When Congressman Randy Neugebauer (R-TX) shouted "baby-killer" during Rep. Bart Stupak's (D-MI) speech during the health insurance reform vote last Sunday, American political debate reached a new low. Neugebauer has apologized to Stupak, insisting that the remark wasn't personal -- that he was not calling Rep. Stupak a "baby-killer" but was referring to the bill.
Respectfully, Mr. Neugebauer, it doesn't matter who or what you were slandering with the "baby-killer" epithet. And it really doesn't matter that you apologized (especially since you turned the whole thing into a fund-raising commercial immediately after said apology). It is unacceptable to use such a term in public discourse ever. Period.
To call someone a "baby-killer," especially a serious Catholic like Rep. Stupak with his deep commitment to life, is nothing short of evil, akin to calling a Jew a Nazi. It is incongruous, and it is a lie. No truly Christian person, whether they identify with either pro-life or pro-choice politics, believes that babies should be killed. This is obvious in the case of pro-life Christians like Rep. Stupak who have spent a lifetime arguing against abortion. But it is equally true for pro-choice Christians, who do not believe in killing babies but do believe that women are trustworthy moral agents who, when they have access to excellent health care, will make choices that lower the abortion rates as do European and Canadian women. For both pro-life and pro-choice Christians, the whole point of health care, women's reproductive choices, and legal access to abortion is the hope that children will be born who are healthy and have every possibility for a good, productive, and happy life. The purpose is to provide for life, not to end life.
Pro-life and pro-choice Christians share "pro-baby" and "anti-killing" moral convictions. With Holy Week just days away, we are reminded that Christians are horrified by murder and morbid execution -- a horror that extends to any sort of intentional violence against human beings. Jesus' crucifixion points to the heart of Christian ethics: the more innocent the life, the more repulsive the act of violence. Since the earliest days of Christian faith, Christians rejected practices of infanticide and have cared for unwanted children and orphans. Throughout history, Christians have opposed abortion -- their only argument has been over differing understandings as to when the potential life carried in a woman's womb becomes actual life. (For most of history, Christians condemned abortion after "quickening," the first detectable movement of a fetus, which was when the soul was believed to be imparted.) No sane person, and certainly no sane Christian, is a "baby-killer." To call someone such is evil.
To call the current bill a "baby-killer" is also a lie, and it mirrors the lie that the bill will kill senior citizens -- the fabricated "death panel" provision. It is nothing more than political theater to discredit any genuine attempt to enrich the lives of Americans by making health care and decent health insurance available to the poor, the sick, and the marginalized. To say that the legislation will "kill" is a kind of Orwellian double-speak, intended to create fear and anger that the government wants to destroy life instead of the clear intention of Congress to extend life and improve its quality for the maximum number of American citizens.
To say that a person is a "baby-killer," or that legislation crafted by a duly elected Congress representing a majority of citizens is a "baby-killer," provides unbalanced persons motivation to kill the "killers" and thus incites violence. Indeed, in recent days, we have seen just that -- threats against individual members of Congress (including someone who evidently tried to blow up a Virginia Congressman's family) and increased violent threats against the government more generally.
Mr. Neugebauer, you apologized to Mr. Stupak. But in the apology, you clearly said that the bill was a "baby-killer." Does that mean everyone who supported health care reform are "baby-killers"? You owe us all an apology -- if not your resignation.