[This got me a high A in English class:]
From 1933 into 1944, one of the planet’s worst atrocities took place, as somewhere between 11 million to 17 million Europeans were systematically imprisoned, euthanized, forced to die in prison camps, or murdered in other terrible ways. These mass murders have been internationally condemned, and have resounded throughout history. To this day, the term “Nazi” is synonymous with pure evil, an evil so wicked that is almost impossible to match. Today, we in America pride ourselves on the fact that the world has moved beyond this dark blotch of history, and believe that no nation nowadays could possibly allow such atrocities to occur. But is this belief really founded on truth?
What many Americans do not fully realize is that since 1973, over 50 million people have been legally murdered in the United States. Burned with caustic chemicals, cut to pieces, or torn from life support and left to die of exposure. These persons are legal targets of this violence for one simple reason: they are unborn.
Every human has a fundamental right to live. As stated so wonderfully by one of the most history changing documents ever penned, the Declaration of Independence, this right is absolute and undeniable. The United Nations General Assembly has declared this as well, in Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The simple fact is that no individual, society, or peoples has the right to take a person’s life without just cause.
And any reasonable person will tell you that children are especially sacred. To intentionally kill a child, even in war, is considered a heinous crime and will bring swift condemnation on the perpetrator. This sanctity of a child is basically indisputable to any modern society, and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, though it is a flawed and imperfect document, has it right when it states in Article 6 that “every child has the inherent right to life,” and should be ensured the maximum possible extent of survival and development.
So if this right to live is so indisputable, why then is history so full of mass murders, ethnic cleansings, and racially charged violence? In many cases, the answer can be found in one of the most famous examples of human rights violations, an event with which I introduced this essay: The Holocaust.
A dark, hellish nightmare in which millions of peoples, mostly Jewish, were murdered, the Holocaust is the epitome of cruelty and debauchery. Beginning in the early 30’s, the Nazi political system in Germany slowly began isolating Jews and many other minorities and eventually began placing them in prison camps, where they were starved, tortured, and outright slaughtered. As Jews were captured and rounded up, many elderly, sick, impoverished, or otherwise “unfit” people were sent to facilities where they would be euthanized and therefore reduce overpopulation. The Nazi establishment justified these truly outrageous crimes by claiming that the victims were unsuitable for society and “non-Aryan,” in other words, lesser humans. Outside of legal protection and scientifically designated as lesser beings, Jews, Poles, Romani, and many other peoples were continually imprisoned and exterminated until the fall of the Axis powers in 1945. This despicable blot on modern history is a stark reminder of the depths to which humanity sink when scientific and legal systems are used to deny humans their personhood, and therefore their universal, unarguable, inalienable right to live.
But here is the shocking part of the story: Despite the haunting memory of these unspeakable crimes against humanity, the United States, the land of the free and home of the brave, is engaged in violence against the unborn that in many ways bears eerie similarities to the Holocaust. The beginning of this new threat to the right to live dates to 1973, when the US Supreme Court passed a decision that has evoked enormous controversy. In Roe v Wade, the Supreme Court passed a majority declaration that state laws banning abortion were unconstitutional. In justification of this ruling, they used an argument similar to that of Nazi Germany, and stated that unborn children have never been considered by law to be “persons in the whole sense.” Several other attempts to justify this decision were brought up as well, and have been condensed and summed up as a “woman’s right to choose.” And by using the argument that basic rights had been denied, the Supreme Court managed to merge one ghastly historical legacy, that of mass murder, with another, the legacy of slavery.
The story of slavery in the US is long and often violent, but one of the most pivotal moments in this long history was the US Supreme Court ruling in Dred Scott v Sanford in 1856. According to this ruling, blacks were so inferior to whites that they could not be citizens of the United States, and did not have rights under the Constitution. In addition, it was decided that anti-slavery laws deprived slave-owners of their “right to property.” Just as Roe v Wade over a century later, an entire group of peoples were denied their very right to personhood in the name of protecting the rights of another group of people. Though slavery and therefore the Dred Scott decision were overruled about ten years later, it took over another century of slow, uphill battling for blacks to be able to claim that they were considered equals. This December, sitting President Barack Obama hailed civil rights icon Rosa Parks, whose instigation of the Montgomery Bus Boycott changed history as throughout the 1950’s and 60’s blacks successfully fought to finally be treated as equals. But how does our current president, who has honored Rosa Parks for her stand against injustice, feel about abortion, a case of even greater injustice?
