For the second time in less than a month, Denis Dillon, a widely-respected lawyer in the United States, has had to choose between principles and expediency: whether to follow his conscience with regard to abortion, or whether to forget principles and think only of his legal and political career. Both times Dillon laid his career on the line and refused to act in a way contrary to his conscience.
Denis Dillon is 54 years old, and is the District Attorney of Nassau County east of New York City, with a staff of 95 assistant district attorneys. He is a Democrat, and was the first person of that Party ever to be elected District Attorney in his county. He won an overwhelming victory in 1985 when he was elected for his fourth term, and it is of major importance that he faces another election in 1989.
Operation Rescue: New York
On the last day of Operation Rescue, New York, May 5, 1988, the action shifted to Nassau County on Long Island, where 375 pro-life men and women were arrested. Dillon said that he could not prosecute them. In an affidavit to the New York Supreme Court he says that the United States Supreme Court has decreed “that a mother’s decision to kill the innocent life within her is protected by the Constitution.” However, Dillon goes on to say: “If that legally recognized right is to be enforced by the prosecution of those charged by the aforesaid acts [Operation Rescue] it will have to be by another prosecutor specially appointed for that purpose. I cannot in good conscience do it.”
He also told the New York Supreme Court: “I firmly believe that peaceful, non-violent acts which might constitute such offences as trespass and disorderly conduct are morally justified when done to interfere with and prevent the imminent killing of human life by abortion.”
Naturally, Dillon has been under savage attack by the media and radical feminists. Less understandably (because he is the biggest vote getter for the Democratic Party in his area) he has been under strong pro-abortion pressure from his own Party.
Dillon must run for office in 1989, and in the last few weeks the Democrats have insisted that he endorse the pro-abortion platform of the national Democratic Party. Indeed, the policy committee actually had a resolution acclaiming abortion as “a God-given right.” This phrase was later deleted from the motion, but the thrust of the resolution was still for unlimited abortion “rights.”
An attempt to substitute a resolution which would respect the rights of Democrats to hold views other than the Party’s pro-abortion policy, failed. That failure killed Dillon’s faith in the Democratic Party. He has announced his switch to the Republicans.
Dillon was the only Democrat office holder in the county, and he was in fact elected by members of Republican Conservative and Right-to-Life Parties, as well as Democrats. If Dillon does run as a Republican in the 1989 election, Nassau County may well be without any Democrat office-holder.