Last week, Dr. George Tiller, one of the few remaining doctors performing late-term abortions, was shot and killed. The deep and tragic irony here is that his apparently disturbed killer allegedly did so in the name of life.
Like others in the pro-life community, I found Dr. Tiller's profession abhorrent and believed it appropriate to protest and criticize his actions. I am deeply ashamed that we live in a society which has legalized the destruction of innocent human life.
Yet, no matter how fervent my objections to Dr. Tiller's actions, because of those very pro-life beliefs, I must equally denounce his killer. Indeed, I mourn for Dr. Tiller and his grieving family. As Dr. Martin Luther King reminded us, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly."
There is no justice in the taking of an unborn life, and there is no justice in the fatal shooting of a man standing on the church steps. And indirectly, all of us now suffer the consequences.
One of those consequences is apparent in the shifting tone of the abortion debate. Now, again, it is tinged with fear, anger, and bitter hostility. Those of us who so strongly believe in the intrinsic value of every life, who work to defend those lives, find ourselves on the defensive.
It would be all too easy to snap back, to speak harshly, and to accuse. Like many of you, I feel deeply the justness of our cause, and will not apologize for my passion. But we must never abandon our value systems in an attempt to advance these beliefs. Doing so only detracts from our message and repels our supporters.
Recent polling has shown that for the first time in a long while a majority of Americans now consider themselves to be pro-life. This is a hard-won opportunity for us here!
Rather than engaging in angry, direct confrontation with our opponents in the blogosphere or other areas of public life, we should be confidently appealing to the millions of Americans who are sympathetic to our cause. We must educate our fellow citizens as to the importance of the defense of the unborn and engage at the highest, not the lowest, levels of debate.
In my own small part, this is why I have recently started a campaign to provide Americans with a free copy of a book my father helped write, called "Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation." You see, by providing our neighbors, young and old, with this book free of charge, it is my hope that we can again present our pro-life position in a manner that is direct, compelling, and peaceful. You can sign up to receive this free book offer yourself, as well as direct it to your friends and family, at www.mikereaganforlife.com.
Others have taken up the banner to elevate this discussion across the country and demonstrate the hopefulness of life over angry judgment. What more beautiful picture of life could there be than the children such as the "snowflake" babies, adopted as embryos and born into new families? How about the thousands of crisis pregnancy centers which counsel and care for frightened women in unplanned pregnancies?
These compassionate, life-giving portraits are the true face of the pro-life movement. Particularly in weeks like this one, we need to make sure these are the images the American people see clearly.
For now the courts decide the debate, but it is our goal that one day only voters will do so. Should we succeed in eventually overturning Roe v. Wade, we must recognize that the battle will only have begun.
At that stage, the question will be put to the test in state legislatures and through the ballot box. When that day comes, we will need a majority of Americans on the side of life, and we have to prepare for that starting today. If we fail to consider the long-term impact of our behavior as a movement on the national psyche, we may unintentionally render meaningless what would otherwise be a significant court victory.
We will not win this important battle because we yell louder, make veiled threats or incorporate scare tactics into the cause -- rather we will win the battle for life because of the conscience of our great nation.
Mike Reagan, the elder son of the late President Ronald Reagan, is chairman and president of The Reagan Legacy Foundation. E-mail comments to Reagan@caglecartoons.com.