What Might Have Been – The Man Who Could Have Reversed Roe v. Wade, Part two

In December, I posted an interview with Grove City College colleague, Paul Kengor titled, What Might Have Been – The Man Who Could Have Reversed Roe v. Wade. In that interview based on his research for his book on Reagan’s closest advisor, Judge William Clark, Dr. Kengor discussed how Judge Clark probably would have voted to overturn Roe vs. Wade if he had taken the appointment to the Supreme Court offered him by Ronald Reagan. In this follow up interview, Paul provides additional detail about Judge Clark’s views, and how President Ronald Reagan sought to leave a legacy of life.

Throckmorton: I wonder if Bill Clark perhaps refused the Supreme Court because he felt sure Reagan would appoint another person with a high regard for unborn life. Did he ever express his opinion of the O’Connor appointment?

Kengor: Clark seemed a little embarrassed when we discussed this. Once O’Connor was the frontrunner, Reagan asked Clark to interview her. They spoke for an hour-and-a-half. He reported back to Reagan that O’Connor seemed fine: “qualified, competent, capable.” The president made notes on his yellow legal pad. A grinning Reagan said, “Well, Bill, what did you talk about with her?” Clark smiled, “Well, we talked about horses and dogs and cows and kids and life.” Reagan chuckled, “That’s what I figured.”

Clark knew that Attorney General William French Smith was screening O’Connor, and assumed that Smith would cover key social-legal issues such as abortion and capital punishment. Did he? I can’t answer that. Either way, Sandra Day O’Connor was sworn in a few weeks later.

By the way, she was largely a moderate, but her pivotal swing vote for the pro-choice side ensured there would be no limits placed on America’s runaway abortion policies.

Throckmorton: Did Judge Clark write publicly on abortion? Are there quotes which capture his views? 

Kengor: Judges, even former judges, are very cautious in discussing past opinions. Sticking to the issue at hand, however, I can tell you his principal moral objection to Casey v. Planned Parenthood. He was appalled that O’Connor and Kennedy effectively took the position that Roe v. Wade had become a way of life, engraved in the culture, and therefore ought to be left alone. Such distorted moral reasoning, he said, was done by defenders of slavery in the 19th century. Had this reasoning been applied after the infamous Dred Scot case, black Americans would never have been considered full-fledged human beings—just as innocent unborn babies go unrecognized and thus unprotected in the decisions of many contemporary justices.

Throckmorton: What are some key exemplars of Reagan’s pro-life legacy?

Kengor: One of Clark’s ongoing missions is to stress this pro-life legacy. Reagan was not as successful on abortion legislatively and judicially as he wanted. He began changing the court system by seeking to install pro-life judges, though he made some bad calls. Yet, he constantly spoke in support of human life. Do not underestimate that importance of the presidential bully pulpit, and Reagan used it constantly to denounce abortion in the strongest terms, including very high-profile occasions like State of the Union Addresses, where he said that abortion was a wound on the American conscience, and that “America will never be whole as long as the right to life granted by our Creator is denied to the unborn.”

Clark has within reach a 45-page single-spaced document of quotes from Reagan on abortion, printed from the official Presidential Papers, which is the product of a personal special request he made to the staff of the Reagan Library. He uses that document when he talks to the press, and distributes it when necessary. That’s also true for a small book on abortion that Reagan authored as president, titled Abortion and the Conscience of Nation, published in 1984 by the Human Life Foundation, with prefaces and afterwords by Clark, Malcolm Muggeridge, and Mother Teresa.

Throckmorton: Many current Republican candidates want the mantle of Reagan. Who among them could be expected to carry Reagan’s pro-life perspective forward?

Kengor: Though this is not an endorsement, I would have to say that Mike Huckabee is the strongest pro-lifer. That said, basically all the current Republican crop is pretty good when it comes to being pro-life, with Rudy Giuliani the obvious exception. Alas, it looks like Rudy’s position on life issues has been devastating to his candidacy, revealing, I believe, that a Republican presidential hopeful must be pro-life—the polar opposite situation of a Democratic presidential hopeful, who must be pro-choice.

Next week marks 35 years after Roe v.Wade with a gathering of thousands of pro-life supporters in Washington, DC. There will be much to report regarding abortion policy over this election year. Stakes are high given the likely chasm between the Republican and Democratic nominees. The APA’s Task Force on Abortion and Mental Health will likely report their findings amidst an election year conversation regarding Supreme Court justices and funding for abortion here and abroad.

18 thoughts on “What Might Have Been – The Man Who Could Have Reversed Roe v. Wade, Part two”

  1. By the logic of many here, poverty could be eliminated completely if we just killed all the poor people.

  2. When used properly contraceptives have a less than 10% failure rate. Including those who don’t use them properly is how you get to the 30% failure rate. So the argument that “contraceptives don’t work, so teaching how to use them doesn’t help” is a false argument. Teaching people how do use contraceptives properly AND the importance of using them, does help.

  3. Again, Vianney, you have offered no evidence to substantiate your claims. Your assertions are ideological, not factual.

  4. Mike,

    I realize it is hard to believe and counter intuitive that birth contol causes more abortions. In reality it is the birth control mentality that causes “unwanted” pregnacies. It is a mentality that says, we can have sex whenever we want as long as we are “protected”. But birth control is not 100% effective. The methods vary from a 10 – 30% failure rate depending on whose statistics you read. Do the math and that is a lot of “unwanted” pregancies, many of which end in abortion. What did people do before birth control was accepted? They avoided sex at fetile times or knew what could very well happen and usually welcomed a new life. But now people can have sex much more often without worry… or so they believe. The other result of this mentality has been a lowering of sexual inhibitions because of course, “we’re protected”. This in turn means more risky behaviors that can and do end in pregnacies. Birth control has fueled our appetite for all things sexual because it has greatly lessened our inhibitions, we don’t think twice about getting someone or becoming pregnant.

