When the Supreme Court upheld the Federal law against partial-birth abortion, I let out a breath inhaled over eleven years ago. From the first Congressional attempt to enact the ban, and the various blocking moves -- Clinton's veto, Federal judges' injunctions, I have been haunted by the thought we were a country where rhetoric had overtaken conscience. In 1996, I was hired to write campaign materials for Rob L. Verga, running for Congress against Charles Schumer. The following was written for distribution among the Jewish constituents of that district. The candidate vetoed it because its excessive passion did not comport with the decibel level usually assigned for political dialogue. Do you agree?
WHEN CHARLES SCHUMER, the social and moral counterpart of Stephen Solarz, stands this year for reelection to his umpteenth term, he does so in the shadow of his most immoral and vicious vote.
When he voted to allow the partial-birth abortion, over the implorings of the bishops that this was "tampering with the moral consensus which binds us as a nation," over the courage of 73 fellow Democrats (including Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Richard Gephardt, David Bonior and Patrick Kennedy) who broke party lines to follow their consciences, he charted new zones of morally outrageous behavior.
Never in the thirty-eight hundred years since Abraham, in the thirty-three hundred years since Sinai, nor even in almost two millennia of exile, has it been recorded that a Jew in a position of power voted to allow the gruesome murder of infants. If general votes by Jews favoring abortion -- be they Schumer, Garry Ackerman or Israeli Knesset members -- can in small measure be understood as assuming the fetus to be less than a life, a vote on behalf of partial-birth abortion finds no such rationale.
A child, a human being, created in the image of God, a person like you and me, all of him born into this world except his head, his legs kicking, his hands clenching. This creature turns in vain to Charles Schumer, to the Jewish People, to the nation of Sinai, for protection.
Betrayed by its own mother, betrayed by the President of the United States, this child opens and closes his hands, clutching at the prospect of being saved by a majority of just citizens. Yes, the majority of Congress has voted to save this child. But do they have the two thirds required to override the Presidential veto?
The Polish Catholic from Illinois is fighting to save this child -- be it black or white, male or female, Jew or Gentile. So, too, the Irish Catholic in Rhode Island, the Protestant in Kansas, the Evangelical in Indiana, the Baptist in Tennessee and the Mormon in Utah.
But just as hope seems to dawn for humanity, as our child struggles to make its last valiant push for freedom, here come the new Jews of modernity. The liberal Jews, the progressive Jews, the Jews of sophistication and education and futuristic vision. Charles Schumer, Garry Ackerman and friends have arrived on the scene.
Quickly, before our little Maimonides or Einstein or Beethoven can draw breath, the forces of enlightenment pounce. The scissors are inserted into the skull, the suction machine vacuums the brain. The hands open and close one last time. The legs kick in one last spasm of protest against the betrayal, the ruthlessness, the brutality.
As a Jew, I look upon Charles Schumer and his ilk with unadorned horror. His crime is so unspeakable, so far beyond the pale of Jewish -- or even human -- behavior that the well of words upon which we draw was never stocked in mind of such an eventuality. I turn away from him in mute disgust, shaken that in our own time a descendant of Abraham could have plumbed a new depth in vicious brutalization of conscience and culture.
Yet even more poignant and unsettling is the thought that Charles Schumer practices his crass philosophy not only in his own name. He does so as the nominal, the titular, representative of many fine Jews, including some of the greatest rabbis and Jewish scholars of our time.
Well, perhaps it is a bit strong. You know how it is with youthful spirit -- and youthful prose. Still, I have not rested easily from that day to this. Even if practitioners find loopholes, the law as written upholds the nobility of our nation. This choosing of life will stand us in good stead in the great moral trials of our time.
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