Friday, July 29, 2011

What science tells us about the unborn

The following originally ran in two separate issues of MCCL News (Jan. and Feb./Mar. 2011).

Before deciding how we ought to treat the unborn—a moral question—we must first be clear about what the unborn is. This is a scientific question, and it is answered with clarity by the science of human embryology.

When sperm fertilizes egg

The facts of reproduction are straightforward. Upon completion of the fertilization process, sperm and egg have ceased to exist (this is why "fertilized egg" is an inaccurate term); what exists is a single cell with 46 chromosomes (23 from each parent) that is called a zygote. The coming into existence of the zygote is the point of conception—the beginning of the life of a new human organism. The terms zygote, embryo and fetus all refer to developmental stages in the life of a human being.

Four features of the unborn

Four features of the unborn (i.e., the human zygote, embryo or fetus) are relevant to his or her status as a human being. First, the unborn is living. She meets all the biological criteria for life: metabolism, cellular reproduction and reaction to stimuli. Moreover, she is clearly growing, and dead things (of course) don't grow.

Second, the unborn is human. She possesses a human genetic signature that proves this beyond any doubt. She is also the offspring of human parents, and we know that humans can only beget humans (they cannot beget dogs or cats, for instance). The unborn may not seem to "look" human (at least in her earlier stages), but in fact she looks exactly like a human at that level of human development. Living things do not become something different as they grow and mature; rather, they develop the way that they do precisely because of the kind of being they already are.

Third, the unborn is genetically and functionally distinct from (though dependent on and resting inside of) the pregnant woman. Her growth and maturation is internally directed, and her DNA is unique and different from that of any other cell in the woman’s body. She develops her own arms, legs, brain, central nervous system, etc. To say that a fetus is a part of the pregnant woman’s body is to say that the woman has four arms and four legs, and that about half of pregnant women have penises.

A whole organism

Fourth, the unborn is a whole or complete (though immature) organism. That is, she is not a mere part of another living thing, but is her own organism—an entity whose parts work together in a self-integrated fashion to bring the whole to maturity. Her genetic information is fully present at conception, determining to a large extent her physical characteristics (including sex, eye color, skin color, bone structure, etc.); she needs only a suitable environment and nutrition to develop herself through the different stages of human life.

Thus, the unborn is a distinct, living and whole human organism—a full-fledged member of the species Homo sapiens, like you and me, only at a much earlier stage in her development. She is a human being.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Abortion in the black community

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Planned Parenthood performs record number of abortions in 2010; minor abortions down 16 percent

The following is a follow-up to the earlier release on today's Abortion Report.

ST. PAUL — Planned Parenthood aborted more unborn babies than ever in 2010 even though the total number of abortions dropped more than seven percent to 11,505, according to the latest Abortion Report issued today by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH). The surge continues a trend of Planned Parenthood performing more abortions, regardless of whether the annual total rises or falls.

Planned Parenthood increased its abortions by a stunning 64 percent from 2000 to 2010, while total abortions dropped more than 22 percent over the same period. Planned Parenthood now performs 35 percent of all abortions in the state—its highest percentage ever. It was the only provider to perform more abortions in 2010 over the previous year.

"Planned Parenthood officials need to stop claiming they want to reduce abortions in Minnesota, because the statistics don't lie," said Scott Fischbach, Executive Director of Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL). "With its massive new abortion clinic under construction in St. Paul, which will be the nation's third largest, Planned Parenthood is poised to further expand its already bloated business of killing the unborn in record numbers."

The 2010 Abortion Report shows the lowest rate of abortions since 1974. Abortions performed on minor girls fell 16.8 percent to 482, the lowest number on record (statistics for minors go back to 1975) and down to 4 percent of all abortions. Minor abortions peaked at 2,327 in 1980. Minnesota's effective 1981 parental notification law continues to bring together parents and their pregnant minor daughters to make life-affirming decisions.

More women are being hurt by abortion. Complications such as a perforated uterus and incomplete abortion nearly doubled, rising to 164 in 2010.

There were other increases last year. Chemical abortions using the dangerous and sometimes lethal RU486 drug combination rose to 20.7 percent of all abortions, continuing a steady increase. Taxpayer-funded abortions increased to 33.8 percent of all abortions—the highest percentage since the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled in 1995 that taxpayers must pay for elective abortions. Self-funded abortions are at their lowest level since reporting began in 1998.

The total number of reported abortions performed in Minnesota since 1973 is 567,155.

