.O.W. case as an opportunity to strike at the heart of Roe by asserting that Joe Scheidler and those involved in sidewalk counseling and/or Operation Rescue were attempting to save human lives in imminent peril of execution by the use of peaceful and non-violent means, Theodore Olson, arguing for the Bush administration, conceded that abortuaries are legally protected businesses whose “property” cannot be threatened by those who are deemed to be acting in an extortionist manner with respect to those businesses' potential customers. The “property rights” of baby-killers trumps the human rights of preborn children and those who seek to defend them from imminent execution.

The importance of the decision on the part of the Bush administration to urge the United States Supreme Court to uphold a monstrous miscarriage of injustice against a true pro-life hero, Joe Scheidler, should speak volumes about just how “pro-life” the Bush administration actually is. Those, however, who continued to project their own deepest held beliefs and wishes into the skulls of George W. Bush and his lieutenants will fail to be convinced of Bush's anti-life agenda even by this betrayal of all that is just and true. The Bush administration had an opportunity to come to the rescue, pun intended, of a man who has sacrificed all of his worldly goods in behalf of the innocent preborn and chose, pun intended, to urge the United States Supreme Court to take Joe Scheidler's property in order to punish him for “taking” the property of the pro-aborts by attempting to save human lives.

Slaves were nothing more than chattel to be bought and sold at the whim of their “owners.” Taney also ruled that slavery was a matter of states' rights that could not be contravened by any legislation passed by Congress. He went further, however, stating that even free persons of color in the nation were not considered to be citizens protected by the United States Constitution and had no standing before any court in the United States to bring a suit arising under Federal law.

Dred Scott was a sweeping assault on almost every legal and political challenge that had been mounted by those desiring to abolish slavery. It also provided a convenient political cover for those politicians, such as Stephen Douglas, who might have been personally uncomfortable with slavery but who hid behind the black cloaks of the Supreme Court justices to assert that the issue had been settled by the Supreme Court once and for all. Most Americans went about their business as though the issue had indeed been settled, content that a whole race of people had been consigned to slavery and/or the status of non-citizens.

A mere 116 years separated Dred Scott v. Sanford from Roe v. Wade, which reduced preborn human beings to the status of the “property” of their mothers, who had the “right to choose” to do with their property as they wanted. Unlike the results in Dred Scott, however, the victims of Roe were consigned not to slavery but to unspeakably cruel deaths. As the decades passed and the bloody realities of abortion were anesthetized by the use of euphemisms and sloganeering, politicians in the political party that had been most supportive of slavery in the nineteenth century began to endorse and to promote the doctrine of death enunciated in Roe v. Wade and subsequent decisions (especially Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey in 1992). Politicians in the political party that had formed partly to combat slavery in the 1850s, however, began to distance themselves from any effort to reverse Roe v. Wade after three decades of political posturing designed to placate pro-life voters who did not follow current events closely and who did not want to remember how they had been betrayed by such self-professed “advocates” of life. Not unlike Stephen Douglas himself, many of these politicians began by the year 2001 to say that Roe v. Wade was settled law and that there was nothing they could do to reverse it. The best that could be done, the incrementalists argued, was to attack abortion around the margins.

While all of the legal and political posturing was going on, though, babies were being killed by the millions. Over forty-one million to be precise. Nothing any Republican administration has done has saved one single preborn life. Not one. Indeed, one Republican administration after another has helped to kill preborn life by continuing to fund so-called “family planning programs,” as the administration of President George W. Bush is doing, both here and around the world, making it possible for women to kill their children by means of abortifacient contraceptives. The only people who have been busy saving actual lives of preborn children have been the pro-life activists who have been engaged in sidewalk counseling and/or peaceful, nonviolent prayer vigils in front of the killing centers and/or served as volunteers in crisis pregnancy centers. These people have saved thousands upon thousands of lives. More importantly, however, they have helped to save souls.

