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The Party of Death: The Democrats, the Media, the Courts, and the Disregard for Human Life [Hardcover]

Ramesh Ponnuru

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Book Description

March 1 2006
Abortion has been a polarizing issues for three decades. But today, the politics are changing fast. Public support for abortion-on-demand is dropping, while euthanasia and cloning have also become part of controversial debates. Political journalist Ramesh Ponnuru explains how these issues represent the creeping advance of the party of death - it wants to narrow the circle of human beings with a right to life by excluding the unborn, the seriously disabled - and maybe even infants. Ponnuru details how the party of death took over the Democratic party, and how it has corrupted the law, politics, and even the teaching of history. He also explains how figures such as Mario Cuomo, Bill and Hillary Clinton, and Barbara Boxer have camouflaged the party of death's extremism - all with help from the media. But Ponnuru also has insight into a different political future, and closes by asking how America might look after Roe v. Wade is overturned. In an America that is turning away from abortion on demand, the Democrats may prove to be the last victims of the party of death.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.2 out of 5 stars  72 reviews
115 of 151 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A carefully reasoned and logical NON-Theological argument against abortion. June 15 2006
By Enigma - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A QUCIK NOTE: I read and review books that are on both sides of the political spectrum but a disturbing trend has shown up. If a book appears to be right of center it will be assailed with many 1 star reviews that the reviews obviously have not read the book, they will use ad hominem attacks and incivilities in their reviews. While there are some on the left-of-center books they in no way match the amount you will find on the opposite side.

This book unfortunately is no different. So just to set the record straight here are some simple facts

1) The Party of Death does not refer to the Democratic Party it simply refers to any person right or left who favors abortion and the logical siblings of euthanasia and research on embryos.

2) The book uses ZERO, NADA, ZILCH, NONE, NOT-A ONE theological arguments.

3) The author painstakingly shows abortion from the women's point of view.

4) The author shows very clearly and concisely the difference between killing in war, capital punishment and abortion. He does not endorse wars or capital punishment but shows the arguments that try to link Abortion to those are absurdly fallacious.


When I was a left winger I too reflexively supported Abortion. That was my party's position and I had heard all of the talking points to replete blindly without thought. Than something happened I became aware of the fact that many of the cherished ideologies that I was holding didn't seem to fit the facts. I began to question certain ideas and was immediately told by the higher ups in these left-wing organizations to not think about the subjects. There were those with more intelligence and ability that have already thought for me.

This condescension started me on a path of pondering and fact checking. The more I researched my leftist's dogmatic ideals the more trouble I had reconciling what I had been told to what was the truth. This is one of those books that if you are truly searching with an open mind you will be blown away with.

The author has used logic and reason and NOT one theological argument against abortion.

The argument is straightforward. If human beings have intrinsic dignity and worth, then they have this dignity and worth simply because they are human beings. It follows that all human beings have this dignity and worth. They are equal in the fundamental rights that attach to being human. The flip side is that if you believe in abortion than the notion that all human beings are created equal becomes a self-evident lie.

The author goes on to show how Roe v. Wade is almost unanimously thought of as a legally incompetent decision. It circumvented the normal democratic policy making. But in the much deeper sense" It violates the principle of human equality that is the basis for democratic self-government, and specifically for American democracy.

This book is very accessible for those who wish to view the arguments against abortion. The logic is clear, concise and thought-provoking. I highly suggest this to any person, but especially Americans who have a concern for our great country.
33 of 44 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Shines some light on weak pro-choice logic Jan. 4 2007
By Patrick T. - Published on
The abortion debate is subtler than many people realize. Others do realize it, yet they want the whole ugly thing to go away. Then you have those who realize it and try to explain. Ramesh Ponnuru falls in the third camp, and we should be thankful for that. For the most part, the book is both crisp and clear. Some of the important points Ponnuru makes:

1. The pro-life argument can be made in a completely secular manner. The pro-life argument will work without faith in the Trinity, Krishna, Zeus, or any god for that matter.
2. Abortion is legal in the United States through nine months of pregnancy due to the broad language of the abortion laws.
3. A support of infanticide is difficult to separate from the pro-choice argument. i.e. see Peter Singer and other pro-choice academics.
4. Pro-lifers are winning the abortion argument via an incremental approach toward abortion law.