The following is additional information concerning "Induced Abortions in Minnesota, 2010, Report to the Legislature," released July 26, 2011, by the Minnesota Department of Health:

2010 Minnesota Abortion Report shows more women finding abortion alternatives

The following news release was issued this morning, July 26.

ST. PAUL — Abortion numbers fell for the fourth straight year in Minnesota, according to the latest Abortion Report issued today by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH). The decrease follows a trend of fewer abortions statewide since the Positive Alternatives program began in July 2006, funding efforts to help pregnant women in need.

Positive Alternatives is one of several pro-life legislative efforts by Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL) to offer women life-affirming alternatives to abortion and to significantly reduce the number of unborn babies aborted each year. Others include the Woman's Right to Know informed consent law, and the parental notification law for minors considering abortion.

"Seeing abortion numbers fall is confirmation that MCCL's efforts to educate and provide alternatives for women are working," said MCCL Executive Director Scott Fischbach. "However, recent pro-life losses suffered at the Capitol, and Planned Parenthood's massive abortion center set to open, do not bode well for the unborn or their mothers going forward."

With the help of pro-life citizens across the state, MCCL succeeded in gaining passage of five pro-life measures during the 2011 regular legislative session. All five were quickly vetoed by pro-abortion Gov. Mark Dayton, including the re-authorization of the state's existing policy banning taxpayer funding of human cloning. Protective legislation was excluded from any final budget compromise in a deal struck by Dayton, Senate Majority Leader Koch and Speaker of the House Zellers.

The annual Abortion Report shows a total of 11,505 abortions were performed in the state in 2010, more than seven percent fewer than the previous year's 12,388 total. The 2010 total is the lowest number on record since 1975. Full reports for 2010 and prior years are available at the MDH website.

Positive Alternatives was passed by the Legislature in 2005 and signed into law by pro-life Gov. Tim Pawlenty to establish a grant program through MDH. Grants are given to life-affirming organizations offering essential services to women; 31 organizations are currently participating in the Positive Alternatives grant program. MDH reports show that more than 25,000 women statewide were helped through the Positive Alternatives program in its first four years (July 2006-June 2010). The fact that 11,505 pregnant women last year still believed that abortion was their only or best option underscores the enormous need for women to find alternatives to abortion.

"Minnesota needs to continue to establish greater protections for unborn children and their mothers," Fischbach said. "The Department of Health statistics clearly show that help provided by Positive Alternatives and other legislative measures drive down abortion numbers as women find life-affirming alternatives."

MCCL is Minnesota's oldest and largest pro-life organization with more than 70,000 member families and 240 chapters across the state. For more information about MCCL, visit

Monday, July 25, 2011

Understanding Planned Parenthood v. Casey: A landmark abortion decision

In 1992 the biggest abortion-related case since Roe v. Wade came before the U.S. Supreme Court. In Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the Court was asked to consider the constitutionality of five provisions of Pennsylvania's Abortion Control Act. They are as follows:

1. A woman seeking an abortion must give her informed consent before the procedure and be provided with certain information (e.g., information about the health risks of abortion) at least 24 hours before the abortion is performed.

2. The informed consent of one parent must be obtained before a minor undergoes an abortion, but a judicial bypass procedure is available.

3. A married woman seeking an abortion must sign a statement indicating that she has notified her husband, unless certain exceptions apply (e.g., spousal abuse).

4. A "medical emergency" will excuse compliance with the other provisions.

5. Abortion-providing facilities must abide by certain reporting requirements.

The decision

The Court upheld four of the five provisions, rejecting only the third requirement based on an "undue burden" standard (explained below). It also decided that the "essential holding of Roe v. Wade should be retained and once again reaffirmed." That "essential holding" is that a woman has a right to abortion before the point of fetal viability, and that abortion may be restricted after viability, but only if there are maternal life and "health" exceptions.

The plurality opinion was written by Justices Anthony Kennedy, Sandra Day O'Connor and David Souter. Kennedy, O'Connor, Souter, Harry Blackmun and John Paul Stevens formed the majority of five that decided to uphold Roe. Dissenting justices William Rehnquist, Byron White, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas believed that Roe should have been overturned.

Modifications to Roe

Despite upholding the "essential holding" of Roe, the Court in Casey made three major modifications to its abortion jurisprudence.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Cloning and the nature of living things

Many people seem to think "human cloning" means magically creating an adult human clone, as one sees in science fiction movies. But the nature of living organisms—such as members of our species—is that they grow and develop through different stages of life. No one comes into existence as an adult. Each of us began life as a zygote, and then matured into an embryo, fetus, newborn, toddler, adolescent and so on.

