The “Sanctity of Life” is a phrase bandied about by many “Right to Life” activists, and it a phrase with which I agree. Life is sacred. Nature, all living animate things, is best defined by the struggle for life, for birth, for growth, for maturity. To survive, to live a complete life cycle, in order to reproduce, is the “prime directive” of all life, regardless of the cellular sophistication of any of that life.
Two words come to mind when I consider the phrase “sanctity of life;” two words which in my mind are inexorably linked and inseparable. The two words come from two very different areas of intellectual inquiry, biology and philosophy, yet they clearly define the linkage between both disciplines. The words are “ontogenesis” and “ontology.” The two terms help define what I mean when I use the phrase “sanctity of life” in support of the notion of a generalized right to life inherent in all human beings.
Ontology, as an academic discipline, is the study of “being,” which I would further define here as the existence of human life. Being includes not only the requisite presence of consciousness, as is often argued, but the presence of all ontogenetical processes by which consciousness occurs. Without a zygote, the act of conception, no human life, no consciousness, is possible. Importantly, ontogenesis describes a process which begins at conception and ends at termination, at death. Ontogenesis is, in each human being, a continuous process, defined and shaped by evolution, and interruptible only at the price of termination, only by death.
No supporter of “Freedom of Choice,” would willingly agree that a foundation was unnecessary for structure, nor would they willingly board an aircraft without wings, and very few would agree that marriage should precede love. If they were informed that learning to read was unnecessary for an education, or that knowledge and discernment were unnecessary in order to make an informed decision, most would strenuously disagree. In each and every example, a process required a beginning as important as the end. So it is with life. Life is a process, and every moment is necessary to allow the next. Consciousness, sentience, even responsiveness do not define life, nor justify, if any of these attributes are lacking, the premature termination of life.
What of “sanctity,” sacredness? These are neither biological nor philosophical terms. These are cultural, theological, terms and as such are open to interpretation. And it in this discussion that proponents of “Freedom of Choice” make their best arguments. From a purely cultural point of view, an individual’s right to privacy, while in no way guaranteed by the US Constitution, is fixed in our consciousness, and seems to support the right to make choices which solely benefit the individual, and not society at large.
In fact, it can be argued that a right “of” privacy existed before the US Constitution, and that the need of it was responsible for the migration of many English subjects to the colonies. I would further argue that our Framing Fathers implicitly acknowledged that right of privacy in the Third, Fourth, and parts of the Fifth Amendment Please note that I differentiate between the prepositions “of” and “to” in the composition of the phrase Right “of” or Right “to” Privacy. The two prepositions are not interchangeable; otherwise we would only need one, not both. Just as they acknowledged a “Freedom of Speech” existed in the First Amendment to the US Constitution, the Framers, and subsequent distinguished jurists have distinguished between “Freedom of Speech” and freedom “to” speak; for instance in the often cited example that you may not yell fire in a crowded movie theater, or call out to an acquaintance named Jack, “Hi! Jack!” in an airport terminal, so also they gave careful consideration to the Colonial notion of the “Right of Privacy.” They enumerated a Right of Privacy in the Third Amendment that protected the privacy of a citizen in their home, a right that could not be violated except under the direst of conditions, war, and then only through the action of legislation agreed to by the elected representatives of the citizens of the new country. In the Fourth Amendment, the Framing Fathers further extended an implicit Right of Privacy to “persons, houses, papers and effects” against unreasonable searches and seizures. In the Fifth Amendment, the Framers provided that “property shall not be taken without just compensation. These rights, so clearly enumerated by the Framer’s, provide the basis for a “Right of Privacy” in our relationship with governmental authorities.
Note again, no where is any “Right to Privacy” explicitly mentioned or implied. No citizen may claim as a defense against a charge of murder, “It was done in my house.” No spouse may beat another and assert as a defense, “It was done in the privacy of the kitchen of my house.” No kidnapper may hold another against their will, and assert “I held them in the basement of my house.” No rapist may violate another person and defend their heinous actions with the claim that “I raped them on my bed in my bedroom.”
There is no “Right to Privacy” that subtends an argument that any person may willingly take the life of another, and there is no Constitutional justification for homicide at any stage of the ontogeneological process.
The decision of the US Supreme Court in Roe v.Wade, “creating a “Right to Privacy” was made from whole cloth, vaguely “based” on “due process” and the Thirteenth Amendment and follows other stellar decisions by the US Supreme Court such as Dred Scott v. Sandford, reversed by a bloody Civil War; and Plessy v. Ferguson, reversed by 70 odd years of protests, riots, lynchings and preaching.
