My Government II: Life — The First Part of Freedom

In the first “My Government” essay, we explored the syntax and some history of the Bill of Rights, and what that meant for Liberty in an American context.  However, more important even than the Bill of Rights in terms of American liberty is the right to life.  The single most fundamental right we have as human beings is the right to be alive.  This is the primary and most natural of our rights.  It is the foundation on which liberty is built.

The Founding Fathers of the United States agreed:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
-From the Preamble to the Declaration of Independence

I believe there is a reason the Founding Fathers put these three rights — life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness — in that order.  In order for liberty to exist, life must exist first.  To pursue freedom, man must have liberty over his own person.  These rights build on eachother — and are mutually necessary.  After all, what is life without freedom; liberty without the will to live (pursuit of happiness)?

The extermination of human life, then, is the ultimate denial of human rights.  To claim authority over human life — the ability to grant or deny the right to life — is to claim authority over every right.  There are times when such a decision does become necessary — but only based on the participation of the person in question.  War, for example, is the mass extinguishing of human life.  Warriors, soldiers, however, are people who have already given their lives to a cause or country.  They have, in essence, given consent to sacrifice their God-given rights for a cause greater than themselves.  For an American soldier, should he survive the war and retire from service, his consent is removed and he reverts to the natural state: the living American Citizen, free to pursue happiness.  Even those who have willingly put themselves at risk in this way, however, are still accorded the right to life, as much as is possible within the above context.

The destruction of innocent human life, however, outside the context of the individual’s choice, is the ultimate human rights violation — what society has rightly defined as murder.

And, sure enough, the disconnect is not with the definition of ‘murder.’  Most would agree on that.  Where we disagree most sharply is on the definition of ‘life.’  What appears to be the most widely accepted definition, and the one I will be using, appears on the NEWTON site for educators, in the “Ask a Scientist” section: “… made up of one or more cells, can grow and develop, reproduce, respond to stimuli, and have a metabolism.”  Human Life, then, would be defined as meeting these requirements, and a member of the species homo sapien

This is where we reach the crux of the matter.  Is an unborn child a human life, or isn’t she?  A human fetus satisfies all requirements for life — save, arguably, the ability to reproduce.  This is a meaningless argument on several counts, of course.  First, because the cells of a fetus, like the cells of a grown human, do reproduce.  And, in taking the definition in the context of all of life, cellular reproduction is the heart of the matter in this.  Second, just to discount the utterly ridiculous, to require biological human reproduction as a definition for life would, necessarily, exclude children who have not yet gained this ability, men with zero sperm counts and infertile women.  A fetus is alive.  The termination of an unborn human is the extinguishing of a life.  No reasonable person can refute this — and no responsible doctor would.

So, if the question of life is settled, what of the question of humanity?  This is an even simpler matter than the first.  A human fetus does not develop into a sheep, or a wolf, or a chicken, or a cabbage.  It grows into a person.  Theoretically, if you were to take a human embryo, the product of a human male and a human female, and transplant it into any other species capable of incubation, you would still get a human at the end of gestation.  Why?  Put simply, a human is a human is a human.  Just like a fly larvae is still a fly, so a human fetus is still a human.

Scientifically, then, a human fetus is a living human being.  Morally, therefore, the extinguishing of such a life is murder.  The denial of this is willful blindness; self delusion.  The killing of a child — any child — is barbaric.  Almost nobody looks with anything less than anger and disgust at that mother who chooses to end the lives of her born children.  Why, then, do we not only turn a blind eye, but as a society encourage, the wanton destruction of an unborn child?  To be blunt, it’s a question of “out of sight, out of mind.” 

Doctors, politicians, activists and media have done society the “favor” of allowing us to view a human fetus as something less than human.  It isn’t a child, we’re told.  It’s a demonstrable lie, but we believe it, because it helps us sleep better at night.

The reality, though, should burn us.  It should anger us just as the prospect of slavery does.  More so.  Abortion is an ongoing human rights violation worse than any in our short history as a nation, even basing it simply on sheer volume.

The government I believe in would protect human life — all human life.  It would not only discourage abortion, but indeed criminalize it.  Not to deny rights to a mother — a mother does not have the God-given right to abortion any more than I have the right to shoot my neighbor.  It isn’t a question of liberty.  It is a question of life.

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