When organisms are created by cloning (this happens via a process called somatic cell nuclear transfer), they begin life at the earliest stages of development, just like everyone else. Cloning, like natural fertilization and in vitro fertilization, is a means of creating a new, whole, self-integrating, self-directing organism who requires only a suitable environment and nutrition to develop herself (she has a sex from the beginning) toward maturity. (The difference with cloning—what makes cloning cloning—is that the new organism is genetically virtually identical to a pre-existing or currently-existing organism.)

Like most people, I think human cloning is wrong in itself. But I think it's even worse to dehumanize the resulting human beings—indeed, to deny that "cloning" has even happened—in order to justify lethal experimentation on those young members of the human family.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Minnesota is now open ... for state funded human cloning

The following news release was issued today, July 21.

ST. PAUL — The State of Minnesota is now involved in the human cloning business. After the state Legislature failed to re-authorize a ban on state funded human cloning during the special session, it is now legal to use taxpayer dollars to create cloned human embryos.

The ban on the use of state taxpayer money had been in place since 2009 and encompassed all forms of human cloning, aka somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT), whether intended for reproductive or so-called therapeutic purposes. The University of Minnesota Stem Cell Institute repeatedly testified during the regular 2011 session against a permanent ban on state funding of human cloning, saying it wanted to leave open its option to clone human life with state funds.

"In these hard economic times when so many Minnesotans are hurting, it is a tragedy that our taxpayer dollars can now be wasted to create and kill the tiniest human beings," stated MCCL President Leo LaLonde.

During the regular 2011 legislative session, state legislators passed a total ban on all forms of human cloning, in addition to passing a continuation of the ban on taxpayer funding of human cloning. Governor Dayton vetoed the pro-life legislation. Then in a legislative deal struck by pro-abortion Gov. Dayton and Senate Majority Leader Koch and Speaker of the House Zellers going into the special session, no pro-life provisions would even be allowed to be considered.

"Many states and countries and the United Nations have called for an all-out ban on all forms of human cloning, but here in Minnesota we will now actually make state funds available to create human clones," stated LaLonde. "This is despite the fact that polling consistently shows that the American people are overwhelmingly opposed to human cloning."

Scientists who create cloned human embryos typically dissect and kill the human clones within days after they are alive. It is not known how many human clones may eventually be created and killed by various institutions in Minnesota, including the University of Minnesota, or which ones will be state funded, as there are no reporting requirements to disclose the number of deaths.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Pro-life buttons (and other swag)

These are some of the pro-life buttons MCCL has been offering at the Sonshine Festival, county fairs and other events this summer. To order buttons (each 1 inch in diameter), contact MCCL at 612-825-6831 or A small donation of $1.00 per 3 buttons is suggested.

The buttons feature messages such as "abortion is death," "former embryo," "soy pro-vida," "protect life," "make a difference / end abortion," "['like'] the unborn," "stop killing unborn babies," "I [heart] life," "abortion hurts everyone," "save the unborn," "every life matters" and more.

For more pro-life materials -- including T-shirts, bumper stickers, posters and billboards -- see our Resource Directory.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The history of abortion in the United States

This week, National Right to Life's "Pro-Life Perspective" radio broadcast is launching a series examining the history of abortion in the United States beginning shortly before the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. You can listen to the series here.

For a broader look at abortion history -- including abortion in 18th and 19th century America -- see Dispelling the Myths of Abortion History by Joseph W. Dellapenna, Abortion Rites: A Social History of Abortion in America by Marvin Olasky, and The Physicians' Crusade Against Abortion by Frederick N. Dyer.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Urgent: Human life at stake in Minnesota

Contact your lawmakers today!Today MCCL sent out the following message:
While the weather outside heats up, the fight to protect the most vulnerable members of our human family is heating up, too. Following an agreement on a "framework" late last week, Republican legislative leaders and Governor Dayton are working out the details on the state's budget. The problem: the agreement between Governor Dayton, Majority Leader Koch and Speaker Zellers was that pro-life issues were to be excluded. That means protecting pain-capable unborn children and ending taxpayer funding of abortion were off the table. It also means that an existing prohibition on taxpayer funding of human cloning would not continue, and for the first time since Roe v. Wade, pro-lifers would lose an existing pro-life state policy.

