[Congressional Record Volume 149, Number 141 (Wednesday, October 8, 2003)]
[Pages H9365-H9368]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]

                         SANCTITY OF HUMAN LIFE

  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under the Speaker's announced policy of 
January 7, 2003, the gentleman from Indiana (Mr. Pence) is recognized 
for 60 minutes as the designee of the majority leader.
  Mr. PENCE. Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to rise again now for the 
second time in this Chamber to address an issue that, while we passed 
significant legislation concerning partial-birth abortion recently, 
truthfully the Congress does very little to speak to what I believe is 
the defining issue of our time: namely, the questions and debates 
surrounding the sanctity of human life.
  So, Mr. Speaker, a few weeks ago I initiated on the floor of this 
Congress what I hope will become a series during my tenure here, a 
series of conversations between myself and other Members of Congress 
who care deeply about this debate and where we might explore the 
historical and intellectual and moral foundations of the right to life.
  It seems altogether fitting that we do it here, in this Congress and 
in this place. Because this is not only the House of the people, but it 
is the place throughout the history of this Nation where not only have 
we come together to debate the urgent needs of the country but also we 
have come to this place and in this building for over 200 years to 
discuss those things which are, while not urgent to some, they are 
important to the fabric of the Nation. In my humble opinion, Mr. 
Speaker, restoring a fundamental understanding about the sanctity of 
human life and its central position in the development of notions of 
justice in western civilization is without a doubt the most significant 
issue of our day.
  I was inspired by none other than a former member of this body, John 
Quincy Adams, who, prior to being a 20-year Member of Congress was, of 
course, President of the United States of America. But as he served in 
the Chamber just adjacent to this one, where the Congress met for much 
of the 19th century, John Quincy Adams

[[Page H9366]]

was known to be a man about one cause, and that was abolition. In fact, 
former President and then Congressman John Quincy Adams was a man who 
came to be known by his detractors as the hell hound of Abolition, 
because Congressman and former President John Quincy Adams would come 
into this place, history records, and week after week through his 20-
year career in Congress he made the case against slavery.
  As someone who believes in my heart that the decision that the United 
States Supreme Court rendered in 1973, a decision which has resulted in 
the legal abortion of nearly a million and a half children every year 
since, requires that we employ the same device of debate and discussion 
that John Quincy Adams employed, it is my hope, Mr. Speaker, to do as 
he did, to prick the conscience of the Nation, or even our own 
colleagues, to think deeply in their hearts and in their minds about 
this notion of the sanctity of life.
  To do that, I have called upon a variety of sources, some of which I 
will cite tonight. I begin tonight, as I hope to reflect on that 
historical debate that John Quincy Adams so notably brought to this 
floor, with a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr., in his letter from 
the Birmingham jail.
  Some may think, well, why is a lawmaker, why is the Chamber where 
laws are made, worried about something that is a moral issue? In fact, 
I received just a few days ago a letter from a constituent who voiced 
that often-repeated phrase that they did not want me to impose my moral 
views on them, believing that they were referring to my views on the 
right to life. Well, on that very issue the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther 
King, Jr. wrote, ``A just law is man-made code that squares with the 
moral law of God. Unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the 
moral law of God.''
  In fact, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German Lutheran pastor who was 
martyred for resisting Adolf Hitler, gave what may be the clearest 
expression of this principle when he said, ``If government persistently 
and arbitrarily violates its assigned task, then the divine mandate 
lapses.'' In the case of Pastor Bonhoeffer and the Reverend Dr. Martin 
Luther King, Jr. the principle is the same: It is the notion that there 
is a law higher than what we can conceive of here; and, dare I say it, 
Mr. Speaker, there is even a law higher than the contemporary decisions 
of the United States Supreme Court, that there is a law that rises 
unerringly out of history, and it is that moral law of which the 
Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., wrote from that Birmingham jail.
  A Rabbi pastor said famously in my presence once, ``No one ever 
breaks God's law, they just break themselves against it.'' And what is 
true of individuals can undoubtedly be true of nations. Nations that 
set themselves against the moral law and moral truth fail to break that 
law so much as they break themselves.
  Certainly that was the case in 19th century America, was it not, Mr. 
Speaker? For in 19th century America, while the Congressman and former 
President John Quincy Adams came to this floor week after week and 
argued the moral approbation of slavery, argued for the abolition of 
slavery, America slept, believing that it could break that moral law 
and still survive. And as we learned, following the elections of 1860 
and the secession of southern States and 600,000 battle deaths later, 
the truth is, Mr. Speaker, America did not succeed in breaking the 
moral law, but America broke itself against that simple notion of human 
dignity, that one man ought not to be able, in a just society, to 
enslave another man, and to put him, as Abraham Lincoln would say in 
his second inaugural address, under the pain of the whip.