Though most of his work is focused on the lengths Democrats go to cater to the pro-choice ideology, to his credit Ponnuru criticizes Republicans as well as Democrats. If some Republicans rely on flimsy pro-choice arguments, they should be called out on it just the same. I would have given the book 5 stars, but I think one weak point is the essay format. What I mean is, the book is more like a collection of essays. The chapters are short and easy to read, but sometimes that's a disadvantage. At times, I would like a little less rambling about examples and a little more explanation of arguments. Examples can help illustrate a point, but they can also get a bit cumbersome at times.

Minus this minor criticism, I very much recommend the book. The light Ponnuru shines on the mostly weak pro-choice logic is worth the price. Some good history lessons are also included.

For a very in-depth secular pro-life argument, check out Patrick Lee's Abortion and Unborn Human Life. Randy Alcorn's Pro-life Answers to Pro-Choice Arguments is a good supplement. See Peter Singer's pro-choice arguments in Practical Ethics for some overview on the pro-choice argument (though Singer relies on some rather feeble consequentialist arguments).
41 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An objective defense of the pro-life position May 24 2006
By Dead Leaf - Published on
Given the nature of the abortion issue, and the emotions evoked on both sides, it is nearly impossible to have a reasoned, objective discussion or debate. Ramesh Ponnuru succeeds in presenting the reasoned, objective arguments in behalf of the pro-life side. The book is devoid of so many of the emotion-based arguments and instead takes a more cerebral look at abortion and how the intellectual basis supporting it ultimately leads to other ends such as euthanasia and infanticide.

Ponnuru's book lays the case for opposing abortion. Ultimately, I think that presents a challenge to those on the pro-choice side. Rather than responding with incendiary rhetoric and character assassination, Ponnuru's book should serve as a challenge to the pro-choice side to produce equally objective, reasoned and dispassionate arguments in favor of abortion, euthanasia and infanticide. Can it be done?

I disagree with the choice of title for the book. It does detract from the well-written and well-presented content. Nevertheless, beyond the title, the book succeeds and is a must read for pro-life supporters to understand the objective rationale for their positions, and also for pro-choice supporters to truly understand the pro-life view and to enable them, if possible, to respond in kind.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Debunking the Lies of the Culture of Death Feb. 1 2010
By Matthew P. Cochrane - Published on
Widely recognized as one of the leading conservative minds in the country, Ramesh Ponnuru, the senior editor of National Review, felt compelled to write a book on the cause for life after finding his own opinion shifted dramatically upon examining the issue closely.

At first glance many might think the title of his book, The Party of Death, refers solely to the Democratic Party. Not true. The Party of Death refers simply to the group of people, whether on the right or left, who support legalized abortion and other related measures (e.g. euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, cloning, etc.).

The Party of Death is not your typical pro-life apologetics book. Rather than carefully constructing a pro-life worldview using sound reason and logical arguments, the book labors to debunk the myths, lies and faulty logic that have propped up legalized abortion since Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973. Along the way, Ponnuru reviews the fascinating political history of legalized abortion and offers a hypothetical glimpse into the future of a post-Roe world.

Ponnuru begins by dispelling some of the common myths surrounding Roe v. Wade. Since many such myths have persisted for years, despite being demonstrably false, this seems a good place to begin. Since many myths surrounding the infamous Supreme Court decision purposefully cloud exactly what types of abortions were legalized, his primary point is that Roe v. Wade, along with its sister decision, Doe v. Bolton (handed down by the Supreme Court on the same day), effectively allowed legalized abortion on demand in the U.S. Ponnuru writes:

"So: Roe required that any ban on late-term abortion include an exception allowing abortion to protect a woman's health; Doe defined that exception so broadly that it swallowed up any possibility of a ban. How could anyone ever be prosecuted for violating a ban on late-term abortions under this rule? The 'attending physician' - in real life, very often an abortionist with a financial stake in the decision - can always say that in his medical judgment, the abortion was necessary to preserve the woman's emotional "health," especially considered in light of her 'familial' situation. Any prosecution would have to be abandoned as unconstitutional."

Other myths surrounding Roe v. Wade that Ponnuru addresses here deal with the existing state laws (in all fifty states) that prohibited abortion, the prevailing public opinion at the time Roe was decided (overwhelmingly pro-life) and whether or not the Constitution recognizes unborn persons (it makes no such distinction between the born and unborn within any relevant context).

