Answering with Reason, with Kindness, and Clarity

Editor's note. The following is the official transcript of Vice President Richard Cheney's April 20 remarks to the NRL Educational Trust Fund's Proudly Pro-Life Awards Dinner.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you all. Your dinner is getting cold.

Well, thank you very much, Darla [St. Martin, NRLC's associate executive director], for that kind introduction. And let me thank all of you for that warm welcome this evening, and for the invitation to be here tonight with you. I've been looking forward to joining you this evening because I'm proud to stand with the good people of National Right to Life. And I extend good wishes to all of you from our President, George W. Bush.

I especially want to congratulate tonight's honoree, Pat Boone. I shouldn't tell this story, but when I was in high school first dating my wife, Lynne, everybody listened to Pat Boone. Just hearing his name brings back some great memories for our whole generation of Americans.

Over the years, Pat has become more than a great performer, with his fine family, his convictions, his good-heartedness, and his life that is a testimony to faith in God, Pat Boone has gained the admiration of millions of Americans.

We honor him tonight for his special commitment to the cause of life. When you look around and see people of Pat Boone's character standing with you, you know you're helping to lead a good cause. Pat, congratulations.

Pat Boone receives an award tonight that's been given over the years to Governor Robert Casey, John Cardinal O'Connor, and the Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta. That's the best of company, and tonight's honor is made even greater because of the group that bestows it. For 31 years, the National Right to Life Committee has led a great movement of conscience, and your good influence is felt not just within our country, but also in other nations and international institutions.

This cause, like others before it, reflects the compassion of our country, and our commitment to equality and to the dignity of every life. The convictions that drive this organization are broad and generous. And the same is true of the coalition that you've built.

The pro-life cause is an issue like no other, defying all the usual groupings of political interest or allegiance. It doesn't matter if you're Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative, male or female, black or white, rich or poor, young or old, religious or nonreligious, or from the North, South, East, or West. All that matters is your respect for the claims of innocent life.

To be part of this cause is to believe that every mother carrying new life and every child waiting to be born deserves understanding and compassion.

Governor Casey used to say that abortion is not a question of when life begins; it's a question of when love begins. And this is the spirit National Right to Life brings to a complex and sometimes bitter debate. Confronted with slogans and harsh words, you answer with reason, with kindness, and clarity. You speak to the best instincts of a good people, and that is why this nation is advancing every day toward a culture of life.

This organization came about in response to a court decision - - an action described by the late Justice White as "an act of raw judicial power." In the years since, you've been doing the far more difficult work of democracy - - persuading, organizing, and actually taking the time to change minds and laws by majority vote. The effort has been hard and long, but your perseverance is making a difference.

President Bush has often expressed his conviction that in a compassionate society, every child must be welcomed in life and protected in law. America still has some distance to travel before that hope is realized. Yet these three years have seen historic action by the elected branches of government to extend the protection of law to the weakest members of our society.

Two years ago, Congress passed and the President signed the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act. One of the saddest secrets of the abortionist is that sometimes the attempt fails and the baby lives. Under the 2002 law, that infant is recognized by federal law as what he or she clearly is - - a living person. And the willful taking of that life must meet with consequences equal to the crime.

Another tragic fact of the abortion culture was brought to light by National Right to Life. Americans were told that partial-birth abortions almost never happen. In time the truth came out - - that some abortionists were violently taking the lives of children who were just moments away from their first breath. The evasions and euphemisms could not hold up. And today, performing a partial-birth abortion is a federal offense. After several overwhelming majority votes in Congress and an earlier veto by former President Clinton, the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act finally became law with the signature of President George W. Bush. And be assured, our administration will defend that law confidently and vigorously.

Another crucial victory for the cause of life came just this month when President Bush, joined by the family of Laci Peterson and her son, Conner, signed the Unborn Victims of Violence Act. Here again is a law reflecting the simplest truth that, in the President's words, when two persons are harmed, or two lives are violently taken, "the law cannot look away and pretend there was just one."

Over the years, National Right to Life has also discerned the dangers that come with the abuse of science. You understand that life must not be treated as an object of experimentation, or as a mere commodity. Technologies such as cloning can have dangerous and degrading consequences for humanity, and citizens and officeholders cannot sit back and be passive observers while the boundaries of ethics are disregarded. We have a responsibility to set clear standards, informed by moral humility and a respect for life. That is why President Bush has taken a firm stance against all human cloning.

With each new step we take as a nation, with each standard affirmed, each protection afforded, we draw closer to the ideals of equality and dignity that America has always aspired to. One of my predecessors, Vice President Hubert Humphrey, used to speak of our special duty to protect those in the dawn of life, those in the shadows of life, and those in the twilight of life. That concern for the weakest and most vulnerable has always been the mark of any decent and compassionate society.

In our day, this generous and inclusive spirit has found a clear, consistent, and courageous voice in the pro-life movement. Everyone in this room recognizes that the work is far from finished. But tonight, everyone here can take pride in being part of a cause as fine as any. Your idealism brought this movement into being, your energy has kept it strong, your faithfulness, integrity, and good hearts will see it through until this great nation honors the God-given dignity of every life.

Thank you very much.