In 2009, pro-lifers across the state worked tirelessly and were successful in implementing a two-year ban on taxpayer funding of human cloning. This year, if the Legislature doesn't reauthorize the ban, taxpayers can be forced to pay for cloning.

The Right to Life is the most important right of all—and Minnesota can't move backwards in protecting human life. Call or email your legislators and make sure your voice is heard! Final decisions are being made now. Your message to your legislators can be very simple: no taxpayer dollars for human cloning! Be sure to remind your elected officials how important protecting human life is to you and that reauthorizing the ban on taxpayer funding of human cloning is the right thing to do!

If you don't know your legislators' email addresses, go to the Secretary of State's website (it's working) and type in your address. This will provide you with links to the websites of your senator and representative, from which you can send emails immediately.
Our elected officials are understandably focused on solving the budget situation, but most of the MCCL-backed pro-life measures are budget-related—they concern the spending of government money. Should the state pay for elective abortions? Should the state pay for human cloning? We believe taxpayer money can be allocated more wisely and for the good of society.

In addition, elected officials must recognize that the pro-life proposals directly concern the fundamental right to life and the unjust killing of innocent human beings, and so they are intrinsically of greater moral significance than economic questions about the proper allocation of government resources. For pro-life legislators to prioritize economic goals over pro-life ones is for them to fail to appreciate the reality and truth of the pro-life position.

Please contact your state legislators and urge them to oppose the budget deal unless the pro-life measures are included. Learn more about those measures, which were initially passed with bipartisan majorities but then vetoed by Gov. Dayton, here and here.

'Social justice begins in the womb'

"Social justice is all the rage right now. So many different social justice organizations are popping up everywhere, it is hard to keep track. ... I think it is awesome that people want to take action and do something to love those in need. ...

"Cutting, starvation, human trafficking, AIDS, and child labor are all tragedies that should deeply concern all of us.

"Each of these issues deserves our prayers and action. While all of these causes are popular to be involved with, the killing of innocent children in the womb is often overlooked or ignored. ...

"The social justice mission must begin in the womb."

-- Bryan Kemper, Social Justice Begins in the Womb

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The truth about Planned Parenthood

Pro-abortion Richard Nolan to challenge pro-life Congressman Chip Cravaack

The following news release was issued on July 13.

Former Congressman Richard Nolan announced his candidacy for Congress in the 8th Congressional District this morning. Nolan made no mention of the abortion issue in his announcement and there is no mention of the issue on his website.

"While pro-life voters may remember that Nolan cast some pro-life votes while he was in Congress in the 1970s, in the last years of his term he cast six consecutive pro-abortion votes," said Leo LaLonde, President of Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life.

It is important to note that in 1976, Rep. Nolan voted repeatedly in favor of the Hyde Amendment to stop federal funding of abortions, but by 1979, Nolan had flip-flopped and was voting in favor of taxpayer funding of abortions in the Labor-HEW Appropriations bill.

On his campaign website, Nolan has posted an audio about "politicians who say one thing and do another," in which he describes how he will keep his word.

"Pro-lifers know all too well that this is a great irony, since Nolan was notorious for not keeping his word on abortion—and unborn children paid with their lives after he flip-flopped on taxpayer funded abortions," LaLonde explained.

Pro-life voters should be leery of Richard Nolan. The issue of taxpayer funding of abortion is currently before Congress, and Nolan has a history of flip-flopping his way to a solid pro-abortion position.

Nolan is seeking the DFL nod to run against pro-life Congressman Chip Cravaack, who has earned a 100% pro-life voting record according to the National Right to Life Committee, the national affiliate of MCCL.

"Chip ran as a pro-lifer, he has voted pro-life and has remained steadfast and committed in his dedication to restore protection for innocent unborn children," LaLonde added.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Francis Collins on the moral status of cloned embryos

Grasping the morally obvious (Djimon Hounsou in The Island).
Browsing in a book store, I glanced through The Language of God, a 2006 book by Francis Collins, the world-famous scientist and current head of the National Institutes of Health (appointed by President Obama).

In a section in the back of the book, Collins discusses some key bioethics issues. Collins supports both embryonic stem cell research and human cloning (somatic cell nuclear transfer) for research. Interestingly, Collins seems to have much less moral concern about cloning and then killing human embryos than he does about killing human embryos created by fertilization (though he's ultimately okay with both).

