Lt. Gov. Remarks at Alaskans Rally for Life

January 20, 2012, Juneau, AK - Lt. Governor Mead Treadwell Remarks at Alaskans Rally for Life

Thank you, Sid and Jim, for inviting me here today. To my fellow elected officials, and to all of you who have braved this wind and cold to be here, I am honored to stand with you.

Today is my son William’s seventeenth birthday. Birthdays are a time of joy, a time we light some candles in celebration of life. If all of us standing together today are successful, we’ll celebrate a lot more birthdays!

Speaking of birthdays, let’s talk about our nation’s birthday, 1776. We agreed then: All men – and women and children – are created equal, and are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights – among them, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

At our state’s birthday in 1959, we also agreed that all persons have a natural right to life and liberty, and are equal, and entitled to equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law.

As a people, we have agreed that government exists to secure these rights.

We celebrate Abraham Lincoln’s birthday next month. We will remember then, as we did with the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King on Monday, that the battle for equality is long, that we have not always kept that promise to protect equal rights.

Because during our nation’s history of legalized slavery, of legalized segregation, of blatant disregard for the founding truth that all men are created equal, the arguments were almost identical to those we hear today about unborn children.

As a nation, we have not always agreed on who, in fact, is a person.

To our great shame, there was a time when we said that our black brothers and sisters were not persons of equal rights or equal value. A hundred and fifty-five years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dred Scott decision declared that black people were not citizens of the United States.

The Supreme Court said they were property – without liberty, without rights.

Given the words of our Declaration – that all men are created equal – the argument follows that this ruling declared that black people were not part of mankind.

That terrible blemish on our nation’s past took more than a century to overcome. But with much work, prayer, and fighting for the sanctity of life, we did overcome.

We look back now on our history of slavery with shame… appalled that we could have allowed such atrocities to happen. Ladies and gentlemen, I believe that one day we will look back at this time in our nation’s history and be shocked at ourselves for tolerating abortion for so long.

We live in a society now that has chosen to value what is called “personal choice” and “privacy” over the fundamental right to life of a vast group of people. Since 1973, over 50 million unborn babies died in favor of “personal choice” and “right to privacy”. In the past three decades, somewhere around fifty-five thousand Alaskans were denied the chance to have their birthdays.

That’s painful, painful to even imagine happening in a country which thinks of itself as moral, which promises equal rights for all.

I believe the message of the Declaration of Independence: government exists to protect our rights, lives and liberties --- not to take them away. But I believe this protection extends to all of our lives, and that includes those of the unborn. One person’s right to choice or privacy must not preclude another person’s life.

When you hold a newborn bundle in your arms, no one has any doubts that it’s human life. The endless argument is when that life began. We can make timelines showing development at different stages; we can say when there’s viability for the baby outside the womb. But I say that’s an arrogant game to play with human life.

Life begins at conception, and from that moment a baby chooses life. Another son of mine, Tim, almost died at childbirth, right here at Bartlett Hospital. The grace of God, the intervention of skilled doctors, and I believe that child’s own determination to live saved his life, and we’ve had 21 years to celebrate that miracle.

We may not know the name of each unborn soul, but every unborn baby is a life, and every life has a path and a potential.

Instead of tolerating this violence, we must work to build a culture of life in our state and in our nation. So where do we start? Not in this Capitol Building. Not in that court house across the street. We have to start in our hearts. The right response – the only response to a child… is love. I know that’s not always easy, but that doesn’t justify the alternative. Accepting the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, Mother Teresa told us that “The greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is direct war, a direct killing.”

This movement to build a culture of life… it’s an equal rights movement. Stand with Martin Luther King. It’s a peace movement. Stand with Mother Teresa. And it’s a movement of love. Stand with all those who struggle as new parents.

This work is even part of the women’s movement. In 1889, near the end of her prestigious career fighting for women’s rights, Susan B. Anthony said she found great joy in working to improve conditions for mothers so that, “their unborn little ones could not be willed away from them.”

As a society, we must move beyond the stigma that is sometimes attached to women who choose to have their babies, and instead must celebrate and honor their decision to choose life and love. As fellow citizens, we should give our support to homes and organizations that help unprepared mothers. We should support the adoption process, so that parents who are desperate to love and care for a baby can help women who aren’t ready for one.

We can also work to bring about change in our government to stem the tide of abortions in our state and nation.

As a citizen of this state and nation, I’ll say it right now. I’d like to see the day when we government entirely ceases to fund abortion. We do so much to protect life – from seatbelts in our cars, EMT’s in our firehouses, support for our hospitals, search and rescue, air traffic controllers, firemen and policemen…and much, much more. We do all that, and then, do just the opposite for the unborn.

In this legislative session, there will be many appropriate times and places to talk about this issue of equality, peace, and life: in legislation, in confirmation hearings and oversight hearings, and in the State’s budget… we can engage on this issue with seriousness and with respect for all our freedoms.

First of all, make yourself heard by legislators – write to them – call them on the phone – come down to Juneau and knock on their doors.

Get in touch with your Executive Branch… I said when I ran for this office – don’t leave us alone… Support the efforts Governor Parnell has made to limit state funding for abortions. Help us extend the culture of life – to the unborn, and also to the aged, to those who are at risk for suicide or victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. Stand with us as we rally to Choose Respect across this state.

And take advantage of the Citizen Initiative process. In 2010, one such citizen initiative required parental notification for girls under 18 before they can have an abortion. There is a lawsuit going about this legislation, but I believe Prop. 2 makes tremendous strides in protecting the health and safety of Alaskans.

Besides birthdays today, we also know this weekend marks another anniversary, the 29th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. On the tenth anniversary of Roe v. Wade, President Ronald Reagan also cited the Dred Scott decision, when our country was first divided by a Supreme Court ruling on which lives are valuable, and which lives are not. President Reagan said this:

At first, only a minority of Americans recognized and deplored the moral crisis brought about by denying the full humanity of our black brothers and sisters; but that minority persisted in their vision and finally prevailed. They did it by appealing to the hearts and minds of their countrymen, to the truth of human dignity under God. From their example, we know that respect for the sacred value of human life is too deeply engrained in the hearts of our people to remain forever suppressed.

That was a difficult journey for our nation, and the journey we’re on now will also be difficult.

In closing, I want to say that I know first-hand the difficulty of the personal choice of life, because someone very close to me once had to make it.

In the 1950s, an 18-year-old girl became pregnant. She was a freshman at a prestigious college, with great things in store, and she had to drop out. Abortion was not widely legal at the time, but it was available. She knew that arrangements could be made with some doctor in New York City.

I thank God for giving that woman the courage to say no thank you. Otherwise I would not be here today. It was my mother who made the difficult choice to love me before she knew me. She and my father eloped, and went on to have three healthy children. Every day of my life is a celebration of that choice.

To all mothers facing that tough choice, we are with you. You and your child are in our prayers. Choose life. Choose life. Choose life. I tell you, it is worth it – every time.

As we continue to fight for life, there is hope that we can turn our culture around. We must never cease to pray for strength and wisdom, and to work – every day – for life and love. Godspeed as you continue this great work. Thank you.