Blackman, Brennan, Burger, Douglas, Marshall, Powell, Stewart, these are the names of the greatest mass murders in history. Not Stalin, not Hitler, not Mao Zedong, not Pol Pot; no, none of these tyrants, despots, butchers can claim this singular distinction. No, it is seven old white men who have the blood of millions of aborted human beings on their hands. Why? So that their daughters, their nieces, their cheating wives, the daughters and wives of rich and powerful friends could sleep around, and if the Pill or Condom failed, have a “free pass” to an uncomplicated life.
I, too, am such a man, such a murderer as these jurists. I have two wonderful living children. I have five aborted children; five faces who are not at the Christmas Dinner table, five smiling souls who do laugh out loud or playfully banter with me; five human beings who never had the chance to struggle, grapple, or even breathe air. From 13 weeks to 24 weeks they lived, they grew, they yearned, yes, yearned to live another day, to take their place in the crib, the church, the classroom. They yearned from a million years of human evolution to crawl, to walk, to run, to be held, to be loved, to simply be…
That is the story of our species, evolution, a constant and compelling need to reproduce, each successive generation to improve on the last. I, Bull Sullivan, stole all this from each of them. I stood back and let other’s choose; I “respected” the right of the women I impregnated to their “privacy.” I applauded these distinguished Supreme Court Justices for taking me “off the hook,” for freeing me to be careless in my licentious life.
No apology to these, my lost children, to you my reader, or to God, can free me from my burden. I did not just take life, I lost life. I lost so much of my life, so many smiles and birthdays, so many hugs and so many never said “Daddy, I love you’s.”
At my age, as healthy and vigorous as I am, I know I will never regain what I lost, what I murdered. But I will speak the words I know each lost child would say, Life is precious, Life is a gift from the Creator, no one has the right to end life but that Creator. No one.
If you believe in the “right to life,” then hear me. No one, not you, male or female, not your neighbor, not your state, nor our Federal Government has the right to take life.
The problem with reversing Roe v. Wade is simple. Most arguments that support right to life values are moral, Christian not Constitutional, in nature. You can not assert a moral imperative if that imperative is couched in moral ambiguity. You can not support a “right to life” agenda, and support capital punishment, or War. Morally, neither you nor the “The State” has the right to take life. Either you accept this fact or you condone and accept the murder of millions of unborn children each year. Capital Punishment is morally wrong because is it an act of societal revenge. There is no other component, no other excuse, no other justification. You can not forgive a human being and then take their life. If you believe in the “Right to Life” you must oppose capital punishment.
You can not wage War and call it Christian. You can admit to the necessity of self-preservation, at the cost of another’s life; you can accept that necessity, as I do, but it is still morally wrong. If you are a soldier, ask the Creator to forgive you for the acts you do to preserve the lives of those you love. All of us must admit that War is wrong, and we must seek to minimize the use of War to accomplish our self-preservation, and determine it is never to be used as an instrument of statecraft. Then and only then may we tell the world we oppose abortion, then and only then will we have the moral strength and support necessary to repeal Roe v. Wade.
Abortion, State Sponsored Murder, War: these are all one symptom of moral decay and nascent materialism. Our Constitution, while not perfect in securing and guaranteeing our rights, is far better than our current statecraft and far superior to our current judiciary. Regrettably, the Framers of the Constitution appear to be far more principled and moral than the majority of today’s citizens, the majority that is us, you and I. Only you and I can implement the changes so desperately needed, but only if you and I change first.
I am no Pollyanna, no pacifist. If War need be waged it should be waged. But Iraq? Afghanistan? Libya? Yemen? Iran? We have elected mad men, good men, but nonetheless mad, drunk with power, wealth and ego. Read what the Father of our Country said:
“Why quit our own to stand upon foreign ground? Why, by interweaving our destiny with that of any part of Europe, entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalship, interest, humor or caprice?”
G Washington, Farewell Address, 1796
We must work to bring “us” home from these foreign shores, to secure our borders and our peace, and commit to using diplomacy and economic strength to shape a peaceful world.
But above all, we must once again cherish human life, from the first moment of cellular life, to the first heart beat, to the first breath, through each day of life until that heartbeat is naturally stilled, until the last breath is exhaled. We must learn once again, that nature has a process, and that human life should should begin in the womb, and end, no matter how long its course, by natural cause. No exceptions exist, no life is less valued than any other, all life celebrates the diversity of the human genome, all human life is unique and priceless. And no one, no human, has the right to end life before nature acts to do so.