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The Reagan Cultural Doctrine

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Location: Washington, DC


THE REAGAN CULTURAL DOCTRINE

Mr. BROWNBACK. Mr. President, I rise today to speak on a topic called the Reagan Cultural Doctrine.

Presidents are noted for foreign policy doctrines which they articulate and put forward. President Reagan had his own noteworthy and very successful foreign policy doctrine, the Reagan Doctrine, involving the confrontation with communism that led to its ultimate demise. President Reagan is to be credited and given great praise for it.

But President Reagan had another doctrine I want to speak about today, the Reagan Cultural Doctrine, which I think it would be fitting for us to acknowledge and press forward to its successful completion.

President Reagan respected each and every human life at whatever stage of that life and wherever it was located. This was a unifying theme that lay behind some of his most significant policy choices and movements. It led him to insist that the Soviet empire was evil and to demand of the new Soviet leaders that they "tear down this wall."

It was what led him to note that "until and unless someone can establish the unborn child is not a living human being, then that child is already protected by the Constitution which guarantees life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to all of us."

That is a direct Reagan quote.

Toward the end of his Presidency on January 14, 1988, President Reagan took the opportunity to clearly articulate the Reagan cultural doctrine, a very simple yet profound Presidential Declaration. President Reagan proclaimed and declared "the inalienable personhood of every American from the moment of conception until natural death."

I ask unanimous consent that a copy of President Reagan's January 14, 1988 Presidential declaration on the inalienable personhood of the unborn be printed in the RECORD.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:

PROCLAMATION 5761 OF JANUARY 14, 1988

NATIONAL SANCTITY OF HUMAN LIFE DAY, 1988

(By the President of the United States of America)

America has given a great gift to the world, a gift that drew upon the accumulated wisdom derived from centuries of experiments in self-government, a gift that has irrevocably changed humanity's future. Our gift is twofold: the declaration, as a cardinal principle of all just law, of the God-given, unalienable rights possessed by every human being; and the example of our determination to secure those rights and to defend them against every challenge through the generations. Our declaration and defense of our rights have made us and kept us free and have sent a tide of hope and inspiration around the globe.

One of those unalienable rights, as the Declaration of Independence affirms so eloquently, is the right to life. In the 15 years since the Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade, however, America's unborn have been denied their right to life. Among the tragic and unspeakable results in the past decade and a half have been the loss of life of 22 million infants before birth; the pressure and anguish of countless women and girls who are driven to abortion; and a cheapening of our respect for the human person and the sanctity of human life.

We are told that we may not interfere with abortion. We are told that we may not "impose our morality" on those who wish to allow or participate in the taking of the life of infants before birth; yet no one calls it "imposing morality" to prohibit the taking of life after people are born. We are told as well that there exists a "right" to end the lives of unborn children; yet no one can explain how such a right can exist in stark contradiction of each person's fundamental right to life.

That right to life belongs equally to babies in the womb, babies born handicapped, and the elderly or infirm. That we have killed the unborn for 15 years does not nullify this right, nor could any number of killings ever do so. The unalienable right to life is found not only in the Declaration of Independence but also in the Constitution that every President is sworn to preserve, protect, and defend. Both the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments guarantee that no person shall be deprived of life without due process of law.

All medical and scientific evidence increasingly affirms that children before birth share all the basic attributes of human personality-that they in fact are persons. Modern medicine treats unborn children as patients. Yet, as the Supreme Court itself has noted, the decision in Roe v. Wade rested upon an earlier state of medical technology. The law of the land in 1988 should recognize all of the medical evidence.

Our Nation cannot continue down the path of abortion, so radically at odds with our history, our heritage, and our concepts of justice. This sacred legacy, and the well-being and the future of our country, demand that protection of the innocents must be guaranteed and that the personhood of the unborn be declared and defended throughout the land. In legislation introduced at my request in the First Session of the 100th Congress, I have asked the Legislative branch to declare the "humanity of the unborn child and the compelling interest of the several states to protect the life of each person before birth." This duty to declare on so fundamental a matter falls to the Executive as well. By this Proclamation I hereby do so.

Now, therefore, I Ronald Reagan, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim and declare the unalienable personhood of every American, from the moment of conception until natural death, and I do proclaim, ordain, and declare that I will take care that the Constitution and laws of the United States are faithfully executed for the protection of America's unborn children. Upon this act, sincerely believed to be an act of justice, warranted by the Constitution, I invoke the considerate judgment of mankind and the gracious favor of Almighty God. I also proclaim Sunday, January 17, 1988, as National Sanctity of Human Life Day. I call upon the citizens of this blessed land to gather on that day in their homes and places of worship to give thanks for the gift of life they enjoy and to reaffirm their commitment to the dignity of every human being and the sanctity of every human life.

In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand this 14th day of January, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and eighty-eight, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and twelfth.

RONALD REAGAN.

Mr. BROWNBACK. Mr. President, our Nation cannot be the "shining city upon the hill" without the respect and recognition of the inalienable personhood of every American from the moment of conception until natural death. Reagan realized and declared this. The Reagan Cultural Doctrine is synonymous with the culture of life. President Reagan's commitment to the culture of life was evident from the first days of his Presidency.

