Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Consistency and the Value of Human Life

Today's issue of the Chicago Sun-Times (3/4/2009) has an article about the murder of Rhoni Reuter in October 2007. Reuter was the girlfriend of former Chicago Bears player Shaun Gayle.
In his statement, Gayle said he is still struggling to accept the loss of Reuter and their unborn daughter. "We were both so looking forward to meeting our daughter, Skylar, who was due on Dec. 18. I cannot express how painful it has been to lose both of them." (Emphasis mine.)
Notice that the unborn child already had a name (Skylar Reyne), which is pretty interesting in light of the fact that leaders in the "pro-choice" movement once described unborn children as mere "blobs of tissue". It somehow seems odd that people would feel compelled to give human names to blobs of tissue. When was the last time you heard of anyone giving a name to an appendix, a liver or a gall bladder?

I see such news stories as ongoing evidence of America's disturbing cognitive dissonance when it comes to the question of whether or not unborn children are human beings.

When unborn children are wanted, then they are treated in every respect as if they are human beings, just as newborn children would be treated. Women who miscarry their unborn children mourn the loss of those children. People who commit murders against pregnant women are generally treated as if they have murdered two people, not just one. Murdering anyone is a horrible thing to do, but most people consider that the act of murder is particularly heinous when the victim happens to be carrying an unborn child in her womb.

Yet, paradoxically, if pregnant women wish to kill their own unborn children, they are treated as if they are merely exercising their constitutional "rights" --- as if their unborn children are not human beings at all.

Frankly, that makes no sense to me whatsoever. Is an unborn child a human being with inalienable rights, or not? As a society, we can't seem to make up our minds. Our assessment of the issue therefore seems to be guided more by sentimentality than by logic or by principles.

If indeed the value of a human being varies from one moment to the next, depending on whether or not that human being is wanted by his or her mother, then why shouldn't that principle also be applicable to human beings who have already been born? If that's the case, doesn't that value system jeopardize the right of every human being on the face of the earth to be protected from murder?

In fact, that was exactly how the Nazis viewed human life at the beginning of the era which would culminate in the Holocaust. In their view, human beings had no innate value derived from the mere fact that they were human beings. According to the Nazi world view, certain human lives were "worth living" and others were not. In their view, the Nazis were gifted with the ability to declare the difference between the two categories of humanity, and they were ostensibly endowed with the right and the wisdom to terminate the lives of those (such as mentally or physically handicapped people or the political enemies of the state) deemed undesirable. We all know where that type of thinking eventually led.

We Americans were raised according to a different set of principles. We were taught by our "founding fathers" that all human beings were and are created equal, being endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights, including the most fundamental right of all, the right to life. To say that a right is "inalienable" is to say that no other human being (not even a person's mother) is entitled to ignore that right or take it away.

Sadly, we seem to have developed a case of national amnesia with regard to our founding principles. The result is an incoherent patchwork of nonsensical self-contradictions.

If we as a nation ever hope to regain the moral high ground which would entitle us to argue that the American system of democratic government represents the best hope for mankind, we need to return to the principled value system upon which our nation was founded. We need to gently but firmly reject any attempt to deprive any category of human beings of their divinely endowed rights.

When we have deviated from our principles, as in the case of our acceptance of the oppressive institution of slavery, it has harmed our credibility throughout the world. When we have accepted the challenge of causing our laws to consistently conform to the principles we have espoused, we have brought nobility to the American experiment of self-government.

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