As radical as these Supreme Court decisions are, Ponnuru points out (in subsequent chapters) that they are not radical enough for most Democrats. While the Supreme Court allowed abortion on demand, the Democrats have consistently fought for abortion to also be government and taxpayer subsidized. In fact, the Democratic Party even supports the subsidization of abortions overseas. Ponnuru writes:

"Pro-life administrations have stipulated that no international family-planning funds will go to organizations that perform abortions or advocate the legalization of abortion overseas. Pro-choice groups have protested bitterly. In December 2005, Democrats even held up a bill to combat the sexual trafficking of women and children in order to get funds flowing to pro-abortion groups."

Days after taking office, President Obama overturned these commonsensical laws. Thus, in a time of record national debt and deficit-spending, American taxpayers subsidize the international abortion industry.

In another chapter, Ponnuru tackles the commonly spread liberal myth that legalized abortion dramatically reduces the crime rate. Summarizing the argument made famous in Levitt and Dubner's bestseller, Freakonomics, "Legalized abortion led to less unwantedness; unwantedness leads to high crime; legalized abortion, therefore, led to less crime." This argument, however, does not stand up to close inspection. Ponnuru writes:

"If Levitt's theory were correct, one would expect murder rates to have dropped among younger teens before it dropped among older teens...

...this is the reverse of what happened. Between 1983 and 1993, murder rates went down among people older than twenty-five and went up among those younger. "The first cohort to survive legalized abortion went on the worst youth murder spree in American history." The murder rate among the over-twenty-five set started falling in 1981. It started to go back up only when the set started including people born after Roe."

Other chapters on abortion deal with the brutal practice of partial birth abortion and the Democrats' attempts to keep the practice legal at all costs, debating when a human being becomes a "person," and abortion advocates attempts to rewrite American history, portraying abortion as a common practice in colonial America.

In the second section of the book, Ponnuru deals with the other major practice the "Party of Death" is pushing on America: euthanasia. Published just a year after the travails of Terri Schiavo and the highly explosive political debate over her fate, The Party of Death uses her case to illustrate euthanasia's dangers and to craft an intelligent pro-life response to it. First, Ponnuru acknowledges that pro-lifers lost a lot of ground during this high-profile case. Specifically, he believes pro-lifers "barely made the principled argument against euthanasia." He writes:

"For understandable political and legal reasons, those who wanted to keep feeding Terri emphasized that it was not clear that she was in a "persistent vegetative state." But in so doing, they let the notion that it is acceptable for people who are in that state to be starved to death slide right by. It made tactical sense to question whether Mrs. Schiavo really would have wanted to die this way. But in asking it, pro-lifers failed to challenge the notion that it is acceptable to kill those who wish to be killed."

After acknowledging the pro-life movement's shortcomings during this debate, Ponnuru proceeds to correct the errors. He makes it clear that there is a "perfectly rational case against euthanasia" starting with "the idea that human beings have inherent worth and dignity, and therefore are equal in fundamental rights, simply by virtue of being human." He continues:

"The right to life has to be among these rights, which means that it cannot depend on race, or age, or health, or sex. It cannot depend even on whether the person who has it wants it: He doesn't cease to be a human being with the full complement of rights simply because he wants to die. (It is because the right is intrinsic to human beings that it is also inalienable, as our Founders, who were not theocrats, put it.)"

The case for euthanasia, however, "almost inescapably rests on what might be described as a kind of irrational spirituality." This brings us to dualism, the philosophy abortion and euthanasia are forced to employ. Dualism is the concept that the "person" is separate from the physical body. This philosophy holds that the person is "the ghost in the machine" or the "tune in the music box." Ponnuru believes this dualism is "untenable," however, when examined through the lens of "everyday experience." Earlier in the book, Ponnuru addresses this philosophic fallacy:

"We sense and perceive, which are clearly bodily actions, but also engage in conceptual thinking, which cannot be reduced to bodily actions; and it is clearly the same subject who does both types of things. The dualist who utters his idea refutes it in the act of voicing it. We are (among other things) our bodies."

So it is, in a strange twist, that we find the pro-life argument rests on physical and scientific truths, while abortion and euthanasia advocates are forced to depend on a quasi-spiritual philosophy to defend their practices. Ultimately, Ponnuru takes a nuanced but principled stance, stating that there is a difference between taking actions that purposefully end life and not doing everything one can to prolong life.

Ponnuru dedicates other chapters in the book to related topics, including embryonic stem cell research, the anti-life bias found in the media, and even that strangest of breeds, the pro-life Democrat. Ponnuru concludes with a brief, but riveting, political history of abortion, showing why pro-choice approval peaked in public opinion in the early 90's and why it has been in decline ever since. In the final chapter, Ponnuru briefly describes the challenges that await the pro-life movement once Roe v. Wade is overturned, a very real possibility in his estimation.