In recent days, some have implicitly questioned President Reagan's commitment to the inalienable personhood of every American by suggesting that destructive embryonic stem cell research should be conducted in President Reagan's name. And here we are not talking about adult stem cell research or umbilical cord blood which are supported by virtually everybody and are producing true results-here we are talking strictly about destructive embryonic stem cell research which results in the death of a young human embryo after its conception.

To suggest that this should be conducted in President Reagan's name is a completely contrary view of the Reagan Cultural Doctrine. It is a misappropriation of President Reagan's legacy, and it is damaging to the culture of life that President Reagan was so steadfast in defending. It is an assault on the Reagan Cultural Doctrine.

As former Reagan National Security Adviser and Interior Secretary William Clark noted in the New York Times recently,

Ronald Reagan's record reveals that no issue was of greater importance to him than the dignity and sanctity of all human life. "My administration is dedicated to the preservation of America as a free land," he said in 1983. "And there is no cause more important for preserving that freedom than affirming the transcendent right to life of all human beings, the right without which no other rights have any meaning." One of the things he regretted most at the completion of his Presidency in 1989, he told [William Clark], was that politics and circumstances had prevented him from making more progress in restoring protection for unborn human life.

Continuing in his New York Times piece, Clark then addressed Reagan's early efforts to protect innocent human life through halting Federal efforts on destructive research involving human embryos. Here we find that President Reagan himself pushed to stop destructive human embryonic research.

Clark says:

Reagan consistently opposed federal support for the destruction of innocent human life. After the charter expired for the Department of Health, Education and Welfare's ethical advisory board-which in the 1970s supported destructive research on human embryos-he began a de facto ban on federal financing of embryo research that he held to throughout his presidency.

I ask unanimous consent a copy of William Clark's June 11, 2004, New York Times op-ed piece titled "For Reagan, All Life Was Sacred," be printed in the RECORD.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:

[From the New York Times, June 11, 2004]

FOR REAGAN, ALL LIFE WAS SACRED
(By William P. Clark)

PASO ROBLES, CALIF.-Ronald Reagan had not passed from this life for 48 hours before proponents of human embryonic stem-cell research began to suggest that such ethically questionable scientific work should be promoted under his name. But this cannot honestly be done without ignoring President Reagan's own words and actions.

Ronald Reagan's record reveals that no issue was of greater importance to him than the dignity and sanctity of all human life. "My administration is dedicated to the preservation of America as a free land," he said in 1983. "And there is no cause more important for preserving that freedom than affirming the transcendent right to life of all human beings, the right without which no other rights have any meaning." One of the things he regretted most at the completion of his presidency in 1989, he told me, was that politics and circumstances had prevented him from making more progress in restoring protection for unborn human life.

Still, he did what he could. To criticize the Roe v. Wade decision on its 10th anniversary in 1983, he published his famous essay "Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation" in The Human Life Review. "We cannot diminish the value of one category of human life-the unborn-without diminishing the value of all human life," he wrote. He went on to emphasize "the truth of human dignity under God" and "respect for the sacred value of human life." Because modern science has revealed the wonder of human development, and modern medicine treats "the developing human as a patient," he declared, "the real question today is not when human life begins, but, What is the value of human life?"

In that essay, he expressly encouraged continued support for the "Sanctity of life ethic" and rejection of the "quality of life ethic." Writing about the value of all human life, he quoted the British writer Malcolm Muggeridge's statement that "however low it flickers so fiercely burns, it is still a divine flame which no man dare presume to put out, be his motives ever so humane and enlightened." And in the Roe v. Wade decision, he insisted, the Supreme Court "did not explicitly reject the traditional American idea of intrinsic worth and value in all human life; it simply dodged the issue."

Likewise, in his famous "Evil Empire" speech of March 1983-which most recall as solely an indictment of the Soviet Union-Ronald Reagan spoke strongly against the denigration of innocent human life. "Abortion on demand now takes the lives of up to one and half million unborn children a year," he said. "Unless and until it can be proven that the unborn child is not a living entity, then its right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness must be protected."

His actions were as clear as his words. He supported the Human Life Amendment, which would have inscribed in the Constitution "the paramount right to life is vested in each human being from the moment of fertilization without regard to age, health or condition of dependency." And he favored bills in Congress that would have given every human being-at all stages of development-protection as a person under the 14th Amendment.

Aside from the moral principle, President Reagan would also have questioned picking the people's pocket to support commercial research. He understood the significance of putting the imprimatur of the nation, through public financing, behind questionable research.

He consistently opposed federal support for the destruction of innocent human life. After the charter expired for the Department of Health, Education and Welfare's ethical advisory board-which in the 1970's supported destructive research on human embryos-he began a de facto ban on federal financing of embryo research that he held to throughout his presidency.

As for today's debate, as a defender of free people and free markets, he would have asked the marketplace question: if human embryonic research is so clearly promising as the researchers assert, why aren't private investors putting money into it, as they are in adult stem cell research?