He writes:
I would argue that the immediate product of a skin cell and an enucleated egg cell [i.e., a cloned embryo] fall[s] short of the moral status of the union of sperm and egg [i.e., an embryo produced by fertilization]. The former is a creation in the laboratory that does not occur in nature, and is not part of God's plan to create a human individual. The latter is very much God's plan, carried out through the millennia by our own species and many others.
This is really disturbing. Collins is saying that some members of our species -- because of the way they came into being -- are less valuable than others. In particular, he is suggesting that human beings cloned in a laboratory lack the moral status of the rest of us, and may be used and killed for our benefit. This is classic science fiction. The moral error is blatantly obvious.

Here's the key question: Is the result of cloning the same kind of entity as the result of fertilization? Yes. Both processes result in a new human organism at the embryonic stage of development. The only difference is how they came into existence. What they are is the same.

People conceived by in vitro fertilization, though they were created "in the laboratory" in a way that "does not occur in nature," are people nonetheless. Dolly the sheep -- famously created by cloning -- was, in fact, a sheep, no different in nature than any other sheep.

To discriminate as Collins advocates is both absurd and morally abhorrent.

Monday, July 11, 2011

'At any stage, abortion kills a rapidly developing, genetically-distinct human being'

The most misunderstood aspect of the right-to-life movement

From an interview with the new president of National Right to Life, Carol Tobias:
KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ: What's the most misunderstood aspect of the right-to-life movement?

CAROL TOBIAS: Pro-lifers are often accused of not caring about mothers and their babies after the baby is born. That is blatantly false. Pro-lifers are the most caring, loving, generous people you will ever meet. They open their homes to pregnant women who have nowhere to go, they provide clothing, food, diapers, furniture, and other essentials for newborn babies. They contribute to churches and other organizations that take care of the poor, the hungry, and the homeless. They may or may not advocate that the government spend tax money to do these things, but they are using their own money to do these things.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Casey Anthony story highlights confusion regarding value of human life

By Priscilla Lundquist

Casey Anthony is scheduled to go free on July 17 after her trial came to a close this week. Most of her four-year prison sentence was served while awaiting trial. The jury's verdict of "not guilty" on all but four minor charges came more than three years after she was arrested.

Anthony's trial captivated the nation. The media coverage and public attention it received have been compared to the O.J. Simpson trial. Part of the reason for the media frenzy is that the idea of a mother murdering her two-year-old daughter shocked and horrified people. It seemed unnatural that a mother would knowingly harm her child. Anthony was found to be not guilty of the murder.

File:Caylee anthony.jpg
Caylee Marie Anthony died at two years of age.
The difference between the reactions to the murder of a toddler and the murder of an unborn baby struck me forcibly. If Anthony had wanted to kill her baby daughter it would have been legal for her to do so two years earlier, before she gave birth. If Casey's parents had reported to police that their daughter had aborted Caylee, nothing would have happened. There would not have been any trial, prison time, or media scrutiny. Every day, 4,000 mothers in the U.S end the lives of their babies. It is not considered murder and the media is not horrified by it.

So why is there such a difference in reactions? Why does the nation respond with outrage to Casey's not-guilty verdict, but take no notice when mothers kill their unborn babies? What is the big difference that makes one terrible and the other acceptable?

Does a baby's location in the mother's womb make a difference in whether a baby is considered alive? Seventy-two percent of Americans do not seem to think so and oppose late-term abortions, according to a Gallup poll. The womb is clearly not a material difference between the two. A child is not less alive than a college student simply because the child lives in her/his parent’s home.

Is it that unborn babies are less developed than babies outside of the womb? Babies inside and outside of the womb have complete sets of DNA. Unborn babies' hearts are beating by week three and have brain waves as early as six weeks from conception—both important medical evidence of life. "It's scientifically inaccurate to say a human embryo or a fetus is not a human being simply because he's at an earlier stage of development than an infant," Randy Alcorn writes in his book Why Pro Life? "This is like saying that a toddler isn't a human being because he's not yet an adolescent."

Or is it viability—the ability to survive outside of the womb—that makes an unborn baby alive? Before a baby is viable is it just a part of the mother's body? "A body part is defined by the common genetic code it shares with the rest of its body. … The unborn child also has a genetic code, but it is distinctly different from his mother's," Alcorn writes. A premature baby who would have died 50 years ago can be saved with today's technology. Viability will always be changing, determined by improvements in technology and doctors' understanding. If viability is the standard for life, it will not remain constant.

