LOUISVILLE, Ky. --Most public officials and other experts fail to discern the link between abortion and moral decay that has led to school violence and mass murder, declared nationally syndicated pro-life columnist Mona Charen.
In 1973 the Supreme Court sent a message to society that if a life is inconvenient you can just get rid of it, Charen said at a Louisville (Ky.) Right to Life annual banquet. Twenty-six years later, it shouldn't surprise the public when people disrespect life and don't take it seriously, she said.
"You cannot kill the unborn and then expect the lessons of that callousness and that cruelty will not have a corrupting influence on the rest of society," said Charen, whose column appears in about 200 newspapers nationwide.
The Washington, D.C.-based writer said psychologists and social workers who discuss violent video games or the need for better conflict resolution to reduce teen violence miss the point.
She called it "mind-boggling" that many fail to recognize the deep-seated reasons behind young men visiting neo-Nazi Internet sites, building bombs and dressing in repugnant styles.
"We are dealing with something far beyond anger management," said the mother of three children, one of them adopted, in her April 23 address. "We're dealing with serious corruption of the human soul."
The question is not why it happened, but why it didn't occur 30 years ago, since there have always been unhappy teenagers, the speaker said.
Among the changing factors she cited:
-- Disintegrating families. Half of the children in America will experience broken homes, she said. Even when both parents are present, they pay too little attention; she cited a statistic that the average child spends six minutes a day talking to their elders.
-- A wave of "cultural pollution," from video games to movies to television. Many radio stations air disgusting music and other material, and even diligent parents are often powerless to shield their children from it, she said.
-- Increased birth rates among single mothers.
"It's amazing how far we can fall in 25 years," Charen said. "This nation has become so wealthy that nearly every family has a microwave oven, cell phone, designer sneakers and a two-car garage. But the thing that children need to be happy -- the love of two, committed marriage parents, a stable home and reliable rules of conduct -- have been denied them."
Reminders appear nearly every day, she noted.
For example, 40 percent of the students at Harvard's business school admitted they would cheat their employer if they knew they wouldn't get caught.
She also referred to a pair of well-publicized cases in which teens gave birth and threw the child in the trash, the latter at her high school prom.
"Where did nice, seemingly normal, ordinary, middle-class American kids get the idea that you can dispose of a child like so much trash?" Charen asked. "From the Supreme Court, the president, Planned Parenthood and the entire pro-abortion movement."
When Roe vs. Wade was announced, ethicists, theologians and legal experts warned this was the first step on a slippery slope that would lead to dispensing with all inconvenient lives, she said.
Because it ignored those voices, society is reaping a harvest of assisted suicide, she added. She said leading advocate, Jack Kevorkian, paints himself as compassionate. But her investigation of some of his 100 victims showed otherwise.
One was a 39-year-old woman who complained of suffering from multiple sclerosis, which isn't fatal, Charen said. When the coroner did an autopsy, he found no evidence of any disease.
Others weren't sick at all, but were suffering from physical or emotional distress, such as the woman beaten by her husband two days before visiting Kevorkian, she said.
"Assisted suicide is seen as great autonomy of the individual; your life is your property to do with as you please," she said. "That's just like [arguments] that the fetus is the property of the mother, to do with as she pleases.
"People who are dying, who are sick, need our compassion and our help," she added. "They don't need a shove toward the grave."
In an interview before her speech, Charen said pro-life advocates are seeing victories despite many reasons to get discouraged. In the debate over partial-birth abortion, many leading Democrats opposed the practice, which she said signaled a breakthrough.
Pro-life supporters must take opportunities where they find them, she said, such as dropping its rigid insistence on a "Human Life Amendment" that has no chance of passing and making gradual progress.
"I think the partial-birth [ban] was the first example of the movement saying, 'All right, we're going to step back from seeking total transformation of this regime and look at how we can chip away at the number of abortions that are taking place."
Whether the two vetoes by President Clinton of a partial-birth abortion ban prove to be a key that advances the pro-life agenda, she said, its supporters must continue trying to change the public's mind, show them the truth and keep the debate going.
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