    Think back to before our schools were peddling birth control and teaching kids about sex as early as 3rd grade. I barely can because I was at that age when it began. How many unwanted pregnancies and thus abortions were there before the mid to late 60’s when all this stuff happened? How many are there now? Remeber the motto; “safe, legal and rare”? Safe? For who? Legal? How about moral? Rare? 45 million dead and counting.

  5. Vianney and Concerned,

    There is no factual basis for your suppositions about birth control. Do you have any objective research to support your claims?

    Birth control prevents pregnancy, and therefore prevents abortion. So does abstinence.

    As we have discussed in other pages of this site, abstinence-only programs lead to an increase in pregnancies and therefore abortions. This is why 16 states (and growing) have refused to accept further federal abstinence-only funding: Such programs are counterproductive and anti-life.

  6. Bernice,

    “Along with the gift of life our creator gave us a [conscience]. Our [conscience] should tell us that taking away the gift of life from another human being is wrong.”

    I completely agree with you.

  7. Vianney,

    Your comments hit very close to the mark. There are those in our society who insist on pushing the envelop, but when there are consequences to society because of this these are not the people who are will to accept the responsibility for what has happened. Changing abortion laws only provided an easier way out of making a bad choice and for many it removed the need to think before getting involve in sexual activity that may lead to consequences that they are not ready to face up to. The easy way to deal with it and to make some doctors some extra cash was to legalize abortion. Did this stop people from being irresponsible? No, it gave them a way out.

  8. Mary,

    I still think most people who have abortions do it out of convenience – they are never held to any responsibility regarding the consequences of their actions. I doubt that religion comes into play in most of these decisions, nor should it if that is not a person’s belief. There is a difference in someone like Jamie Lynn Spears having a baby and another 16 year old who does not and will hot have the support of a family or have the comfort of money like she does. One will have no consequence while the other one will have dire consequences. Both got pregnant though and now there is another life to consider. I really don’t know the answers except that I think Vianney came very close.

  9. Has anyone considered that not every one is religious? We can teach morals but not everyone will follow them. We can physically castrate people thus preventing them from having pregnancies – this seems as appropriate as imposing our beliefs.

    I know it angers and upsets people that others are ending the lives of their children before they even have a chance. It is a personal dilemma. I also wish women and men would stop having sex that creates unwanted pregnancies. But look at our society. You cannot turn on the television without seeing/hearing some sexual content between people who are not married. Music on most any radio station, too, is filled with sexual content. We leave it up to public schools to teach sex ed (wrong idea), we don’t take responsibility for ourselves. Whenever we indulge in the media or titilating conversations we are encouraging those around us to do the same – which leads to inappropriate sex (in my opinion). And we don’t talk about sex in an open and honest way.

    We don’t provide (except through perpetual welfare) support for the poor. This contributes nothing to the community, the economy, the production of service/goods/information etc… nothing – except some money for food. (And even at that – it’s not enough for quality food) Abortion is not a problem with one head called immorality. It’s a multifaceted issue with numerous heads to attack. It is a selfish option but all of us are selfish (look around – you see your own selfishness in the decisons you make, too).

  10. Jayhuck,

    What do you think is the most effective thing(s) our society can do to lessen abortions?

  11. Opposition to poverty begins with what leads people into poverty. For the subject at hand, abortion, it would be the availabiltiy and acceptance of birth control in this country. When you have so many single parent families and fathers who have produced multiple children by different women it is not hard to see that these children cannot be supported. So what is our society’s answer, abortion of course. Kill the problem. But the child is not the problem, the parents are. The answer is not more birth control, it is less birth control and a change toward abstinence. The birth control mentality produces the attitude that I can have sex at any time with whoever I want. Thus people are having sex more frequently sometimes “protected” and sometimes not. When this activity results in a pregnancy the answer is abortion. Let’s get at the root of the problem and lessen the availabilty of birth control, teach morals in schools, and eliminate abortion. Put laws in place that build up the family (2 parent) not tear it down. If we put our faith in the one who gave His life for us we will be guided to this truth. I am grateful He did not decide we were not worth the “inconvenience” of His suffering and death.

  12. because one is poor, they are justified in killing innocent life ?

    are the poor also exempt from

    the other 9 commandments ?

    poverty has nothing to do with the

    killing of the innocent being legal …..

    wake up america…..stand alongside the poor and help them out !!!

  13. Opposition to poverty – very good point – no one addresses the issue of those demographics that continually show in at the abortion clinics. Abortion is not an issue taken lightly by most women and men. How do we address the poverty?

  14. Given the points I just made, I challenge anyone to explain how consistently anti-life politicians like Ronald Reagan can be considered “pro-life.”

  15. Abortion is most common among older, lower-income black and Hispanic women:


    Culturally, these women are disproportionately represented among church-goers.

    Contrary to the conservative stereotype, abortion is not a product of young, white, feminist, secular women.

    Abortion is exacerbated by the refusal of both conservatives and supposed liberals to support true pro-life values — namely, opposition to poverty and opposition to the sexual ignorance that leads to pregnancy among women who either can’t afford to carry their babies to term, or who are pressured by the man of the house to put their existing kids’ needs ahead of the would-be newborn’s needs.

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