There is a pro-life candidate on the 2016 Democratic presidential primary ballot: Henry Hewes. I spoke with him by phone a few days ago to learn more about his campaign.
A day before the New Hampshire primary, two major Democratic candidates are campaigning hard against each other. On one point, they’re united: absolute support for unregulated abortion. Hewes does not buy it, and he’s willing to bring a pro-life message not only to voters in New Hampshire but to other states holding primaries.
The goal: “educating people to what is going on”
“The primary goal of my campaign is to raise a bunch of money to do pro-life education. My family is not preparing for a move to Washington, D.C. [I want to] raise money to run pro-life ads that are not really designed or focused around getting people to vote for Henry Hewes, but around pro-life education, educating people to what’s going on and focusing their attention on the prolife issue.”
A New Yorker by birth and residence, Hewes was a registered Republican until 2007 when his concerns over the Iraq War and drone warfare led him to leave the GOP. He was active for years with the Right to Life party in New York state. He has put his name forward in other races, including the mayoral race in New York City in 1989, a challenge to U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan in 1994, and the Democratic presidential primary in 2008.
He’s on the ballot in several states besides New Hampshire, focusing on states where media coverage abounds or where strong pro-life communities exist. “I’m not seeking to get a majority of the delegates,” he told me, “so I don’t have to worry about being included in every state.
“All across the country, I think the pro-life movement has largely failed to educate the average American as to what’s going on. When I turn to people and I say ‘you realize 3500 babies will be murdered today’, it never occurred to people that’s actually going on. The average American doesn’t keep track of this. If I describe to people a partial-birth abortion, the great majority of people literally do not believe me.”
How does that play in a place like New Hampshire, where life-issue legislation has faced uphill battles no matter which party has been in the majority?
“I continue to believe that if you put me in a room with Hillary Clinton and twenty average people from New Hampshire, and Hillary Clinton described honestly her position on abortion, and explained that she believes people have an absolute right to kill their babies, that this includes partial-birth abortion however grisly that is, includes third-term abortion, includes abortions because you don’t like the sex of your baby, includes abortions to avoid having retarded children in the world, and that 58 million people killed since 1973 is a small price to pay for the rights of women to control their bodies, and I then explain my side, I think the majority of the people in New Hampshire would say ‘well, I don’t really agree a hundred percent with either Henry or Hillary, but I’m sure as hell a lot closer to Henry.’”
Pro-life politics: pro-lifers “haven’t won because they haven’t done the job.”
Asked about the political impact of the pro-life movement, Hewes is blunt. “Most of the people in the pro-life movement not only [are] not politically savvy. They’re not business-savvy. They really do not come from a world to get things done and to move people around. They’re a hundred percent right morally and scientifically, and the great majority of Americans do not believe in abortion on demand. So [pro-life activists] start with a tremendous advantage. Because of that, they haven’t lost. But they haven’t won because they haven’t done the job.” The job, says Hewes, is education about the nature of abortion.
He advocates the adoption of a personhood resolution in Congress. There was once a movement for a Human Life Amendment to the Constitution; why not return to that? “I’m fighting for a resolution because I believe that the [Constitutional] amendment cannot pass right now. However, if the people in the House who said they were pro-life would vote pro-life, they could pass a resolution today saying ‘it is the opinion of the House that life begins at conception and that for purposes of law all federal statutes should be interpreted to mean life begins at conception and legal personhood begins at conception.’
Hewes notes that a Republican majority in the U.S. House recently passed a budget that includes funding for Planned Parenthood. “The Republicans said ‘let’s put up a bill that defunds Planned Parenthood.’ They all voted for it. Then, they put up another bill that said ‘fund the whole government including Planned Parenthood.’ And they voted for that. They sat down in Paul Ryan’s office and said ‘so, shall we agree to kill the babies or shall we not?’ And the decision they came to was ‘kill ‘em.’ And they’re all being endorsed now [by some pro-life groups].”
On abortion as a women’s issue
What does Hewes say to the claim that any attack on abortion is an attack on women? “I think it’s a completely bogus argument. It’s ridiculous. I laugh at it. I absolutely respect the right of women to control their own body, but there are two rights to be dealt with here – the right of the baby and the right of the woman. You have to make a [case] about whether the right to life is more important as a social, constitutional, moral right than the right to control your body.