One of the champions of sidewalk counseling is the incomparable Joseph Scheidler, the President of the Pro-Life Action League, based in Chicago, Illinois. Joe has devoted himself tirelessly and selflessly to the cause of counseling women to save their preborn children. He walked the sidewalks during the cold of winter and the heat of summer. He inspired countless thousands of others to do the same in communities across the United States and many parts of the world. His example has inspired many scores of college students to devote themselves to continue his work with their fellow college students. I suggested nearly nine years ago that a movie called “Scheidler's List” should be made to bear witness to the way in which one man has inspired so many to save innocent lives from the American Holocaust. Oskar Shindler had nothing on Joe Scheidler.

Scheidler has been far from alone. Thousands of Americans have placed themselves on the line to risk arrest in front of the killing centers during the height of Operation Rescue. The late Bishop Austin Vaughn did so repeatedly. So did Bishop George Lynch. So did Bishop Paul Dudley. So has Father Benedict Groeschel and many of his Friars of the Franciscan Renewal. Scores more of priests and their parishioners did so, and many of them were treated with great brutality by the police as they were being arrested. This was particularly the case in 1989 in West Hartford, Connecticut, Houston, Texas, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Los Angeles, California. Father John Murphy has been continually harassed and arrested on Long Island for his courageous efforts to pray the Rosary in front of a killing center several times a week. And how can one forget the pioneering efforts of Joan Andrews Bell, who was rescuing children in front of abortuaries long before Operation Rescue began in earnest in 1988?

Pro-aborts have long viewed all pro-life activists as people bent on denying women their “constitutional rights.” Pro-aborts have portrayed pro-life activism as violence of its very nature, using all manner of verbal engineering to make the very sort of social activism used in the Civil Rights movement to appear a sinister effort to assault and intimidate women as they sought to exercise control over their own “property,” that is, the babies they carried in their wombs. To this end, obviously, the pro-aborts had the assistance of the mainstream media and of the entire American educational apparatus. Federal and state judges looked the other way as pro-lifers were brutalized by the police, intent on protecting decriminalized child-killing in this country. And the legal apparatchiks who worked for the pro-aborts discovered a weapon they believed could be used to make “violent anti-choice” demonstrators stop their “intimidation”: The Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organization Act (RICO).

The United States Supreme Court upheld the application of civil RICO lawsuits aimed at stopping pro-life activism in front of the killing centers (other methods have been used by state attorney generals, most notably New York Attorney Generals Robert Abrams in the 1980s and Elliot Spitzer earlier this year, to try to shut down crisis pregnancy centers). This enabled the National Organization for Women to press its civil RICO lawsuit against both Joseph Scheidler and Operation Rescue. It took years for the legal machinery to work its draconian ways against Joe and his Pro-Life Action League, but he was found guilty of being part of a corrupt organization and fined a monstrous amount of money.

Joe held out hope in the year 2000 that a putative President George W. Bush administration would be open to the possibility of submitting an amicus curiae brief in his behalf when his case made its way to the United States Supreme Court. I was not as confident as Joe that he would find the Bush administration sympathetic to his cause.

After all, Bush's “pro-life” credentials hinge principally on his contradictory rhetoric that he is pro-life despite supporting the slicing and dicing of innocent human beings in their mothers' wombs in the cases of rape, incest, and alleged threats to a mother's life. Most people who call themselves “pro-life” do not want to see how a person who endorses baby-killing as a matter of principle in some instances will never do anything politically or legally to put himself on the line in defense of life, to say nothing of defending those who are on the front lines in defense of life. Indeed, the National Right to Life Committee, which itself supports the killing of innocent children in their mothers' womb as a matter of principle in cases where it is alleged that a mother's life is jeopardized (and which takes no stand against contraception whatsoever), repeatedly enables Bush as a “pro-life” champion. Thus, Bush knew from the outset that he could continue duping an important part of his political base about being “pro-life” even though he would not only let courageous men like Joe Scheidler hang out to dry but actually work against him in the Supreme Court of the United States by filing an amicus curiae brief supporting Joe's conviction.

