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Moments From America’s History: Rights and Lives 

BY JEFF OLSON –

Forty-five years ago this coming Monday, January 22, 1973, the “Roe v. Wade” Supreme Court decision was made. It essentially declared that a woman has a right to an abortion at any time during the entire time of her pregnancy, provided it was deemed medically necessary to preserve her health or life. This decision overturned all state anti-abortion laws, and opened the door to unrestricted abortion in America. It is indeed an issue which is often complex and polarizing, and characterized by emotion, passion, and personal experience. What follows here is worthy of our understanding and consideration.

The abortion issue has been framed largely around the subject of rights which has, in itself, been at the forefront of America’s founding and in much of America’s social and political discourse and activism in the public square since. Within the plethora of claimed rights in recent history are reproductive rights and the exclusive right to one’s own body, but here is some food for thought: All human rights are predicated first and foremost on the right to life, and it is the sanctity and dignity of human life (originating from human creation in the image of God) which provide the cornerstone upon which all justice and freedom stand. However, there can be neither one if life has no source, value or meaning beyond what only humans subjectively define as acceptable and legitimate.

In Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court evidently rejected this moral premise and the federalism designed into our Constitution. The Court: trumped state’s rights, disregarded cultural/community norms and moral sensibilities, failed to consider shifting social trends, and circumvented the legislative process. The result: a decision based not on original constitutional intent or principle nor on historic jurisprudence or precedent but on highly questionable interpretation and adjudication of the 9th and 14th Amendments and insufficient consideration of the ethical and medical aspects of human conception and pre-natal life. Therefore, the Court created (legislated) a national law re-defining a “right of privacy” as an avenue for the elimination of a God-given right to life. Perhaps it would have been prudent for the Court to take a closer look at (among other things) the Bible, the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. The Court’s ideological and explicit rejection of the fetal “right to life” argument has had fatal consequences for tens of millions of unborn babies and left an untold and immeasurable void that only their presence, love, and unique gifts could have filled in the lives of families and in society and culture.

We live in an America and world where much human suffering still exists. As we continue in pursuance of solutions on issues such as AIDS, human trafficking, poverty, health care and other human life concerns, our success remains in peril if the question of life itself is simply an arbitrary choice with no moral basis in the transcendent and no legal protection for the most vulnerable, innocent and defenseless among us. History has shown that the value of human life is the thread that connects virtually all humanitarian causes and it is at the root of most every major question facing humans today, including euthanasia, bioethics, medicine, the economy and the environment. As President Ronald Reagan expressed it in 1988, “We cannot diminish the value of one category of human life -the unborn – without diminishing the value of all human life…” Norma L. McCovey (Roe in Roe v. Wade) revealed in 1995 that she became pro-life and is now a vocal opponent of abortion. In her testimony to Congress in an effort to have Roe v. Wade overturned, she stated “It was my pseudonym, Jane Roe, which had been used to create the “right” to abortion out of legal thin air.”

As America looks ahead, we must be attentive and proactive to what kind of society we will be and what kind of government we will choose. Do we want a culture of life; one which is responsible in protecting the rights of human beings whose dignity and worth depend not on their convenience to individuals or utility to the state but on their inherent value from and to the Creator? Beyond just a matter of personal choice, the right to life is a foundational determinant and safeguard for all fundamental, “unalienable” human rights, individual freedom, an enduring moral order and stable self-government. And, to a great extent, it will continue to define who we are as a people and a nation.

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