Ultimately, The Party of Death does not build an airtight case for the sanctity of life, but that does not seem to have been its purpose. Rather, Ponnuru's goal was to debunk and demystify the many misleading and deceptive arguments of abortion and euthanasia advocates. On this level, the book largely succeeds. By carefully discrediting and exposing these myths, lies, and disingenuous arguments, Ponnuru makes an important contribution to pro-life literature; a book that many conservatives would find enlightening and helpful in this most important of crusades.
17 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Book Review = "The Party of Death" Dec 4 2006
By PJ - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
National Review contributor Ramesh Ponnuru has just published his first book, The Party of Death. The Party of Death consists of politicians (not necessarily, but mostly, Democrats), the media and the courts. In witty and concise fashion, Ponnuru seeks to explain and defend the pro-life side of the cultural debate about issues like abortion, euthanasia and stem-cell research, draw back the vale of euphemisms currently surrounding them and examine the political effects of Roe v. Wade and the likely results if it should be overturned.

Ponnuru begins by exposing many of the lies and misconceptions that surround Roe v. Wade. It is common for people to think that Roe allows abortions during the first trimester of pregnancy and restricts them thereafter. Indeed, the Roe opinion itself purports to do so. However, Roe allows for exceptions in the latter 2 trimesters for the health of the mother. In Roe's little known but very important companion case, Doe v. Bolton, the Court then proceeds to define the health of the mother so widely the result is the most radical abortion law of any nation on the planet: abortions at any time for any reason. Ponnuru argues that this misconception (that Roe allows only first trimester abortions), fostered by the pro-choice movement, the media, and pollsters, is the decisive factor when polls show nearly two thirds of the public support the Roe v. Wade decision. Another common error in regard to Roe v. Wade is the sentiment that its reversal would ban all abortions. But this would not be the case - the issue would merely be relegated back to the state legislatures, where it was before Roe swept aside all existing abortion laws and restrictions in 1973.

Ponnuru then addresses the central question itself: the right to life. He argues that a human embryo, far from being a "clump of cells" or mere "protoplasm", is simply a human being at the earliest stage of development. Pro-choicers have sometimes argued that an embryo isn't like a "real" human being because it doesn't look like us: no fingers, no toes, no discernible human features. But, again, an embryo is a human at the earliest stage of development: we all looked like that at that age. The question, then, is whether every human being is to be afforded the right to life. There is no difference in kind whether an embryo a few days old is destroyed, or a fetus 6 months old, or a newborn baby.

The pro-choicer must eventually argue that there is such a thing as a human being which is not also a person. Just being a living and functioning member of the species homo sapiens will not be enough. Personhood will have to be defined as having consciousness and some knowledge of one's own being. But this will lead us down a very thorny path. The author shows that by pro-choicers' own logic, it is very hard to admit a right to abortion without also positing a right to infanticide. For if a fetus 6 or 8 months old can be destroyed, why should parents not be allowed to destroy their newborn child? The newborn infant will not be a "person" by this definition either. Neither will the disabled and infirm. Indeed, we will be forced to come up with a definition of whose life is worth living and whose is not. If someone loses their consciousness, but is not dead, are we allowed to kill them? Is a person like Terri Schiavo, whose brain could perform all the functions necessary to live and who lacked only the ability to feed herself, dispensable?

Once we've established that some human beings are not persons and therefore have no right to live, why not go a step further? The severely handicapped and disabled will never have the quality of life an average person does. In the unborn and infants, the problem can be dealt with quickly - those who are not up to standard can be liquidated. For example, Down-syndrome cases have declined in the U.S. in recent years - because 75% - 80% of cases are detected prenatally and abortions are performed. Infanticide because of disability has already gained acceptance in Europe (Ponnuru says that 8% of infant deaths in the Netherlands are due to doctor-performed infanticide - and parental consent is not required) and is creeping in America. Those who perform and argue in favor of such policies congratulate themselves on how compassionate they are in deciding that the unfit should never be allowed to live at all. It was thought that the dogma of eugenics had died in the ashes of Nazi Germany. Not so.

The inherent dignity and worth of every human is also belied by embryonic stem-cell research. The exciting promise of stem cell research is the cure for a range of diseases. Stem cells, theoretically, could be used to grow a tissue culture matching any cell of the human body - for instance, generating new neurons to inject into Alzheimer's patients to cure their affliction. The potential of this research has generated wild exaggerations - like the media repeatedly referring to "magic cures" or Vice Presidential candidate John Edwards telling an audience that "Christopher Reeve would get up out of his chair and walk" if he and John Kerry were elected. One problem with these claims is that they're overblown - the research probably will not lead to a cure for Alzheimer's. Another is that in order to get these supposed miracle cures, a human embryo has to be created and destroyed.

