Pro-Life Champions

Bob Dornan: Back on Capitol Hill

When former Congressman Robert K. Dornan speaks, people listen. According to a longtime C-SPAN producer, in the early days of the network, unofficial announcements were made over C-SPAN’s internal PA system every time Dornan took to the House floor. This happened, she said, because staffers of all political stripes liked his style. And so do we.

In February 1998, after the disputed election of his opponent, two members of Congress collaborated on a special order speech entitled “Tribute to Robert Dornan.” Rep. Cliff Stearns (RFla.) said, “Bob Dornan…is to be commended for being willing to say some things that people will not say at times. He was the original sponsor of the Right to Life Act, which would effectively declare abortion unconstitutional. He led the fight to end federal funding for fetal tissue research at military hospitals and government organizations. He was one of the strongest pro-life advocates in Congress. He made no bones about that, and many of us, like myself, agree with him and look to him for leadership in that area.”

Likewise, Dornan’s fellow Californian, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R) spoke out: “Bob Dornan is a guy who deserves more than 15 or 20 minutes of discussion. He is a guy who deserves days of discussion, because he brought to this House of Representatives unique qualities that we had not seen before he got here and we are not going to see again for years.”

Indeed, some years have passed since Dornan left Congress, so imagine American Life League president Judie Brown’s surprise when the Honorable “B1 Bob” recently called to ask whether she needed a full-time volunteer. “I’ve known Judie for 25 years and I’m drawn to American Life League by its powerful ads holding certain public Catholics responsible for their actions and bad example,” Dornan said. “I wanted to work with this organization because it’s a fearless, fight-back operation that gives me hope.”

The Right to Life Act

Now Dornan is American Life League’s congressional liaison, a most fitting role given his 20 years of service there. Twelve years into his term, Dornan introduced the Right to Life Act to his colleagues in the House and persisted in resubmitting it until he left. “Towards the end in 1996,” he stated, “it was getting desperate. I only had three or four co-sponsors.” But in 2005, Rep. Hunter introduced the act to the 109th Congress and passing that bill is Mr. Dornan’s top priority. “I’m your man on Capitol Hill,” Dornan announced. “I carry the list of 67 cosponsors with me everywhere and I’ll also get to know new members one on one.”

Dornan explained, “The Right to Life Act requires only a simple majority of the House and Senate for passage and it recognizes the personhood of the unborn for the purpose of enforcing four important provisions in the Constitution: 1) The due process clause (Section 1) of the 14th Amendment, which prohibits states from depriving any person of life; 2) Section 5 of the 14th Amendment, which gives Congress the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this amendment; 3) The due process clause of the Fifth Amendment, which concurrently prohibits the federal government from depriving any person of life; and 4) Article 1, Section 8, which gives Congress the power to make laws necessary and proper to enforce all powers in the Constitution. In other words, the Right to Life Act would effectively overturn the Roe v. Wade decision by prohibiting any state or federal law that denies the personhood of the preborn.”

Why he’s pro-life

“Why I’m pro-life could be a whole speech, but the fundamental reason I’m pro-life is because I was born,” declared Dornan. “Every one I’ve ever known, liked or disliked is here because his mother didn’t abort him—the mothers of every good leader and every bad leader gave them life.

“Let me tell you about Haley Elizabeth Dornan. She’s the eldest child of my first son. When she was six or seven years old, near the age of reason, she said to my wife Sallie and me, ‘Nammy, Poppy, I heard something on television—why would a mommy kill her baby? A mommy was going to have a baby and she killed her baby.’ Right then I realized that a baby’s right to life is a natural, intuitive belief in children. They know that when a woman is pregnant, a baby’s in there. Every child knows this. I think all people know it—even those in the most primitive tribes. Young people have to be carefully taught how to deny life in the womb.

“I am pro-life because I’ve always been pro-life,” Dornan said. “My parents reinforced my belief and didn’t talk me out of it. The nuns and priests and secular teachers I had in school reinforced it—they didn’t talk me out of it. Way before the Roe and Doe v. Bolton decisions, I was fighting for the right to life—debating against abortion—on my TV show Tempo, which evolved into The Robert K. Dornan Show live Saturday nights on Gene Autry’s station KTLATV. And then we were all hit with the shocker of Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun, who was assigned with the evil task of telling the world—although he knew nothing about science and medicine—why, in reality, a woman could have an abortion through all nine months of her pregnancy—for any reason or no reason at all.”

Leadership crisis

Dornan remembers when his Protestant friends looked to Catholics as the original pro-life warriors. “But now,” he said, “the culture of death prevails because there’s a lack of leadership from Church prelates.” At the 1999 March for Life, Dornan looked around at the attending religious leaders onstage but saw no Catholic bishops or cardinals. Thus Dornan told the crowd, “The silence of the bishops is killing the lambs.”

Afterwards, Dornan saw two Church cardinals hurriedly approaching him. One was his dear friend, New York’s Cardinal John O’Connor who smiled and exclaimed, “We’re coming Bob!” The other was Boston’s Cardinal Bernard Law, who had the opposite reaction. He said, “That was awful. I heard what you said. That’s just not true.”

Dornan asked Law if he ever preached Catholic integrity, especially chastity, to teenagers and adult singles. He also asked Law why he didn’t challenge pro-abortion politicians who call themselves Catholic.

“Then,” said Dornan, “Cardinal Law told me, ‘I understand your frustration Congressman.’ But here we are, and still I have to ask, do the U.S. bishops really understand the frustration of the faithful? After all, the silence of most bishops has had a direct and deadly consequence on America. Except for 13 brave men like Archbishop Raymond Burke of St. Louis, who banned 2004 proabortion presidential candidate John Kerry from Holy Communion in his archdiocese, the silence of most bishops has bred the arrogance of most so-called Catholic leaders.

“These traitors only want the votes of those who don’t pay attention to their congressional records. But these politicians aren’t worthy to call themselves Catholic and their bold religious treason continues because they think there’s no price to pay for their Judas-like betrayals. This is a terrible shame because once a senator or congressman is elected, it’s almost impossible to get him or her out of Congress. And so the death toll mounts.

“Pro-lifers in the trenches give me courage. I’ll do my part to pass the Right to Life Act, and I’m asking Americans to join me by doing their part. Above all, I’m asking them to pray for this work and our country. I’m also asking them to support this work any way they can.”

Facebook Comments

About the author

Anita Crane

Anita Crane is a former senior editor of Celebrate Life Magazine.