The value of all human life is a moral certainty

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February 2007

Last month I wrote that moral certainty is sometimes neither moral nor certain. I cited the examples of slavery, right to vote for men only, and segregation as moral certainties that change din the last two hundred years. I also opined that the holding of moral certainty is at the basis of the deep polarization that exists in our country.

            One woman responded to my column by suggesting that all of us have that moral certainty deep in our souls somewhere. Indeed we do. I didn’t acknowledge that in my last column, but I do have some firmly held beliefs and values as well. We would be living rather aimless lives if we didn’t have some moral and religious certainty about something. Those are what give our lives meaning.

Some moral certainties surrounds fundamental values, such as belief in God, the dignity of every human being, the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,the right to the freedoms contained in the Bill of Rights.

Almost all would agree that a fundamental right held with moral certainty is the right to life. However, when that phrase is used today, it most likely conjures up Right to Life, an organization most known for its efforts to overturn Roe v. Wade, the United States Supreme Court decision in 1973 that allows women to get an abortion. Right to Life, along with many religious groups, hold that a fetus is a human person and having an abortion is tantamount to killing a child – murder. They tell us that 47 million abortions have been performed intheUnited States since 1973. That is without  doubt horrendous.  On the good news side, abortions in Michigan have declined since 1988.

In January near  the anniversary  of the Rove v. Wade decision, thousands marched on Washington and other places to urge the overturn of this decision.

The right to life extends beyond the womb. It also  includes decent housing, adequate food and clothing, access to a good education and proper health care.  The way we as a society ensure these rights for everyone is certainly subject to debate, discussion, and compromise, but the solutions must enhance life, not take it away by depriving people of the items I mentioned above.

There are said to be more than 30 milion people living in poverty in the United States, according to our standard of living. Poverty is a right to life issue.

In the book The End of Poverty by Jeffrey Sachs, I read that 15,000 people die every day in Africa from diseases that could be prevented by drugs and treatment now available to us.        People in other countries have the right to life also.

Worldwide, nine million people die each year from these same diseases or, worse yet, from starvation. We have plenty of food in our world to satisfy all who are hungry.

Murder is a chilling word that people use regarding abortion.  I like to apply that word to state sponsored executions also. Quite often, however, someone will object. They seem to think there are exceptions to the commandment that says  Do not kill.” They think that a criminal about to be executed has lost his/her human dignity and also the  right to life. I say the executioners are the ones who have lost human dignity. Criminals have a right to life too.

Let’s put war under the framework of right to life. The war in Iraq has caused the death of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. One estimate as high as 655,000. the Iraq Study Group reported that 1.6 million Iraqis are homeless and 1.8 million Iraqis have fled the country. Many of those still living there are in desperate situations, wondering if their “good[bye” in the morning will be the last one. Over 3,000 Americans have died and thousands injured inthis war. War is a right to life issue too.

For me, abortion, poverty, execution, and war are all life issues. I recognize that the application of this right to issues is subject to debate and compromise. I realize there are arguments on both sides, but  I suggest we approach all these issues from the value of life before we enter into compromise on specifics of housing, education, health care, execution, poverty, and war. Perhaps that focus will lead us in a better direction in dealing with these issues.