According to the political information website OnTheIssues.org, President Obama pushes hard for abortion, and even voted against a bill that would prevent the murder of born children whose abortions were botched. So how does our president justify his strong pro-death stance? Reiterating the argument of many others, President Obama claims that while abortion is a moral issue, it is difficult to tell when life begins. But if the beginning of life is so difficult to determine, as Obama claims, then shouldn’t he try his utmost to err on the side of caution, so as not to commit child murder? Clearly, this argument does not truly address the serious moral gravity of abortion. So, do abortion proponents not truly understand the moral gravity of the situation, or do they simply ignore it?
A high profile murder case that made headlines across the United States for a few years has inclined me to believe that the answer to that question is the latter. In 2005, Scott Peterson was sentenced to death for two murders, that of his wife and her unborn son. The death penalty was chosen because according to Judge Delucchi, the murders were “cruel, uncaring, heartless and callous.” But how could Scott Peterson be convicted of murdering two people, when, according to legal precedent, one of those “people” was in fact not fully a person? I believe the answer to this question is because abortion supporters know as well as anyone else that despite Roe v Wade, the unborn are fully persons with the same rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Many abortion proponents would say that as pointed as these observations are, and as accurate as they may be, abortion is a personal, moral issue, and that the government should not legislate morality. And I would agree with them on that point. But aren’t the Holocaust and racism also moral issues? While it is true that government should not legislate morality, there are certain rights that should never be denied, as the Declaration of Independence says so eloquently in its introduction. No one has the right to unjustly take another person’s life, no matter what their age, sex, ethnicity, politics, religion, creed, lifestyle, or stage of physical development might be. If we are unsure of when life begins, we should do all we can err on the safe side and protect the unborn, or else risk committing horrid atrocities. Yes, a woman has reproductive rights, just as people have a right to property, but when these rights are used to deny the fundamental rights of others, it is wrong. And when a woman’s rights are used to deny the very life of another, it is abominable. As stated in Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in a beautiful echo of America’s own Declaration of Independence, “everyone has the right to life, liberty and the security of person.” Abortion clearly violates all three of these basic rights of humanity, and is in fact the latest case in a long world history of social injustice. So far, history has progressed maybe not well, but at least satisfactorily. Slavery was abolished, and the Nazi concentration camps were liberated, but how will the story end with abortion? Will this injustice also be defeated and fade into the darkness of history? That, my dear reader, is up to you.
December 10, 2010. Kenneth Mick III
: Wikipedia. “The Holocaust.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holocaust
: The Alan Guttmacher Institute. “Abortion Statistics for the United States.” Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life. http://www.mccl.org/Page.aspx?pid=400
: Pregnant Pause. “Abortion Methods: Summary.” 5 Sep 2000. http://www.pregnantpause.org/abort/methsumm.htm
: Jefferson, Thomas . “Declaration of Independence.” 1776. Via Wikisource. http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/United_States_Declaration_of_Independence
: United Nations General Assembly. “United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” Via Wikisource. http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Universal_Declaration_of_Human_Rights
: “UN Convention on the Rights of a Child.” Via Wikisource. http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/UN_Convention_on_the_Rights_of_the_Child
: The History Place. “Holocaust Timeline.” 1997. http://www.historyplace.com/worldwar2/holocaust/timeline.html
: Wikipedia. “Nazism and race.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nazism_and_race
: Blackmun, Harry. “Roe v. Wade/Opinion of the Court.” 1973. Via Wikisource. http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Roe_v._Wade/Opinion_of_the_Court
: Taney, Roger B. “Dred Scott v. Sanford” 1857. Via Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dred_Scott_v._Sandford
: Malcolm, Andrew. “Rosa Parks, civil rights icon, hailed by Obama.” Top of the Ticket, Los Angeles Times. December 1, 2010. http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/washington/2010/12/rosa-parks-montgomery-bus-boycott-obama.html
: On the Issues. “Barack Obama on Abortion.” Nov 22, 2009. http://www.ontheissues.org/social/barack_obama_abortion.htm
: Noe, Denise. “Scott Peterson: The Pregnant Wife Killer.” Oct. 6, 2010. Crime Magazine. http://www.crimemagazine.com/scott-peterson-pregnant-wife-killer