                              {time}  2000

  It was in that second inaugural address that he spoke of the Civil 
War. He spoke of the Civil War as a time when we were paying the debt 
that justice demanded of a nation. It is altogether fitting, I think, 
that tonight in this part of the case for life that we reflect on some 
of the similarities, eerie similarities between that debate over the 
personhood of men and women of African descent enslaved as they were in 
the Nation and the contemporary debate over abortion today because 
there are, as the author Gary Henry wrote in Focus magazine in June 
1997, ``There are, most assuredly, parallels between the debate over 
abortion today and the intellectual and moral debate and arguments made 
against slavery.'' It is almost eerie at times how the parallels 
between the arguments of those 150 years ago advocating slavery rights 
match with the arguments of personal choice that support abortion 
  Most notably of course was we had a Supreme Court case out of step 
with the truth. It was a case decided in 1857 known as the Dred Scott 
decision. In that case the Supreme Court ruled, and many will forget, 
that slaves, even freed slaves, and all their descendants had no rights 
protected by the Constitution and that States had no right to abolish 
slavery. The reasoning in Dred Scott is historically and intellectually 
almost identical to the reasoning that would be employed in 1973 in a 
decision known as Roe v. Wade.
  It was a reasoning that was centered on the definition of a person. 
In the Dred Scott case, the Court stripped away all rights from a class 
of human beings and reduced them to nothing more than the property of 
others. We can compare the arguments that the Court used to justify 
slavery and abortion very clearly. In the Court's eyes, the Supreme 
Court in Roe v. Wade and its predecessor cases and progeny, unborn 
children are now the same as, quote, ``the beings of inferior order'' 
that the justices wrote of in the Dred Scott decision in 1857.
  There are other similarities. An African American was considered a 
nonperson under the Constitution as the case of an unborn child was 
considered a nonperson. In fact, an African American in slavery and any 
of their progeny were considered the property of the owner, and in Roe 
v. Wade the unborn child is simply considered the property of the 
mother in a legal sense.
  It is truly astonishing even to recall that the Dred Scott case was 
decided by a 7-2 decision in the Supreme Court, the exact same number 
of justices that voted for and against the right to an abortion in Roe 
v. Wade.
  It is extraordinary to think that the words ``citizens'' or 
``persons'' used in the Constitution, according to the Dred Scott 
decision, were never intended to include African Americans; and 
according to Roe v. Wade, the term ``citizens'' and ``persons'' as used 
in the Constitution were never intended to include unborn children.
  Listen to these cryptic words from the Dred Scott case of 1857. The 
Supreme Court wrote: ``A Negro, whose ancestors were imported into this 
country, and sold as slaves, were not intended to be included under the 
word `citizen' in the Constitution, and can, therefore, claim none of 
the rights and privileges which that instrument provides for and 
secures to citizens of the United States.''
  Here are the words now from the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973. The 
Supreme Court wrote: ``The word `person,' as used in the 14th 
amendment, does not include the unborn. The unborn have never been 
recognized in the law,'' Justice Blackmun wrote for the majority ``as 
persons in the whole sense.''
  So while there may be some looking in on our debate tonight who may 
think I cannot believe that conservative from Indiana is stretching to 
somehow connect the debate over slavery in 1857 before the Supreme 
Court in Dred Scott and the debate over a woman's right to choose an 
abortion which took place before the Supreme Court in 1973, the person 
might surmise there is no connection, but the truth is I learned in my 
very first class in law school on this topic, not only are they 
analogous, they are almost one to one parallels. Listen to those words 
again. In the Dred Scott in 1857 the Supreme Court said: ``A Negro, 
whose ancestors were imported into this country, and sold as slaves, 
were not intended to be included under the word `citizen' in the 
Constitution, and can, therefore, claim none of the rights and 
privileges which that instrument provides for and secures to citizens 
of the United States.''
  And in Roe v. Wade, they wrote the word ``person'' does not include 
the unborn. The unborn have never been recognized in the law; it is 
persons in the whole sense.
  There are other parallels between the decision in the Dred Scott 
case. The Dred Scott case of 1857 essentially said a slave is the 
property of the master and the Constitution has provided ``the 
protection of private property against the encroachments 
of government.''

