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Remembering Reagan


President Reagan would not want to become a poster child for fetal stem cell research. This is not the memorial that he would want, not the crusade that he would have wished his wife to embark upon.


I forget who sent me a copy of Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation in early 1984, but I do remember that it was the one of the first — perhaps the first — pro-life book that I had ever read. I had only returned to the U.S. from the Far East a few months before, and was embroiled in a controversy with Stanford University over the forced abortions and forced sterilizations I had witnessed in China. I was already pro-life, but I couldn't explain my position very well.

The Great Communicator's book solved that problem. Writing in the clear and lucid prose that was his trademark, Ronald Reagan explained to me just why it was important to defend human life at all its stages. In so doing, he enabled me to explain it in turn to many others over the years. I have often used his argument that anyone who is unsure of when life begins "should give life the benefit of the doubt." However tiny the human being in question, I have on more than one occasion said, borrowing another line from Reagan, that "tiny human life has a God-given right to be protected by the law."

The tone of book was vintage Reagan, full of optimism and hope that ultimately the American people would set this wrong right. It abounds with phrases like, "we must not lose hope." Here was no angry Jeremiah fighting a hopeless rearguard action against insurmountable evil, but a gentle prophet of good cheer, determined to cooperate with God's benevolent plan. He was serene in his conviction that, if everyone did their part, that America would one day reaffirm "the transcendent right to life of all human beings, the right without which no other rights have any meaning."

Years later, I had the privilege of organizing an event for The Claremont Institute at which President Reagan had agreed to speak. The occasion was Captive Nations Week of 1991. It was an exciting time. Once "captive nations," such as Lithuania, the Ukraine, and Hungary, had only recently won their freedom after languishing for decades behind the Iron Curtain. The peoples of other nations, such as Vietnam, Cambodia, and China, were pressing for liberty. President Reagan asked if I would like to write the first draft of the speech. I was only too happy to say yes.

Reading all of President Reagan's foreign policy speeches going back to the fifties was the first task I set before me. I wanted capture the thought of the man who, by his rhetoric no less than his actions, helped bring down the Berlin Wall. I wanted to let Reagan be Reagan, as we used to say. The night of the banquet President Reagan stepped up to the podium and delivered the speech with such ringing conviction that brought 800 people up out of their seats a dozen times. It still resonates in my mind over a decade later.

Later, he invited me to his office in Century City, where he handed me a framed copy of "the speech" over his signature, "Gratefully yours, Ronald Reagan." I thanked to him, but told him that I hadn't written the speech, but he had. He looked puzzled. I told him about reading all of his old speeches. "So it was your voice I sought to capture, your views I sought to express." "Well, I don't know. . . ." he said, shaking his head gently in that self-effacing way of his. I realized that he was embarrassed by my praise. He was never one to dwell on his accomplishments.

Except one. He showed me around his office, pointing out in particular a picture which showed the bend of a river, and a short strip of beach. "This is the river where I worked as a lifeguard growing up," he told me. "Over the course of five years, I pulled several dozen drowning people out of the water."

As President, he saved lives, too, in particular doing all he could to spare the lives of unborn children from the abortionist's knife.

We need to pray, now, for Nancy Reagan. She has apparently been told that fetal stem cell research could have saved her husband from Alzheimer's. A few weeks before his death, she called for the legalization of such research, which "has taken my husband to a distant place where I can no longer reach him."

Now Mrs. Reagan has my complete sympathy. She witnessed her tender-hearted yet tough, brave yet humble husband slowly lose his mind. And, in a magnificent act of selfless love, she spent the past decade caring for him. But on this point she is mistaken.

President Reagan would not want to become a poster child for fetal stem cell research. This is not the memorial that he would want, not the crusade that he would have wished his wife to embark upon. For not only is the promise of fetal stem cell research greatly exaggerated — even the Washington Post now admits that "Stem Cells [are] an Unlikely Therapy for Alzheimer's" — it violates the sanctity of life that he felt so strongly about.

President Reagan himself, I am convinced, would have been the last one to want to have been saved through the sacrifice of innocent unborn children. 

Ronald Reagan's book, Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation, may be ordered here.



Mosher, Steve. "Remembering Reagan." Population Research Institute (2004).

The Author

Steven W. Mosher, President of the non-profit Population Research Institute, is widely recognized as one of the world's leading authorities on the population question. Steven Mosher, a convert to Catholicism, is the author of the best-selling A Mother's Ordeal: One Woman's Fight Against China's One-Child Policy. Other books authored by Steve include Hegemon: China's Plan to Dominate Asia and the World, China Attacks, China Misperceived: American Illusions and Chinese Reality, Journey to the Forbidden China, and Broken Earth: The Rural Chinese. Articles by Steven Mosher have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Reader's Digest, TheNew Republic, National Review, Reason, The Asian Wall Street Journal, Freedom Review, and numerous other publications. Steve Mosher and his wife, Vera, have nine children. They reside in Virginia.

Copyright © 2004 PRI
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