Paris, Call Rudy

If Republican presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani is right about abortion, Paris Hilton should be released from jail immediately. Consider what he said about abortion at the last presidential debate: “My view on abortion is that it’s wrong but that ultimately, government should not be enforcing that decision on a woman.”

We all know why Rudy thinks abortion is wrong — because every abortion snuffs out the life of a human being, the most vulnerable human being among us, the unborn child. If abortion weren’t the killing of an unborn child, then it would be irrational for Rudy to say “my view on abortion is that it’s wrong.”

Rudy thinks drunk driving is wrong for the same reason he thinks abortion is wrong. When he was mayor of New York, he explained it very succinctly: “Drunk driving kills people.”

So, if Rudy is against abortion because it kills people and he’s against drunk driving because it kills people, then we should be able to change his sentence from the presidential debate this way:

“My view on drunk driving is that it’s wrong, but that ultimately, government should not be enforcing that decision on a woman.”

But of course, he would never say such a thing. As mayor of New York, he toughened drunk-driving laws. “The purpose is simple,” he said: “to save lives.”

Paris Hilton is in jail (for driving drunk and then driving on a suspended license) thanks to the same sorts of laws Rudy Giuliani put in place in New York. And Paris is lucky. She learned the easy way that it is wrong to drink and drive. The hard way is to cause a traffic accident that either kills or hospitalizes you — or, perhaps worse, in which you kill or hospitalize someone else.

The easy way is to face the law and learn that the law won’t bend, not even for you. The result may be the humiliation and hardship of incarceration, but that’s better than a long life filled with guilt or a short life filled with pain.

Paris needs to call Rudy and tell him what she has learned about the law. Rudy needs to know that there is also an easy way and a hard way to learn that abortion is wrong.

The easy way is the way Rudy learned it. He grew up in a country where it was illegal, and learned why it was illegal in Catholic schools. The hard way is to actually have an abortion.

“Respect for human life finds an ultimate expression in the bond of love the mother has for her child,” said the Supreme Court in its opinion on Carhart vs. Gonzales. “While we find no reliable data to measure the phenomenon, it seems unexceptionable to conclude some women come to regret their choice to abort the infant life they once created and sustained. Severe depression and loss of esteem can follow.”

Women who have had an abortion regret it for the rest of their lives — the thought that an innocent child died at their hands is almost too much to bear.

That’s why it is indeed the business of the law to make a determination about when life begins and to prevent the big business of abortion from preying for profit on women in difficult circumstances. If it were illegal, our culture’s attitude toward abortion would change. We often think of the law as a mere enforcer of community standards, when law in fact sets community standards.

Years ago, we wouldn’t think twice before driving after drinking a little bit too much. First came a public-education campaign about the dangers of drunk driving. There was a new public stigma attached to drunk driving and an awareness of the dangers. That changed our behavior quite a bit.

But then came changes in the law. First, there were tougher sentences on repeat offenders. Then there were tougher sentences on first-time offenders. Finally, there was a change in the definition of what blood-alcohol content means “drunk.”

The changes in the law changed our behavior a lot. We are less likely to drink more than a little if we are planning to drive, and far more likely to find an alternate driver if we have.

In case after case, the laws enforced by the government change the behavior — and the moral standards — of a community.

“Click it or ticket” laws have greatly increased seat belt use. No smoking laws have drastically cut smoking. Decency laws that kept pornography out of mainstream stores kept pornography relatively rare. Laws that prevent communities from banning pornography have made pornography ubiquitous.

If the New York court’s decision to override the FCC’s ban on TV profanity is successful, you will soon find profanity as pervasive on network television as it is on restricted cable channels.

When Rudy Giuliani made his argument about abortion, lightning struck the building in which the debates were being held, causing his microphone to cut in and out.

“For someone who went to parochial schools all his life, this is a frightening thing that’s happening right now,” Giuliani joked. Of course, precisely because he has gone to Catholic schools, Rudy knows that the image of an angry God making his feelings known through lightning bolts is from the cartoon world, not the Catechism.

God knew the importance of law. That’s why he gave us the Fifth Commandment. And God’s response to people who know killing is wrong, and promote it anyway, isn’t very funny.