|By Tim Bloedow
Pro-life activist and law professor are two descriptions that don’t often describe the same person in America today, but they do identify Professor Charles E. Rice, a zealous spokesman for the dignity of human life and professor of law at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. He is also one of the two special guests topping the list of speakers at the upcoming National Pro-Life Conference being held next month in Toronto.
The annual conference takes place from October 26-28 and is titled “Pro-Life 2000: No Exceptions, No Compromises, No Apologies.” No Exception: A Pro-Life Imperative is actually the title of one of the numerous books Prof. Rice has written on pro-life and other issues.
The articulate and passionate speaker’s commitment to life issues has just been reaffirmed by being unanimously elected to sit on the board of directors of the leading population control watchdog group, the Population Research Institute.
PRI president Steven Mosher, in a press release announcing the development, said that Prof. Rice “is known around the world as a strong defender of the dignity of the human person.”
Prof. Rice has been teaching at Notre Dame since 1969. He became a member of the New York bar 12 years earlier in 1957 and had a private legal practice in New York City for a brief period from 1958-61.
His pro-life work stretches back at least as far as 1969 when he wrote The Vanishing Right to Live: An Appeal for a Renewed Reverence for Life. He has served as co-chair of the Free Speech Advocates of Catholics United for Life and has written many articles and books on abortion and other life-related issues. He and his wife Mary have raised ten children.
Along with his commitment to life, Prof. Rice has other interests as testified to by his long and illustrious career. He has been a consultant to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and a member of the Education Appeal Board at the U.S. Department of Education. He served as co-editor of the American Journal of Jurisprudence from 1970-1997, is a director of the Thomas More Center for Law and Justice, and is a trustee of Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio.
Interestingly, in view of the recent stabbing of abortionist Garson Romalis, Prof. Rice wrote an article five years ago for the Regent University Law Review about “The Legality and Morality of Using Deadly Force to Protect Unborn Children from Abortionists.”
He wrote on the same topic a year earlier for the American Catholic newspaper The Wanderer and argued that it is wrong to intentionally kill abortionists. He did not do so automatically, though, as many pro-lifers are wont to do today as they respond defensively to a hostile and bigoted media. Rather he dealt squarely with the issues of unjust laws and the right of people to defend innocent parties from aggression, quoting from Thomas Aquinas and the Catholic Catechism.
He bluntly states that “every abortionist, as the deliberate killer of an innocent human being, is a murderer,” and says that “the human law cannot validly permit murder. Despite the decree of the Supreme Court, abortuaries, which are murder factories, have no moral right to exist.”
As the aforementioned comments indicate, Mr. Rice is a strong advocate of natural law, condemning the legal positivism that is standard practice today. Legal positivism is rooted in ethical relativism, he explains. It “is the concept that, since no one can know what is just, the resolution of such questions will be left to the political process, including the judgments of the Supreme Court,” he wrote in a tract about abortion in 1983, but which could have just as easily been written yesterday. In 1993 Ignatius Press published a book of his calledFifty Questions on the Natural Law: What It Is and Why We Need It.
His latest book is about the abortion issue, and reflects an air of optimism about the often discouraging battle against those who want the right to kill unborn children. It is called The Winning Side: Questions on Living the Culture of Life. He has been in the battle for over 30 years, yet still holds the optimism of being on the winning side of the controversy.
His concerns over abortion extend to contraception and he says that pro-life educational initiatives must “confront contraception as a root cause of abortion. This is most important in light of the prevailing mislabeling of early abortifacients as contraceptives.”
As early as 1983 Prof. Rice said that “abortion itself is not the ultimate problem; instead, it is merely the symptom of a deeper rebellion against God and against reason. As will be discussed below, abortion is merely one inevitable result of the denial of God, of the capacity of the mind to know truth and of the intrinsic relation between sex and life.”
“Pro-life rhetoric, which treats abortion in secular, constitutional terms – which treats it as a political rather than a religious problem – will get us nowhere,” he argued. “The educational effort should put front and center the reality that the only coherent basis for affirming absolute rights in the human person is that he is an immortal creature made in the image and likeness of God, with a dignity which absolutely transcends the interests of the state.”
Not surprisingly, Prof. Rice has been asked to speak to Pro-Life 2000 attendees about the politics and law of abortion. He doesn’t yet know exactly what he is going to say, but judging by his experience and knowledge, whatever he says will be poignant and inspiring.