William Buckley: A Voice against Liberalism and for Life
By Michael Baggot
February 29, 2008 (LifeSiteNews.com) - On Wednesday February 27, 2008 William Buckley Jr. left this world after 82 years of life. During his life it seemed that practically every person familiar with Buckley or his work, whether political friend or foe, had strong words of praise for the recently deceased hero of conservatism.
“For people of my generation, Bill Buckley was pretty much the first intelligent, witty, well-educated conservative one saw on television,” said William Kristol, editor of the influential conservative Weekly Standard, in 1999. “He legitimized conservatism as an intellectual movement and therefore as a political movement," added Kristol.
Liberal historian Arthur Schlesinger, in words that delighted Buckley, called him the “scourge of liberalism.”
However, while many of Buckley’s achievements regarding political and economic thought are well documented, his contributions to the cause of life and family are less well known.
For instance, the National Review magazine that Buckley was pivotal in founding and guiding has been one of the most prominent pro-life voices among magazines without explicit religious connections.
Buckley himself used his column in the National Review to speak out with typical eloquence for the cause of life. For instance, during John Kerry’s 2004 campaign for president, Buckley lambasted the supposedly Catholic democratic candidate for his purported private opposition to abortion yet public promotion of child slaughter.
Criticizing those who would reduce opposition to abortion to a sectarian view based on religious faith, Buckley wrote that the Catholic Church does not oppose abortion because of the Gospels, but because of “the proposition that human beings are human beings even if they have not yet been born. Those who are helpless are, it is all but universally held in America, to be protected. The one-day-old child is protected with the full force of the law. The proposition that he is without rights when he is minus one day old is nothing more than a social convention conflating various concerns.”
Hence, Buckley continued to make clear that the pro-life cause was not one to be reserved to Catholics, or those who are religious, but could and should embrace any person of good will still convinced of the fundamental equality of each human being.
As late as May of last year, Buckley urged his readership to recognize the serious moral question of the rights of pre-born children. In an article reflecting on Mitt Romney’s position on abortion, Buckley recounted how he had argued in 1966 that Catholic’s could not dictate their abortion opposition to non-Catholics by opposing state legislation allowing abortion. A response from a fellow founder of the National Review prompted Buckley to reflect on his position and prompted him to deeper pro-life convictions. Subsequently, Buckley articulated a pro-life stance in natural law language accessible to those without the Catholic faith.
In the same Romney article, Buckley writes “We need to remind ourselves that deep moral questions have at other times in American history engaged public thought.” He goes on to cite slavery and the civil rights movement as instances of political issues that required moral principles to access and could not be left to the prejudices of the ruling majority. He reminded readers that perfectly good, kind, intelligent, and well-read people accepted the institution [of slavery] many without question, for years.” Thus, anti-life practices like abortion cannot be accepted merely because they have long been permitted by the law of the land.
Buckley goes on to attack the efforts of the Democratic Party to stifle serious moral reflection on life issues. He criticizes the party for forbidding the Pennsylvania governor from speaking at its 1992 convention due to his pro-life stance. Buckley exhorts all men to regain their moral conscience in the midst of intellectual tyranny.
Buckley also used his column in the National Review to call attention to life issues that were shaping the world. In a November 2007 article, Buckley highlighted the growing interest in contraceptives shown in Afghanistan and the different contraceptives available in the United States. Buckley also commented on the nature of the morning after pill and its abortifacient capacities. He encouraged voices of natural law to address concerns about the growing availability of various contraceptives.
While many may remember William F. Buckley Jr. for his support for Barry Goldwater or Ronald Regan, the voice he offered on behalf of the voiceless children at risk of abortion due to leftwing political dominance should not be forgotten.