[[Page H9367]]

Literally the Supreme Court in 1857 brought out the idea of private 
property rights. In a very real sense the idea of privacy and the right 
to privacy that ostensibly emerges, as Justice Blackmun would write, 
the Bill of Rights was the very foundation of the Dred Scott decision. 
In the Roe v. Wade case in 1973, the Supreme Court said of that right: 
``The right of privacy is broad enough to encompass a woman's decision 
whether or not to terminate her pregnancy.''

  It is truly astonishing to think of the parallels, and it seems to me 
to be altogether fitting that we would amplify those. As we think about 
coming upon the 50th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education 
decision, I am someone who believes in my heart that the steady advance 
of civil rights in this country to every American is the glory of this 
Nation, that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was the single greatest 
legislative accomplishment of the 20th century, and we as Americans 
ought to take enormous pride in the fact that our forebearers were 
willing to confront and reject the ethos of their time of some 
Americans, and even a 7-2 decision by the Supreme Court, that certified 
that Negroes were never to be counted among the citizens protected in 
the Constitution. It is because of their courage, their willingness to 
confront both the awesome power of the Supreme Court and their own 
countrymen that we arrive in a Nation today of increasing justice for 
  In fact, one cannot help but wonder, as I have since the first days I 
studied American history at a small college on the Ohio River Valley, 
one cannot help but wonder if the 600,000 lives that were lost in the 
Civil War, the families that were sundered in the Civil War, the wounds 
that in some respects 150 years later we find ourselves as a Nation 
still recovering from might have been altogether avoided if America had 
done as England had done some 25 years earlier and recognized that a 
practice in their midst certified by the highest courts in the land, 
and through traditions of decades, was simply and flatly morally wrong. 
But we did not.
  Different than the United Kingdom that not only denounced slavery 
because of the leadership and 40-year campaign of a member of 
Parliament named William Wilberforce, not only did England denounce 
slavery and make it illegal, but they also declared war on slavery on 
the seven seas. And the holocaust of the Civil War that struck our 
country never came to England. And anyone that has ever visited or 
spent time in England knows that the division between the races is 
fundamentally better and less defined than in this Nation because 
England, before they were forced into the cataclysm that we met as a 
Nation in 1861 in the Civil War, shuffled off that conflict between 
their law and what was legal and the moral law and moral truth.
  In fact, it was John Quincy Adams who I opened with tonight who would 
go to the floor of Congress and argue against the fundamental 
immorality of slavery, literally using his last breath, collapsing on 
the floor of Congress to argue against slavery in America. He was 
carried out and expired in the year 1848. He died in this very 
building. Some might look at John Quincy Adams, as some looking in 
tonight might look at me, and say speaking empty words, not making any 
change. John Quincy Adams died almost a decade before the Dred Scott 
decision. Some of his contemporaries might have said, what did he think 
he accomplished. But I submit very humbly that John Quincy Adams, on 
Earth and in heaven, accomplished a great deal because history does 
record that in 1848, the last year of his life, was the first year of a 
freshman Congressman from Illinois, a gangly, and by his own 
definition, a homely man, named Abe Lincoln. Born in Kentucky, moved at 
the age of 2 to the State of Indiana where he grew up until he was 19 
on a little farm on which I have walked in southwestern Indiana.
  He came to the United States Congress in 1848 and history would 
record that Abraham Lincoln, sitting in the back row as a freshman 
Member of Congress, listening to the great man John Quincy Adams speak 
would be deeply moved by one who was then known as the ``hell hound of 
abolition.'' One can only imagine the sallow cheeks of a young and 
beardless Abe Lincoln sitting in the back row wondering, what is the 
grand old man making all the fuss about, slavery being so deeply 
ensconced in the industrial and legal tradition of America at the time.
  But he listened and he heard, and it would be just 10 years later 
after leaving Congress that same Abe Lincoln, who our children in grade 
school know as President Abraham Lincoln, would run again for public 
office; but this time he was in a very real sense a changed man. He 
would enter a race in Illinois against Stephen Douglas for the Senate, 
a race that he would lose, but it would capture the imagination of 
America because of a series of debates known as the Lincoln-Douglas 
debates. And in those debates, more than any other political exercise 
of the age, Abraham Lincoln defined the moral dimensions of the 
wrongness of slavery in America.
  The irony is among those who say you have to soften our position on 
abortion in contemporary debate because you could lose elections, well, 
that same advice could have been given to Abraham Lincoln because he 
certainly lost that campaign for the Senate, being as focused as he was 
on that issue. But it was precisely his courage and his unapologetic 
moral case for the wrongness and the injustice of denying personhood, 
denying the fundamental constitutional rights to an entire class of 
human beings that would propel him to his party's nomination for 
President of the United States.

