As a little girl growing up in Nebraska, I used to write letters to the president. Yes, I adored Ronald Reagan — his wrinkled grandpa face, his soft voice, his love of jellybeans. I once even received a reply back, complete with a glossy magazine about the White House.
My feelings grew colder as I got older. I began to recognize that ketchup, although delicious on my french fries, really wasn’t a vegetable, and that the cuddly president of my childhood was as much a fiction as the characters he played in movies prior to becoming a politician.
Now, thanks to Allison Yarrow at The Daily Beast, I’ve learned he was responsible for the current so-called “fetal pain” legislation as well.
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Reagan first broached the idea of fetal suffering in 1983, in an article for the Human Life Review, where he asked: “Who is the patient if not that tiny unborn human being who can feel pain when he or she is approached by doctors who come to kill rather than to cure?” That article was reprinted later in the year in Abortion and the Conscience of a Nation, a slim volume that was the first and remains the only book published by a sitting president.
The idea of fetal pain, new to most Americans, and outside of the medical mainstream, attracted broader attention the following January, when Reagan raised it in a high-profile speech to the Annual Convention of Religious Broadcasters, his first address after formally announcing his bid for reelection.
“There’s another grim truth we should face up to,” said Reagan. “Medical science doctors confirm that when the lives of the unborn are snuffed out, they often feel pain, pain that is long and agonizing,”
Ah, Reagan. Just when I think the legacy you left behind couldn’t get any worse, it does.