The James Wilson Foundation on Natural Rights and the American Founding

“The Misadventures of a Pro-Life Senator”: Hadley Arkes in The Catholic Thing

In his column for The Catholic Thing, Professor Hadley Arkes details Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse’s recent efforts as lead sponsor to pass a bill that would protect babies who survive botched abortions. This is an updated version of the Born-Alive bill Arkes has shaped for nearly twenty years. While Sasse should be praised for his persistence in bringing up this bill several times (most recently last month), Arkes argues that Sasse has been a poor steward of the bill. Sasse has repeatedly told the Left that the bill has nothing to do with abortion, and will have no effect on accessibility to it. But according to Arkes, Sasse is not fooling anyone, either on the Left or the Right. The bill has failed to muster enough votes to pass each time it is brought to the floor. What Sasse should do, Arkes writes, is embrace the bill as a first step to rolling back Roe, and then begin the hard work of convincing the Left of the immorality of abortion itself.

Some excerpts from the piece:

“Sasse had made a fine, impassioned speech in favor of the bill,  which he knew would be mainly a flying of the flag.  His object was just to preserve the awareness of the bill as an ongoing part of our public business.  Over the past several years some of us have made attempts to sharpen and improve that bill, but our friends among other senators have been reluctant to make any move without the consent of the sponsor of the bill.  And yet that sponsor was not to be found.  He was usually elsewhere, giving speeches.”

“[T]hat appeal to the other side fools no one.  The Democrats understand that this modest bill is of course about abortion.  The strategy of the first Born-Alive Act in 2002 was to lure people from the other side by showing the reach of that right to abortion, a reach that makes even pro-choicers recoil. And from there we might start rolling back that practice of abortion step by step.  We would ask: What was different about that child five minutes before it was born – or five days, five weeks, five months?  The other side understood that their position could come unraveled.  On that point they were never fooled, and we had never sought to fool them.”

Read the full article here.

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Law and liberty cannot rationally become the objects of our love, unless they first become the objects of our knowledge.
— James Wilson, Lectures on Law, 1790