Deadly Privacy

The most grisly serial killer in American history, John Wayne Gacy, murdered his 33 victims in the privacy of his bedroom. But would anybody argue that he should have been left alone? That the government "has no right to intrude into anyone's bedroom"? Of course not. Yet that's exactly the argument some people are making today when they talk about abortion. Even Republicans, who have had an anti-abortion plank in their party platform for 14 years, are beginning to adopt the rhetoric of privacy. William Weld, Republican governor of Massachusetts, says he's prochoice because he wants to see the government "out of your bedroom." Christine Todd Whitman, governor of New Jersey, recently urged Republicans to take abortion out of their party platform entirely. Abortion, she says, "is a very personal decision." Even prolife Republicans like William Kristol and George Weigel are talking about a more moderate plank. But these politicians ought to bone up on their history. If they did, they would discover that the Republican party was founded on its opposition to another issue defined at the time as a personal decision: namely, slavery. One hundred and fifty years ago, there was no Republican party; there were Democrats and Whigs. But as opposition to slavery grew, the Whigs tried to duck the issue. They refused to craft a position one way or the other into their party platform. As a result, moral and political leadership finally passed to a new party whose members were unequivocally opposed to slavery. They called themselves Republicans—and the Whig party simply faded away. Today the Republican party is being tempted to follow in the footsteps of its predecessors. But if it does, it is sure to come to the same ignoble end. To survive, the party must regain its earlier commitment to moral leadership—the leadership that put it on the political map in the first place. As Christians we ought to be telling politicians of all parties not to be taken in by the rhetoric of privacy. After all, the bedroom is not sacrosanct—not when it is the place where serial killers commit their crimes, not when men abuse their wives, not when adults commit child abuse. Privacy should not be protected when it becomes a cover for crime. The public service advertisement against drunk driving that we saw on city buses several years ago says it all: "Drink and it's your business, drive and it's ours." When people drink in the privacy of their homes, that's their own business. But drunkenness can also become a public issue—when intoxicated drivers create a traffic hazard or when intoxicated workers put the safety of their co-workers at risk. There are times when private decisions have public consequences—and then they become public issues. Abortion certainly does have public consequences. After all, the essential role of the government is to defend "life and liberty." Since abortion is about taking life, it is a proper subject for public policy. Christians need to let our political leaders know that if they walk away from the abortion issue, we will walk away from their party.


Chuck Colson


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