When Dick Durbin Defended the Right to Life

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Dick Durbin was the man in charge.

It was Jan. 17, 1982, when the Springfield Right to Life Committee held its annual gathering at the Illinois Capitol to protest the Supreme Court's 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade.

As the master of ceremonies that day, Durbin presided over an event that opened with a prayer delivered by Bishop Joseph McNicholas of the Catholic Diocese of Springfield.

Durbin, who had worked as a staffer in the Illinois state senate, was running for Congress that year against incumbent pro-abortion rights Republican Rep. Paul Findley.

On March 14, 1982, Durbin sent out a letter on his campaign's stationary, specifically stating his position on abortion.

“My record of opposition to abortion on demand has been public record for eight years,” Durbin wrote in the letter, which (along with the program for the Right to Life protest at the state Capitol) is now posted on the website of the National Right to Life Committee.

“Long before my opponent moved to this district I worked closely with Springfield Right-to-Life and served as master of ceremonies at the annual banquet,” wrote Durbin. “As recently as this January I was honored to serve again as Master of Ceremonies at the Annual Observance in the State Capitol for the fifth time.”

Durbin sent a similar letter to the editor to The Decatur Herald-Review.

“I oppose abortion on demand,” he told the paper.

“I have worked with the Springfield Right to Life Chapter for eight years and have served repeatedly as moderator at the Right to Life observance in the State Capitol each year,” he said.

Durbin was elected to Congress that fall as an ostensibly anti-abortion Democrat.

Seven years later, he apparently still maintained that position.

“I believe we should end abortion on demand, and at every opportunity I have translated this belief into votes in the House of Representatives,” he wrote in a 1989 letter to a constituent, which is also posted on the National Right to Life Committee website. “I am opposed to the use of federal funds to pay for elective abortions, and will continue to support amendments to prohibit the funding of elective abortions for federal employees and Medicaid recipients.”

“I continue to believe the Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade should be reversed,” Durbin said then.

Now, as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Durbin takes exactly the opposite position.

Since his election to the Senate in 1996, Durbin has voted against the confirmation of each of the four Supreme Court nominees who eventually joined Justice Clarence Thomas (confirmed in 1991) in overturning Roe. These included Justices Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett.

This week, Durbin held a hearing in the Judiciary Committee, where he condemned the court's decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization.

At this hearing, he euphemistically referred to abortions as “reproductive health care choices” and declared them “a constitutionally protected right.”

“This case represents the first time in America's history that the Supreme Court has revoked a constitutionally protected right,” Durbin said.

“As a result,” he said, “a woman's personal decision to make her own reproductive health care choices is no longer protected or guaranteed by the Constitution.”

“We know the Republican plan: win control of Congress and impose a federal ban on abortion,” Durbin said. “Democrats have a different plan: protect your rights by enshrining in (to) law a federal statutory right to an abortion.

“A woman's choice to get an abortion is her choice alone,” he said.

The truth is that choosing an abortion does not involve just one human being. It involves one human being deliberately choosing to take the life of another.

Durbin apparently knew that 40 years ago, when he opposed abortion. He apparently knew it 30 years ago, when he still opposed abortion. Could he have really decided—as a grown man serving in the United States Senate in the closing years of the 20th century—that an unborn child is not really an unborn child?

If anything, technological developments in the decades since Durbin led those anti-abortion demonstrations at the Illinois Capitol have made it more obvious that an unborn human being is precisely that: a human being.

Perhaps Durbin—as a member of a pro-abortion rights political party—has chosen the pursuit of power over the pursuit of truth.

In the coming months and years, as the abortion debate intensifies in American politics, more people will make the opposite migration Durbin has made. They will see the truth and embrace it.

And America will become a nation that protects the lives of innocent human beings from the moment of conception onward.

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