CV NEWS FEED // James L. Buckley, a one-term US Senator and federal judge, died on August 18, at 100 years old.
Although he is not often brought up in conversation about the pro-life movement’s history, Buckley, a Catholic from Manhattan, New York, was one of the first senators who, along with Jesse Helms, proposed pro-life amendments geared towards overturning Roe v. Wade.
Buckley’s amendment sought to place stringent limitations on when abortion procedures would be allowed, leaving only a minor provision in the instance in which a procedure would become necessary “to prevent the death of the mother.”
However, the senator’s amendment was blocked by the Democrat majority in Congress in September 1975.
In an address on the Senate floor, where he attempted to draw support for the pro-life cause, Buckley called the amendment “the only way to redress the damage wrought by the Court,” whose decisions, he said, “leave those who respect human life in all its stages from inception to death with no other recourse.”
Buckley heavily criticized Roe for “[flying] in the face of well-established scientific fact” and for its legal ambiguities.
“The full import of the Court’s action is as yet incompletely understood by large segments of the public and many legislators and commentators,” he said in his address.
The decision, Buckley pointed out, overhauled the entire definition of “health” in order to justify its legality. Though it seemed to most at the time that Roe would only make abortion available on demand up to six months, Buckley said this was far from the truth:
“A woman may at any time… have an abortion provided only that she find a physician willing to certify that her ‘health’ requires it; and as the word ‘health’ is defined, that in essence means abortion on demand.”
“The true heroes of the pro-life movement are the ones who don’t make the headlines, yet are crucial for the cause. Mr. Buckley epitomized that heroism,” said Tom McClusky, pro-life advocate and CatholicVote’s Director of Government Affairs.
Buckley’s nephew, Christopher Buckley, told the New York Times that his uncle’s death, which occurred at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, DC, was due in part to injuries he sustained in a recent fall.