Again, every human embryo, from the moment a sperm cell and an egg cell join, is a unique member of the human species at the earliest stage of development. There is no other definition for it. It possesses its own DNA and a distinctive genetic makeup that will allow it to grow into an adult human being. For embryonic stem-cell research to work, a few skin cells from a person would be taken and implanted into an embryo. The process rips the embryo apart and destroys the unique human it was to create a tissue culture matching the skin cell donor's own DNA. The skin cell donor has destroyed another member of its species to produce a clone of himself - and yes, clone is the correct word. This is where euphemisms come in. The public reacts very negatively to the term "cloning" and so its advocates try alternatives - "therapeutic cloning" or, to make sure no one knows what he's talking about, "somatic nuclear cell transfer". The advocate must rely on obfuscation or deception to pursue his goals.

It is hard to truly gauge the public's stance on abortion and other life issues - Ponnuru shows that the results of such polls are highly dependent on the language used by the pollsters. As mentioned earlier, a generic "Do you support the Roe v. Wade decision" question will generate a roughly two thirds majority in favor. But polls also show that a majority of Americans oppose abortion after the first trimester and support restrictions like parental notification. Likewise, a poll question such as "Do you support stem-cell research that may lead to a cure for Alzheimer's?" will generate strong positive support. But a question that makes clear an embryo is destroyed in the research usually finds opposition. The key for pro-lifers is to educate the public as best they can while not taking any steps that frighten them.

Abortion has been the key to unlocking these other evils - infanticide, the devaluation of human life, embryonic stem-cell research, and so on. Roe v. Wade, and the public's subsequent acceptance of abortion, put us on a slippery slope and we've been sliding ever since. Ponnuru believes that incremental steps are necessary to finally win the battle for the pro-life side. He argues that pro-lifers were on the defensive from Roe v. Wade until the early 90's. Until that point, the pro-life movement's overriding goal had been a Constitutional amendment to guarantee the right to life from the moment of conception. But that was a goal the public did not support and that was not attainable. With the rise of the partial-birth abortion issue in the mid-90's, a tactical shift was under way. Pursuing smaller goals like restrictions on abortion, instead of an all-or-nothing ban, would advance the movement's goals more quickly and efficiently - and with the public's support.

The Holy Grail of the incremental strategy, of course, is the reversal of Roe v. Wade. Once that is accomplished, the battle will move back to the states (where it never should have left, but more on that to follow). The incremental strategy will be accomplished most readily at the state level. If a state enacts a ban on abortion after the 15th week, for instance, pro-lifers might then call for a ban after the 14th week, and so on. The incremental shift, Ponnuru hopes, will also signal a cultural shift. As abortion becomes more restricted and less common, respect for human life will be restored. And if that happens, the problems of infanticide, euthanasia, embryo-destructive research, etc. will also be reduced. And then the Party of Death will finally be defeated.

Ramesh Ponnuru has produced a tour de force in favor of the pro-life movement. The book makes light and easy reading for such a serious subject, while being clever and sharp. I am glad that Ponnuru eschews religious arguments in favor of cool logic. If one is engaged in a debate about these issues, one is likely enough to be dismissed as some sort of religious fanatic without giving explicit fodder to one's opponent. It is possible to be pro-life without being religious and vice versa, and it is a concern better left on the sidelines here. Conversely, I am disappointed that Ponnuru did not focus more on the pro-choice movement's propensity to sidestep the democratic process by appealing to the courts. The abortion issue is one that should be decided by the people via their elected representatives, and as an issue not mentioned in the Constitution should be left to the states. Ponnuru discusses the courts and some of their decisions, obviously. Yet he does not point out, for instance, how Planned Parenthood and their ilk went shopping for plaintiffs and friendly courts to challenge laws they wanted struck down, in order to enact their agenda via judicial decree. Also, in discussing stem-cell research, Ponnuru mentions alternatives like adult stem-cells and cord-blood cells, which have yielded medical treatments for decades, but does not point out that embryonic stem-cell research has yet to generate any successful treatment or remedy (let alone miracle cures). These minor objections aside, this book gets my highest recommendation. Read it to inform and entertain yourself.

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