“In America, nobody says requiring a 24-hour waiting period before women can be sterilized is an attack on women. I haven’t heard anybody say that because more women commit suicide than men, laws against suicide are an attack on women.”
No basis to consider abortion “health care”; “I think that’s one of the things we should be educating people about”
Is a restriction on abortion a restriction on health care?”I don’t think there’s any basis for abortion being considered a medical procedure. I think that’s one of the things we should be fighting about and educating people about.
“There’s no definition of ‘medical procedure’ that I know of that includes abortion in a rational sense. A medical procedure has to be tied to some kind of health result. And abortion is not done to protect the health of the mother. The purpose of abortion is to murder the child. That is on the very edge of what anyone could quantify as a medical procedure.”
On the indictment of David Daleiden: “he ought to be suing Planned Parenthood”
Hewes is well aware of the recent Texas indictments against David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt of the Center for Medical Progress, whose undercover videos revealed Planned Parenthood’s dealing in fetal body parts. “[Daleiden] did a great job, and he’s being prosecuted on a bogus charge. I’m not worried that David is going to jail, because it’s a completely trumped-up charge. Probably they won’t even try him in the long run.
“I told him he ought to be suing Planned Parenthood for defamation of character. When people sue you, start chasing you legally, chase them back. Harris County, Texas, is not the only jurisdiction that could bring an indictment against Planned Parenthood.”
On the death penalty: “practically, it’s not a good idea”
Hewes says about capital punishment, “I’ve never been in favor of the death penalty, because from a practical point of view, it’s not a very useful thing. No one has ever proved that having the death penalty reduces murders. lt certainly doesn’t save you money. We don’t really know if the people we’re executing are guilty.
“Most importantly, I oppose the State taking life as punishment for any reason. What distinguishes me from Hillary Clinton is Hillary Clinton is morally opposed to the death penalty except when it comes to traitors and terrorists, for whom there’s a different class or species, apparently. I don’t believe that the State should take human life as a form of punishment. I think it’s morally wrong, which I have agreement from a long and wide group of religious leaders. I’m opposed to the death penalty a hundred percent.”
Justice is not a matter of retribution, he says. “I’m really also opposed to the use of prison for punishment at all. If you have somebody who’s a danger to the community, and is going to go out and rob and murder people unless you confine him, if you can rehabilitate him, that’s fine. But the idea of putting somebody in prison for a hundred years because you’re mad at him and want to teach him a lesson, I don’t really accept that.
“But for retribution, what I tell people is the ancient concept of justice was an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. I tell people that’s not justice. God says you have a scale, and you hurt me, and that weighs down your side of the scale. But the way to balance the scale is for me to forgive you. Take the weight off the scale. And then we’re even again. That’s how God treats us. That’s how we should treat others. That’s what I really believe in as justice. There’s a lot of evidence that forgiveness as a way of creating justice, in fact does work.”
“We don’t do any favors to people by not talking about the reality of abortion”
Hewes acknowledges problems that will remain even with a strong effort at education about abortion.”We have a general problem because people like to be in the fight against abortion that satisfies their moral need simply to be in the fight. Everybody wants to be invited to the party when Paul Ryan is there. Everybody wants to be able to say they’re a buddy of the Cardinal. It’s not so important that abortion doesn’t stop,” as with the recent budget vote in Congress.
Another problem comes on a deeply personal level, when a loved one has had an abortion. “[Maybe a] daughter had an abortion and everybody in the family knows about it, and she’s troubled by it. It creates some degree of difficulty when you all of a sudden start saying that abortion is murder, because you’re saying to your daughter ‘you committed murder.’
“Now, I’m a very forgiving person. The fact that you murdered your child doesn’t mean I’m not going to speak to you, doesn’t mean I’m not going to love you, when in fact coming to a realization that you made a mistake is essential to spiritual healing. If the woman who has had an abortion doesn’t understand why what she did was wrong, she’s not really going to be able to be healed in a spiritual sense.
“We don’t do any favors to people by not talking about the reality of abortion.”
On what success looks like: “all my years are successful because God’s will prevails”
To wrap up our conversation, I asked Hewes what he would consider a successful outcome to this election year.
“All my years are successful because I live in a world where God’s will prevails. Sometimes, you have the best-laid plans, surprises come along the way, you have to be open to different things. Whatever happens this year is essential to whatever progress we will make in the next year.”