                              {time}  2015

  And he would be elected, and upon his election the Nation would 
divide and be torn by war.
  As we look at those Lincoln and Douglas debates, the arguments that 
candidate Abraham Lincoln made are extraordinary. He makes the case 
about the fundamental immorality of slavery; and for all the world, and 
I intend to do it during the course of these conversations about life, 
Mr. Speaker, we can take entire tracks of Abraham Lincoln's remarks in 
the Lincoln and Douglas debates and we can pull out the word 
``slavery'' and put in the word ``abortion'' and the sentence makes 
perfect sense as he speaks about the denial of the fundamental right to 
life and liberty to a class of human beings in America.
  He spoke about it not in the context of established law, but as we 
know from history, as did the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in 
his letter from the Birmingham jail, he spoke about it in the context 
of the moral law of God.
  I close this installment, Mr. Speaker, of the case for life as I 
began it with those extraordinary reflections of the Reverend Dr. 
Martin Luther King, Jr. But I close it with a recognition that it is 
not just high principle and history that calls us in this place to an 
account to restore the fundamental notion that life is sacred but 
rather there are lives, I offer humbly, not gratuitously, by the 
millions that cry out from someplace that they are and that we someday 
will be, and they call upon us as a Nation to right what has gone so 
wrong. The latest statistics from the Alan Guttmacher Institute 
estimates 43,358,592 total abortions since 1973.
  King David, when he lost his son, experiencing the justice of God, 
washed his face after a period of grief and said that his mourning was 
over. When his friends and colleagues asked him how he could move on, 
he said of his son, ``I will go to him but he will not again come to 
  I believe in all my heart that those 43 plus million souls have gone 
to a place where by God's grace I hope someday to go, but I believe 
that they cry out to America and to their own generation, not a word of 
condemnation because I expect that when we are done here, when we know 
ourselves even as we are known, our natural tendency to judge others 
will fade significantly.
  I rise today, Mr. Speaker, in that same spirit, that it is my fondest 
hope that, as I have the privilege of serving in this body, I from time 
to time come to this floor even with other colleagues and make the case 
for life in a way that is truly brokenhearted, in a way that is 
brokenhearted not just about the 43 million who are not here but about 
the 43 million who were led into making that choice and the broken 
hearts in their lives that they feel, because I truly do believe, Mr. 
Speaker, that whether it is individuals or nations that we do not break 
God's law, we break ourselves against it.

[[Page H9368]]

  As the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., said in the letter from 
the Birmingham jail, and we should heed this as we consider someday the 
ideal of restoring the sanctity of human life, ``A just law is man-made 
code that squares with the moral law of God. An unjust law is a code 
that is out of harmony with the moral law.''
  Martin Luther King was right. Abortion is wrong, and it is my deepest 
and fondest hope that through peaceful means, as Dr. King led America 
through debate, through engagement, through compassion, that we will 
lead our Nation back to where the man-made code will again square with 
the moral law of God and we will someday restore the sanctity of human