By Steve Wolfgang
Footnote: Peggy Noonan, What I Saw At the Revolution: A Political Life in the Reagan Era (New York: Random House/Ballatine Books, 1990, 1991), pp. 202-203.
Peggy Noonan is a former newswriter for Dan Rather on CBS Radio news who in 1984 became a speech-writer for Ronald Reagan and, later, George Bush. She wrote some of the more memorable speeches delivered by Presidents Reagan and Bush, including the Reagan speech at Pointe du Hock in Normandy in 1984, the January 1986 speech following the space shuttle “Challenger” disaster, as well as George Bush’s nomination acceptance and Inaugural addresses.
Although not a “religious” book, it contains some enlightening passages about issues where politics and religion frequently intersect, and provides some insight into the often anti-religious bias of our public news media. I offer several of these passages for your consideration, and hope you will profit from them as I did.
[Another speech-writer] felt that this was a good time for the president to reassert his opposition to abortion and some of his reasoning. I thought it a good time to bring some of the reasoning up-to-date. A number of people I knew, friends who were approaching their middle thirties, were trying to have children and, for a variety of reasons, having trouble. One, who’d been a newswriter with me in Boston and become a close friend, was trying to adopt and finding it very difficult. One of the unanticipated results of Roe vs. Wade was that people like Judy couldn’t find babies they wanted to adopt anymore.
This is what I wrote:
“I believe that when we allow ourselves to take the lives of our smallest, most vulnerable members, we coarsen ourselves as a society. And it is surely a terrible irony that while some abort their children, so many others who cannot become parents cry out for children to adopt. Abortion has emptied the orphanages – and emptied the cradles of those who want a child to love.
“Our nation has made great strides in helping unwed mothers bring their children to term. Churches, private agencies and individuals are housing, feeding, clothing and treating young mothers, helping them to keep their children or put them up for adoption. This great movement has spread across the country like wildfire.”
Dick Darman did not like anti-abortion language (in the speech-writing business the word “language” is used in place of “argument” and “words”), partly because the president’s stance did not reflect, he said, the will of the majority of the people, and partly, I think, because he himself did not support a ban. We talked about it once. He brought up the polls and said it’s an 80-20, 1 said if you polled the German people in 1939 killing Jews would be an 80-20, he said you can’t squander political capital, I said the courage to take unpopular stands is this president’s capital, he referred to Prohibition and back alleys. I don’t know what I said but I probably conceded yes, people will still do it and they’ll get hurt, you’re right, and more than a change of law is needed – but a change of law is needed.
(I know I lose some people here. I don’t have a single woman friend who agrees with me on abortion, and the woman who edits this or sets the type is steaming. But it’s what I think. When people say abortion is a visceral issue I think they mean it’s purely instinctive: One’s instinct is either to rush to the aid of the frail thing that will be killed or rush to the aid of a freedom that could be lost – and there is no room for compromise. But I’ll tell you something that some members of the anti-abortion movement are privately wrestling with. I had a talk the other night [it is late autumn ‘891 with an anti-abortion activist who is a distinguished writer and thinker. I told him of my growing fear that moving for something like a constitutional amendment when so many women want to keep the abortion option open was – maybe right now not the answer. If we just pass a law and everybody breaks it, what have we gained? There would be so much profit made by bad people, by the worst of our society. And since the decision to abort is made in a single woman’s mind . . . maybe what we really have to do is keep changing minds. He surprised me. “I know what you’re saying,” he said, “and I think about it too.” Maybe the real battlefield is in literature and the arts, in the media, in the fields of political debate. Republican politicians hate to talk about abortion, and then once a year they line up behind a bill to ban it. They have it backwards. They should talk and talk and not move until they have the people. Maybe in this case action must follow consensus, or the action will be meaningless.)
Guardian of Truth XXXV: 12, p. 356
June 20, 1991