Eleven years ago, President Ronald Wilson Reagan was laid to rest. At his funeral, mourners lauded the fortieth president for his role in winning the Cold War. During his tenure, the country also saw a drop in inflation, declining oil prices, and a hefty cut in federal tax rates.
Still, “the Gipper” wasn’t perfect. As governor of California, Reagan relaxed the state’s abortion rules, a decision for which he would later express deep regret. He also helped popularize something called “The Eleventh Commandment.”
The rule is simple: “Thou shalt not speak ill of a fellow Republican.” While Reagan didn’t actually come up with the slogan, he did promote it, something he wrote about in his 1990 autobiography.
Reagan was motivated in part by experience, as Republican rivals had targeted him with aggressive personal attacks during California’s 1966 gubernatorial race. He also saw the way that Sen. Barry Goldwater was accused in the 1964 Republican primary of being an extremist who didn’t belong in office.
I certainly think President Reagan’s heart was in the right place; generally speaking, personal attacks and name calling don’t heighten the quality of political discourse. With that having been said, pro-lifers do need to call out those lawmakers who won’t defend innocent lives. And as we saw earlier this year, they can be found on both sides of the aisle.
The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act prohibits most abortions after twenty weeks, which is when evidence suggests that children start to feel pain. By then, an abortion typically involves pulling the baby apart one piece at a time.The legislation passed in the House of Representatives by a vote of 242 to 184. Although the measure had broad GOP support, that support wasn’t unanimous, as four Republicans voted against it.
One of them was Rep. Bob Dold of Illinois. He declared that “the people of the 10th District sent me to Congress to advance bipartisan solutions to some of our nation’s most pressing challenges, so I look forward to getting back to work tomorrow to foster job creation, curb out of control spending and prevent a nuclear-armed Iran.” The congressman has yet to explain how supporting late-term abortion will further those goals.
Other opponents included Reps. Richard Hanna (NY), Charlie Dent (PA) and Rodney Frelinghuysen (NJ). Hanna was criticized last year when he voted to maintain funding for Planned Parenthood, America’s largest abortion chain. This was despite proof that Planned Parenthood staff have been willing to help cover up sexual abuse, while others have offered to arrange involuntary abortions on underage prostitutes who “can’t speak English” and “won’t know what’s going on.” A number of former employees have also alleged the organization’s policies fail to protect women from coercion and violence.
With his Eleventh Commandment, President Reagan sought to foster civility. While that’s an admirable sentiment, it shouldn’t keep pro-lifers from speaking the truth. That includes confronting those who won’t protect children from dismemberment or who vote to fund a group that enables sexual predators.
For pro-life Republicans, it means being ready to sometimes “speak ill” of fellow party members. In fact, pro-lifers of all stripes should tell politicians that they’re embracing another edict: “Regardless of affiliation, thou shalt be held accountable.”