The Declaration of Independence states that man is endowed by his Creator the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This recognition of universal, sacred, and unalienable rights defines us as the American people and dictates what functions the state should provide. Further, the Declaration orders these rights: without life one cannot exercise liberty, and without liberty one cannot pursue happiness.
It is of supreme importance that the United States protect these rights through law, and that her people flourish in responsibly exercising them. Doing so has made and will continue to make the status of “American citizen” desired around the world, particularly in places where man’s groanings to exercise these sacred rights are repressed by an abusive state and society.
The mission of the United States and her people can be none other than affirming these rights and freely demonstrating the fruits of responsibly exercising them. Americans will find the nature of this mission clear in all aspects of civic life: Americans are guided by this mission to find working solutions in policy foreign and domestic, economic and social.
The state is challenged to protect the human right to life at all stages, from the moment of conception to that of natural death. In so doing, the state is called to prohibit abortion, and her people are called not to desire procuring it.
The growth and development of the fetus — life in the womb — is, by its nature, a continuous process after the moment of fertilization. After this moment, any distinctions to define life are arbitrarily drawn: there are no jump discontinuities. Definitions of human life based on cognitive capacity or viability outside the womb do not capture the essence of being human, but rather limit the nature of being human to a set of characteristics that may come and go.
Those living in the womb are human, but they are unable to defend themselves against the violence of abortion. The state is called to protect the rights of her people — most especially the defenseless — but it is the role of her people to know and to love their rights.
In so doing, people of goodwill will never knowingly choose to exercise their own liberty at the cost of the life of another. In most abortions, however, there is no question that liberty is placed before life: according to the Guttmacher Institute, fewer than 5 percent of women seeking abortion cited problems with their health or rape as the primary reason for seeking the abortion. Further, less than 1 percent of women seeking an abortion stated that the pregnancy was a result of incest. Thus the vast majority of abortions terminate life created as a result of a voluntary and mutually consensual sexual act. These abortions are not consistent with the founding principles of our nation and our identity as American people; prohibiting these abortions would be a matter of law.
There is also the matter of society: what becomes of the children of unwanted pregnancies? How do we as a society ensure that they will grow up in loving homes that will prepare them well for being good citizens? As Mr. Yost would suggest, this is a matter that requires extensive deliberation, as it does not have an easy answer.
Ultimately society is called to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies. This must be by changing attitudes of how men and women interact with one another. Technological means such as contraception are not the answer: in a presentation titled “An Overview of Abortion in the United States” the Guttmacher Institute states that “Among women who are at risk of an unintended pregnancy, 89 percent are currently using a method of contraception. Nevertheless, almost half of all pregnancies are unintended.”
Responsible exercise of liberty would preclude pursuing the pleasure of a few moments, would the result of that pleasure be the ending of a life created during that pleasure. While this responsibility lies with both men and women, each has a particular challenge.
Men must realize the nature and consequences of pregnancy for women, not only during the term of the pregnancy, but also the long-term implications. Men must respect the long-term best interests of his partner and never act contrary to these best interests in order to satisfy his sexual urges.
Women, too, must be aware of the long-term implications of pregnancy. Women must respect their own best interests, and they must choose men who will do likewise.
Procreation is a natural consequence of the sexual act. Good citizenry implores that the sexual act only occur within a committed, loving relationship able to support children. If this attitude were to be universally adopted, there would be no unwanted children.
There is a widespread attitude that it be best to keep the government’s hands off of women. What if our society made this a moot point? Do your civic duty in knowing and loving life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and do not allow your liberty to trump another’s life.
Russell Rodewald ’10 is a graduate student in the Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering.