I have been wondering whether to tell you a personal story that seems to me to have general implications. This is one of those sad family stories that normally you don't find fathers talking about in public, or even very much with close friends.
But I picked up the newspaper the other day to read that a Senate committee had voted to abolish payments for abortions for the poor, even when the pregnancies are the result of rape.
Now this was not a question of cutting the budget. Abortion costs for poor women who are raped do not amount to a large sum. Rather it was a question of morality. Repulbican Sen. Jesse Helms of North Carolina, and the Moral Majority, which follows him around, are conviced that abortion is wrong even when the woman who wants one wants it because she has been raped.
So I don't think it will be very long before Jesse and his friends are going to come after the unpoor.
In this instance, I am not very comfortable about being unpoor. I object to what the Senate committee did. But I have the human instinct to object even more strenuously when I reason that, by the same standard with which the senators dealt with the poor, they will shortly deal with me.
So let me tell you my story.
A few years ago one of my daughters attended an enormous Fourth of July celebration at the Washington Monument. It was a free show with fireworks and flags and entertainment, and, according to the newspaper account, the large crowd behaved well.
But as my daughter strolled alone off the Monument grounds and entered a side street, a car rolled up next to the sidewalk. Three men emerged from it, seized her roughly and, before she could do more than utter a half-stifled cry, put her into the back seat where two more men held her to the floor.
She was tied, gagged and taken to a house, the location of which she cannot now identify. She was kept in the house for the rest of the night during which time she was repeatedly beaten and raped.
The next morning she was blindfolded, driven back to the Monument grounds and shoved out of the car. Eventually, sometime about midday, she made her way home.
During the time she was gone, there was, of course, a great deal of worry and anxiety at that home. And I must confess, anger.
Her arrival was followed by various interviews with policemen who tried to be helpful to a hysterical girl. But couldn't be. Because the hysterical girl could only estimate the time she had been in the car, describe the inside of a house and sob out some meaningless first names.
That's really the end of the story. Except, of course, that within a very short time, my daughter knew that she was pregnant.
Now I would like to ask Sen. Helms what he would do if he had been the father of the girl. I know what I did. And I can promise the senator and the Moral Majority and all the shrill voices of the Right to Life Movement, that now matter what law they may pass and how stringent the penalty, I would do it again.