Solicitor General of the United States Theodore Olson argued before the Supreme Court on Wednesday, December 4, 2002, that the National Organization for Women had no authority to initiate a RICO lawsuit as the act itself reserves such actions solely to the Attorney General of the United States. Thus, the Supreme Court, Olson argued, should reverse Scheidler's conviction on the RICO charges. However, Olson argued that the Court should uphold Scheidler's conviction on the grounds of having violated the Hobbs Act, passed by Congress in 1946, which forbids the use of “extortion” to “take the property” of one engaged in a lawful business. Olson argued that the Hobbs Act defined the “taking of property” to mean anything that interferes with the conduct of a lawful business. Thus, Scheidler's sidewalk counseling, to say nothing of the long-squashed activities of Operation Rescue, interferes with “customers” of a legal “business,” denying that business of the “property” derived from its trade, namely, the money it receives for the killing of a human being.

The fact that Theodore Olson argued against Joe Scheidler and other courageous pro-life activists should come as no surprise. Olson's brief is the direct result of the short memory and fear of many good pro-life Americans, people who want to believe that we are better off being betrayed by professional politicians who mouth empty and contradictory rhetorical phrases that sound pro-life than we would be if we were attacked outright by thorough-going pro-aborts. Which is worse, though? Being attacked by a known enemy or being betrayed over and over again by false friends who claim that they are still our friends while they betray us?

Many of us argued in the year 2000 that pro-life Catholics had an obligation to cast votes of conscience in behalf completely pro-life candidates. Others believed that casting a vote of conscience was not even desirable as to “waste” your vote on the “perfect” was to “punish the good.” However, a vote of conscience is never wasted. Professional politicians will only pay attention to us when they are forced to do so by our clear and consistent support of only those candidates who believe that law settled wrongly must be unsettled and that it is the first duty of a public office holder to stop the shedding of innocent blood. The less votes the professional politicians get, my friends, the more attention they will be forced to give to us, if for no other reason than electoral self-interest and survival.

The Supreme Court may rule in favor of Joe Scheidler, although it will be despite the efforts of the Bush administration. How ironic would it be that the Court that gave us decriminalized baby-killing might wind up defending the rights of those trying to save babies while a “pro-life” presidential administration undermines the saving of those babies?

As I have noted so frequently, we are not winning the battle for life politically. Abortion, as horrible as it is, is just one of the many evil consequences of the systematic de-Catholicization of the world that began in the Renaissance and expedited during the Protestant Revolt. However, we must, as Pope Leo XIII noted in Immortale Dei and Sapientiae Christianae, make use of the civil institutions of government as honestly as we can to plant the seeds for the conversion of hearts and minds to the true Faith, the fundamental precondition for the subordination of men and their laws to the primacy of the Divine positive law and the natural law.

As Pope Leo XIII noted in Sapientiae Christianae:

“The chief elements of this duty consist in professing openly and unflinchingly the Catholic doctrine, and in propagating it to the utmost of our power. For, as is often said with the greatest truth, there is nothing so hurtful to Christian wisdom as that it should not be known, since it possesses, when loyally received, inherent power to drive away error. So soon as Catholic truth is apprehended by a simple and unprejudiced soul, reason yields assent.”

We must think, act, and speak as Catholics, yes, even in public, especially in public. We cannot fight secularism with secularism. We can only fight secularism with Catholicism. The fact that Theodore Olson can argue against a true American hero like Joe Scheidler with the knowledge that his boss, George W. Bush, will not suffer politically from pro-lifers is the result of Catholics having accepted passively the ethos of religious indifferentism and the exigencies of American electoral politics as permanent characteristics of our national life. They are not. We must have the zeal and the courage of the Apostles, who planted the seeds that resulted in the rise of the first Christendom, not place our trust in men and women who are concerned only about the next election and not about the stopping of the shedding of the blood of innocent preborn human beings.

As people of true Eucharistic piety and Marian devotion, we need to pray and to work and to speak for the Social Kingship of Jesus Christ. Unless we do so, false friends will continue to betray the cause of all that is just and true, especially as it relates to the perpetuation of the dismemberment mystically of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the persons of preborn children in their mothers' wombs.

O Immaculate Conception, patroness of the United States of America, pray for us. Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the Americas, pray for us.

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