By Lawrence L. Beale
Civil rights, during the last half century, has not been Republicans’ strong suit, perhaps because it has heretofore been basically relegated to rights of black Americans. This is not to say that Republicans have never passed civil rights legislation. To the contrary, they have. For example, in March 1887, the Republican-controlled congress passed the most comprehensive civil rights bill to that point, and President Ulysses Grant signed it into law the same day. That bill was a follow up to the GOP’s 1871 and 1886 civil rights acts.
In addition, the civil rights bills of 1957 and 1960 were passed during President Eisenhower’s administration. But critics say they were passed in reaction to the civil rights struggle and to win the black vote. Whether they are right or wrong, it is clear that Republicans, early on, passed civil rights bills.
The 1964 landmark civil rights bill was passed during Democratic President Lyndon Johnson’s presidency. However, it was the brainchild of President John F. Kennedy, who, in a nationally televised address on June, 6, 1963, urged the nation to take action toward guaranteeing equal treatment to every American regardless of race. Following the address, he proposed that Congress consider civil rights legislation that would address voting rights, public accommodations, school desegregation, and nondiscrimination in federally assisted programs.
He was assassinated before the bill was passed, but President Johnson signed it into law the next year. Suffice it to say, Republicans, too, voted for the bill.
But since its passage, the GOP has been chipping away at it. It has done so in efforts to pass state voter laws to make it difficult for minorities to vote, in seeking ways to neutralize affirmative action, and in voting against renewing the 1964 act itself. And it is framing its argument on the premise that the laws keep blacks dependent upon the government, and that they do more harm than good.
The issue, here, is that Republicans today are more concerned about the civil rights of the unborn than about the rights of women and black Americans who are already born. Without a doubt, they are on a crusade to enact laws that protect the rights of the unborn under the guise of so-called “personhood amendments.”
Although specific language in the amendments varies from state to state, they are designed to achieve the same purpose-to legally define life as beginning at conception. At a Personhood USA’s presidential forum held in Des Moines, Iowa, in December, all GOP hopefuls in attendance signed a personhood pledge, according to Keith Ashley’s press release. Senator Ron Paul later signed it, with a few stipulations-but he signed it still.
Think! If, by law, life begins at conception, it would be murder to abort the fertilized egg. In essence, a fertilized egg will have civil rights equal to or greater than that of women whose bodies carry the egg. The goal of this crusade is so dangerous that woman and doctors may end up in prison for performing or having an abortion respectively-regardless of rape, incest, and health reasons. The civil rights of women will be violated in favor of the civil rights of a fertilized egg-a potential person.
The greatest fear is that, like the Jews in Psalm 106: 15, they may get and then despise what they get.
Lawrence L. Beale is a syndicated columnist who lives in Surry, Virginia.