How One Man’s Compromise Derailed Social Conservatives

Dr. C. Everett Koop died. He was 96. Koop was the co-author of Whatever Happened to the Human Race? and an anti-abortion, anti-euthanasia  advocate. He was also a huge disappointment to conservatives.

He became Surgeon General under Ronald Reagan. Liberals attacked him because of his anti-abortion stance and his relationship with Christian apologist Francis A. Schaeffer.

“Foes noted that Koop traveled the country in 1979 and 1980 giving speeches that predicted a progression ‘from liberalized abortion to infanticide to passive euthanasia to active euthanasia, indeed to the very beginnings of the political climate that led to Auschwitz, Dachau and Belsen.’”

As a result of his views, his nomination for Surgeon General “was held up for more than eight months. Only after Dr. Koop promised to abandon the antiabortion circuit and to refrain from using the Surgeon General’s office as a pulpit for his right-to-life beliefs did the Senate finally vote its approval,”1. The reason conservatives pushed for Koop’s nomination was because of his anti-abortion stance. “He told a Senate panel he would not use the surgeon general’s post to promote his religious ideology. He kept his word.” Can you imagine a liberal religionist compromising in this way? Koop’s acquiescence to pressures from the Left became the model for so many other conservatives who campaigned one way but voted another way.

Under questioning, Koop admitted that as Surgeon General, he would recommend abortion as one way to deal with the unborn children of mothers with AIDS. By the spring of 1987, Koop was self-consciously in retreat from his earlier Christian position. With respect to abortion, he commented, “I’ve written all that I have to write on that issue. There are other, bigger things that I should turn my attention to as surgeon general: Where this country is and where it’s going in health care.”2

In 1986 and 1987, Koop officially called for sex education on AIDS in the public schools as early as kindergarten and for public school instruction on how to use condoms. Homosexuality had become a politically protected lifestyle. “I am the surgeon general of the heterosexuals and the homosexuals,” Koop argued, “of the young and the old, of the moral and the immoral, the married and the unmarried. I don’t have the luxury of deciding which side I want to be on.”3 He had retreated to what Schaeffer called “the line of despair”4 whereby religious beliefs are not applied to moral issues in this time and place.

This so-called neutral moral position cost people their lives. Koop should have come out denouncing the behaviors that were causing AIDS like he did with cigarette smoking.

Why was “safe sodomy” an option but not safe smoking? “In 1996, he rapped Republican hopeful Bob Dole for suggesting that tobacco is not invariably addictive, saying Dole’s comments ‘either exposed his abysmal lack of knowledge of nicotine addiction or his blind support of the tobacco industry.’”

Cigarette smoking kills, the government was telling everyone. It costs billions of dollars in healthcare casts and early deaths every year. Laws had been passed to make it increasingly more difficult for people to smoke in public buildings. Tobacco products are heavily taxed. Do we find the following on cigarette packs? “Caution: Cigarette smoking may be hazardous to your health. . . . So be sure to use a filter if you decide to smoke.” Koop was calling for condoms (filters) to help curtail the transmission of AIDS instead of denouncing the behavior that was spreading AIDS.

Liberals do not compromise. That’s why they win in the long run. On the other hand, conservatives set aside their convictions in order to gain respectability and social prestige with the result that they end up losing the culture.

  1. Quoted in Gary North, Political Polytheism: The Myth of Pluralism (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1989), 199. []
  2. Gary North, Crossed Fingers: How the Liberals Captured the Presbyterian Church (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1996), 1004–1006. []
  3. Quoted in North, Political Polytheism, 201. []
  4. []