Mr. Reagan's suffering under Alzheimer's disease was tragic, and we should do everything we can that is ethically proper to help others afflicted with it. But I have no doubt that he would have urged our nation to look to adult stem cell reserach-which has yielded many clinical successes-and away from the destruction of developing human lives, which has yielded none. Those who would trade on Ronald Reagan's legacy should first consider his own words.

Mr. BROWNBACK. Mr. President, I mean no disrespect to anyone in addressing this important issue, but we are talking about innocent young human life. Someone must speak for those who have no voice and for the great pro-life legacy of President Reagan now that he is no longer with us.

I would like to share the stories and memories of some of the Reagan revolutionaries who were privileged to interact with the President on this particular vital issue.

Just 2 days after his January 20, 1981, inauguration as President of the United States, Ronald Reagan made his personal commitment to pro-life issues clear. At a time when hundreds of people were waiting to meet the newly elected President in order to seek positions in his administration, the President made time for an unrelated meeting with pro-life leaders in Congress and the nonprofit sector. Senators Richard Schweiker and Jesse Helms were present at that meeting, as were Representatives HENRY HYDE and Bob Dornan.

This meeting, which was to become an annual policy meeting on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, was tremendously significant. By 1980, the pro-life movement had been largely marginalized by previous administrations. But President Reagan's willingness to hold these meetings and to annually address the March for Life meeting by phone took the pro-life movement into the mainstream.

One participant in that first meeting noted that the President's personal conviction on the right to life for unborn children was obvious. The participant said:

President Reagan's deep commitment to pro-life issues was very evident when he spoke of viewing an inutero sonogram while he was Governor of California. It was moving to watch him speak. Clearly, he understood the life issue; it could be seen in his body language.

The quote continues:

There we were, two days after his inauguration. He didn't have to meet with us or do anything. Yet, he turned our 15 minute meeting into a 45 minute meeting.

President Reagan truly had great zeal for pro-life causes. I share in the sentiment made by long-time Reagan aide Michael Deaver, who made this observation in his political memoirs. Deaver noted the President's zeal in the section of his book dedicated to the March 30, 1981, assassination attempt on President Reagan. This was in reference to a meeting soon after with the late Cardinal Terrence Cooke of New York. Deaver overheard the President's final words of this meeting with Cardinal Cooke. Reagan said this:

I have decided that whatever time I may have left, is left for Him.

"Him," referring to God. Anyone who knew Reagan has to acknowledge that this statement was from the heart. It summed up his subsequent involvement in the great moral issues of the day.

Deaver concludes this section with his own thoughts after the death of Cardinal Cooke:

When Reagan was told of his friend's death, the president's words from their earlier meeting echoed in my mind. "Whatever time I may have left is left for Him." I would never forget his promise, and I would see him deliver on it time and time again.

President Reagan's interest in life issues was not just convenient political positioning either. He actively wrestled with this issue. I will read a passage from "What I Saw at the Revolution," political memoir of Reagan's speech writer Peggy Noonan.

Look at him on abortion. It took courage to oppose an option that at least 20 million Americans had exercised since Roe v. Wade, when the issue isn't a coalition builder but an opposition creator, when the polls are against you and the boomers want it and when you've already been accused of being unsympathetic to women and your own pollster is telling you your stand contributes to a gender gap. . . .

Let me continue now further with the book:

But he puzzled it out on his own, not like a visionary or an intellectual but like a regular person. He read and thought and listened to people who cared, and he made up his own mind. And suddenly when they said, "The argument is over when life begins," he said, "Well look, if that's the argument: If there's a bag in the gutter and you don't know if what's in it is alive, you don't kick it, do you? Well, no, you don't.

He held to his stand against his own political interests (where were the anti-abortion people going to go?) and against the wishes of his family and friends. Nancy wasn't anti-abortion, the kids weren't anti-abortion, and people like the Bloomingdales and his friends in Beverly Hills-they did not get where they are through an overfastidious concern for the helpless. He was the only one of his group who cared.

A lengthy quote from Peggy Noonan.

President Reagan did care deeply about the sanctity of life, and we know that he was actively engaged on this issue. One example of this was President Reagan's interest in the pro-life journal, the Human Life Review. We know the President read this journal because he actually wrote a letter responding to the heroic mother of a child with spina bifida who had written a letter that was published in the journal in the summer of 1982 edition.

In his letter to the mother the President wrote:

Your recent letter published in the summer issue of the Human Life Review came to my attention. I want you to know that
I was deeply impressed by what you wrote and by the obvious commitment you and your family have made to respond to the affliction of a handicapped child with affection and courage.

I strongly believe that protection of these children is a natural and fundamental part of the duty government has to protect the innocent and to guarantee that the civil rights of all are respected. This duty is a special order when the rights involved are the right to life itself. . . .

After learning of President Reagan's interest in their pro-life publication through this letter, Jim McFadden of the Human Life Review invited the President to write an essay for publication in the journal. The President obliged, and thus his famous "Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation" was published in 1983. In this essay, President Reagan made some profound statements laying the groundwork for the Reagan cultural doctrine.

A copy of this essay may be found on the Human Life Review website at

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