The differences between unborn babies and babies outside of the womb do not make unborn babies less valuable or alive. Development, location, being inside of the mother, and viability do not make a mother's killing of her unborn baby less awful.

Media attention and public obsession with the Casey Anthony trial demonstrate our nation's value of, yet confusion regarding, human life. We need to continue to educate and help people understand that there is no fundamental difference between babies inside and outside of the womb. Both deserve protection.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Pro-life news in Minnesota: July 2011

Subscribe to MCCL News.
Here's what every pro-life Minnesotan should know.

  • The annual Abortion Report -- normally issued each July 1 -- has not been released due to the government shutdown. The Report provides important data and statistics regarding abortion in Minnesota.
  • Six Planned Parenthood clinics in Minnesota are closing. Though these clinics do not perform abortions, they refer women to the St. Paul abortion center. Planned Parenthood is the state's leading performer and promoter of abortion.
  • Two Minnesotans are currently running for president of the United States: Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Congresswoman Michele Bachmann. Both are strongly pro-life. They seek to replace Pres. Barack Obama, a faithful believer in abortion on demand with a record to prove it.

To stay informed, bookmark this blog (or subscribe or follow by email using the links on the right side of this page), and make sure you are receiving MCCL News in the mail or online; contact us to start or renew your subscription.

Pawlenty, Bachmann address National Right to Life Convention

Below are videos of former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, both candidates for president of the United States, addressing the 2011 National Right to Life Convention via skype last month.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

What is at stake: Abortion, slavery and a foundational principle

"What is at stake in this debate about how to treat unborn human beings is whether we will or will not recognize the fundamental equal dignity possessed by every human being, simply in virtue of being a human being, a person. The pro-abortion position is a denial of one of the most basic principles central to our civilization, namely, that all human beings, irrespective of their inessential differences, possess an equal fundamental dignity, and no class of human beings can with justice enslave, use, experiment on, or deliberately kill other innocent human beings for their own purposes. This principle was at stake in the nineteenth century in the United States with the issue of slavery. This is the principle that is at stake in the central debate of our times, which is about unborn human beings. Slavery is profoundly wrong because it is intrinsically unjust to relegate a whole class of human beings to the status of mere things for use; it was inherently unjust to deny the personhood, the equal fundamental dignity of African-American human beings, for the benefit of another class of human beings. By the same token, it is inherently and intrinsically unjust to relegate the whole class of unborn human beings to the status of non-persons, to the status of mere inconvenient burdens that can be directly killed or discarded for the benefit of others. Just as all human beings, of every skin color, deserve equal and fundamental moral respect, in the same way, all human beings, born and unborn, deserve equal moral respect."

-- Patrick Lee, Abortion & Unborn Human Life

Friday, July 1, 2011

The scope of 'all men'

The Declaration of Independence, issued on July 4, 1776, includes this famous affirmation of human dignity: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

Randy Alcorn reflects:
"We hold these truths to be self-evident." There are certain truths so basic, so foundational that we must hold to them if the social fabric of this country is to endure. What are those truths?

First, "That all men are created equal." Flowing out of that it says, "That they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

Note the order: the cornerstone is that all are created equal, then that there are certain rights given by God that you and I are not free to ignore. Then, that the first and most basic unalienable right is the right to life. The exercise of our right to liberty and our right to the pursuit of happiness are secondary to respecting the right to life. Our pursuit of happiness must not compromise any other person's right to live. So, the right to life is not some modern anti-abortion slogan. It is the most fundamental assertion of the document upon which this nation was founded.

The three most significant moral issues in American history have each hinged on an understanding of what it means that "all men are created equal."

The first question: Does "all men" mean only the white race or does it include blacks? The second question: Does "all men" mean males, or does it mean all mankind, male and female? Laws were changed as our nation came to a correct answer to these questions.

The question before us today is a third one, with as much moral significance as the first two. Does "all men" include not only the bigger and older, but also the smaller and younger? Does it include our preborn children?
Or, as Francis Beckwith puts it, the question before us is whether
the project that began centuries ago -- having its metaphysical roots in the biblical notion of the imago dei (image of God) that provided the intellectual scaffolding for the Declaration of Independence, the abolitionist movement, Abraham Lincoln's second inaugural address, and Martin Luther King Jr.'s speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial -- can be, and ought to be, extended to include the true wideness of our human community, that is, to include the unborn.