To commemorate RFFM.org's 15 years of service to the conservative community, we will be conducting a series of monthly interviews throughout 2007 with some of the most influential leaders in the pro-family/conservative movement. RFFM.org's national director, Daniel Zanoza, will conduct Q + A sessions with the aim of educating our readers as to some of the views held by those who work tirelessly to reach their stated goals.
Also, RFFM.org will describe the mission statements of those who work for organizations or detail the expertise of some of the most prominent individuals in their fields regarding issues that affect Americans on many levels.
The first Q + A begins today with Bill Beckman, the Executive Director of the Illinois Right to Life Committee.
The primary mission of the Illinois Right to Life Committee (IRLC) is education. As the oldest Pro-Life organization in the state, founded in 1968, IRLC maintains a bureau of experienced speakers, providing programs for schools, colleges, churches and community organizations, as well as contact for the Pro-Life perspective on television and radio talk shows.
Our programs include advertisements in university newspapers and public service campaigns, including radio messages, billboards and displays on CTA (Chicago Transit Authority) lines.
In defense of the right to life from fertilization until natural death, the Illinois Right to Life Committee provides information on the ethical considerations involved in abortion, in vitro fertilization, human cloning, embryonic stem cell research, genetic engineering, population control, euthanasia, assisted suicide, organ transplants and other "quality of life" proposals.
- BILL BECKMAN -
Q. Now that the dust from the November election has settled, I would like to get your opinion on what the election results will mean to the pro-life movement for the short and long term. Some say George W. Bush's most significant legacy will result from the situation in Iraq, but many in the pro-life movement see his appointment of U.S. Supreme Court Justices Samuel Alito and John G. Roberts, Jr. as the most long-lasting landmarks that will remain from the Bush presidency. What are your feelings about Bush's success or failure in appointing federal judges who embrace the concept of life?
A. Certainly, President Bush's Supreme Court appointments have great significance. We may learn more about the degree of that significance when we receive the Supreme Court decision on the law banning partial-birth abortion.
Unfortunately, the Republican majority in the previous Senate failed President Bush by not bringing to a vote a number of excellent nominees for lower Federal Court seats. Now that Democrats control the Senate, this opportunity appears to be lost. I would hope that the President continues to nominate principled nominees so the failure of the Senate to vote on them can become a campaign issue.
Q. Since the Democrats have won the majority in both Houses of Congress what do you think this means for future Bush appointments of federal judges? Please focus on his past appointments of federal judges. What kind of grade would you give the President?
A. It means that the Democrats will continue to block principled nominees, but Bush should continue to nominate such candidates to force the Democrats to show their extreme position. So far, it appears the President should get a grade of at least 95% for his judicial nominations.
Q. Some say the U.S. Supreme Court is a mere one vote shy of potentially overturning Roe. v. Wade. If there is an opening on the U.S. Supreme Court during the remainder of Bush's presidency, what--in your opinion--are the chances Bush will be able to get another strict constructionist jurist past a Democratic majority for ultimate confirmation?
A. A Supreme Court opening is another case where the President needs to stand firm by nominating the right candidate and letting the Democrats show their own extremism if they reject that candidate. If he can find another candidate nearly as untouchable as Roberts, that would be the best way to overcome the Democrats.
Q. Besides the issue of abortion, what are the most critical life issues facing the remainder of the Bush administration?
A. The battle over stem cell research funding is the most visible issue beyond abortion that will get significant publicity over the next two years. The President has reaffirmed his commitment to veto legislation that expands federal funding of stem cell research to include killing of embryos for their stem cells. Hopefully, this situation will also provide more opportunities to educate the public in an attempt to overcome the misinformation they are receiving about stem cell research. Recent coverage of stem cells from amniotic fluid shows there is potential to get solid information distributed by the mainstream media.
Q. Many experts believe the President's veto of federal funding for embryonic stem cell research will be challenged since the Democrats now control both Houses of Congress. Democrats openly state embryonic stem cell research and federal funding for this research will be high on their legislative agenda. Do you believe another Bush veto of such a bill will stand in this new Congress?
A. The analysis of votes available to override a Bush veto of this bill shows that the House is still over 30 votes short of overriding his veto. The Senate may be much closer, but the votes are not certain for an override there either.
Q. At the state level, Democrats have achieved even larger majorities in both Houses of the General Assembly. Do you see any pro-life legislation having a chance to pass through the General Assembly and be signed by Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich during the next two years? If so, which legislation might pass the muster.
A. It appears that the leaders of the Illinois legislature will make it impossible to pass any Pro-Life legislation during the next two years. Legislation that should draw the most bipartisan support would be informed consent legislation (for women to receive information before making a decision to get an abortion). Such a bill failed by just one vote in a liberal committee in the last session. The leadership is likely to make sure that such bills never make it to a floor vote to guarantee they will not pass. Of course, even if they did pass, they would be vetoed by the Governor.
Q. As technology and science cross new thresholds, there are many questions facing American society. The issue of embryonic stem cell research has already fostered great debate. Do you foresee any other issues which Americans will have to make ethical decisions on? Are there issues currently lying beneath the public radar that will soon surface and what are they, in your opinion?
A. There is new information coming forward that raises questions about health issues surrounding in vitro fertilization (IVF), both for the mothers and for the children. Widespread use of IVF, including use of donated sperm and eggs, is now leading to selection of the "ideal" baby from embryo banks. This focus on selection of the characteristics desired for children will again raise the ethical issues of genetic engineering and even governments getting involved.
Q. Many think of the protection of the unborn when it comes to the fight for sanctity of life. However, advances in medicine today can prolong life far beyond what was possible a mere decade ago. What are some of the end of life issues which the public needs to be aware of?
A. At the end of life, Terri Schiavo brought some of the issues into public awareness, but her situation is not as common as other cases where decisions to deny medical treatments are becoming more common. Medical ethics of care will become more challenging as more hospitals follow the trend of establishing ethics committees that make decisions to deny treatment even when both the patient and relatives want the treatment provided.
The push for organ donations may also lead to new ethical issues regarding treatment of patients who might be candidates for organ donation. Will the pressure for organs override patience and good medical care for treating the patient? As life has been devalued, the desire to declare the patient's quality of life as too low and just harvest the organs becomes a greater threat.
Q. Finally, do you see a day in the near future when Roe v. Wade will be overturned? What impact would this have on American society? Some believe the lack of respect for life has become evident in some of the heinous crimes which now plague our culture. If Roe v. Wade were overturned, do you see a positive evolution in the culture of violence which permeates our society?
A. As in the case of slavery, overturning a bad Supreme Court decision (Dred Scott) is only the beginning in reforming society and the values held by individuals. The same situation will exist with Roe v. Wade. The culture of death that has taken root in society as an impact of Roe v. Wade, and other factors that followed it, will need to be overcome through a long path to recapture true respect for human life from fertilization until natural death.
Roe v. Wade could be overturned with the successful appointment of a strict constructionist to the court by President Bush. If that does not happen, it is unclear what the future may bring in both the Congress and the President. We must remain positive and work for candidates who will protect and instill a culture of life. How soon Roe v. Wade may be overturned is uncertain. It could happen suddenly under certain circumstances or take many more years.
For more information about the IRLC go to: http://www.illinoisrighttolife.org
To contact the Illinois Right to Life Committee call (312) 422-9300