Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Should states rights extend to murder?

The abortion debate has much in common with America's old slavery debate. One of the similarities is the issue of "states rights". During the run-up to civil war, there were two competing philosophies, both of which rear their heads again today. During the senate battle between Douglas and Lincoln in Illinois in 1858, Douglas characterized Lincoln's "house divided" speech as meaning that Lincoln believed the north and south ought to fight a war until the entire country was either "free" or "slave". Douglas said in July of 1858, "Now, my friends, I must say to you frankly, that I take bold, unqualified issue with him upon that principle. I assert that it is neither desirable nor possible that there should be uniformity in the local institutions and domestic regulations of the different states of this Union...." He further argued that each state should be able to choose freely, that is, the white voters should be able to choose freely and without federal intervention, whether to allow slaves to be held within their states' boundaries. Douglas clearly stated that he believed blacks were inferior to whites, and that the Constitution applied only to whites.

Abolitionists of those days believed that the slaves ought to be freed, because the slaves were people, not property. Frederick Douglass wrote about John Brown (the famous militant abolitionist), "Though a white gentleman, he is in sympathy a black man, and as deeply interested in our cause, as though his own soul had been pierced with the iron of slavery." On the day of his death John Brown wrote "I, John Brown, am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away but with blood. I had, as I now think, vainly flattered myself that without very much bloodshed it might be done." Abolitionists like Brown, though few, believed so strongly in the right of blacks to be free, they were willing to kill and die for it.

So, there were those who viewed blacks as property, and since they were property, it was right for each indidivual state to determine what to do with regards to slavery. And there were those who believed the protections of the constitution extended to all men, regardless of color. They were so strong in their belief, they were willing to sacrifice their own freedom, and lives, to ensure justice would be done.

These days, in the abortion debate, we have two primary groups of people at odds. There are those that believe an unborn child is not equal to a human, and therefore not deserving protection and freedom. These people hold that the fetus (a term used by scientists to describe the stage of gestation of a human being, but used by the pro-abortion forces to dehumanize the baby), is less than human and has no rights. Essentially, the cells that form the growing baby are the property of the mother. They believe the mother has a right over her body and property, and is therefore free to determine whether to kill the child or not. The Supreme Court decided against the slave, who was less than human, in Dred Scott. And the Supreme Court decided against the child in Roe vs. Wade, as the unborn child was less than human and not worthy of protection in the eyes of the court.

The other group in the abortion debate is comprised of two main sub-groups. The pro-lifers that believe in states rights, and object to Roe because it takes away the rights of states to determine whether a woman's property rights entitle her to kill her children, and the pro-lifers who, like the abolitionists, believe the child, like other humans in our country, have the right to life and liberty, as stated in the Declaration of Independence:

"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..."

Indeed, while our second group of pro-lifers may also respect states rights on a great many levels, they believe that the federal government should be restricted to the powers specifically granted it by the constitution, yet still believe the federal government needs to protect its citizens' fundamental rights. Like John Brown, militant abolitionists still exist today. Paul Hill wrote, in October of 2000: "While most Christians firmly profess the duty to defend born children with force (which is not being disputed by the government) most of these professors have neglected the duty to similarly defend the unborn. They are steady everywhere on the battlefield except where the battle currently rages. I was certain that if I took my stand at this point, others would join with me, and the Lord would eventually bring
about a great victory."

Alas, we, in the second group, find that protecting the constitutional rights of all citizens IS the job of the federal government. Here I find myself in agreement with the position Douglas ascribed to Lincoln. The federal government needed to protect the rights of the slaves and end that despicable institution, just as they need to put an end to abortion. I had considered Rick Santorum as a possible presidential candidate worth my vote, but, aside from certain other positions I do not share with him, I cannot accept his arguing for Douglas' position:

"SANTORUM: I've been very clear about that. The right to privacy is a right that was created in a law that set forth a (ban on) rights to limit individual passions. And I don't agree with that. So I would make the argument that with President, or Senator or Congressman or whoever Santorum, I would put it back to where it is, the democratic process. If New York doesn't want sodomy laws, if the people of New York want abortion, fine. I mean, I wouldn't agree with it, but that's their right. But I don't agree with the Supreme Court coming in." April 22, 2003, in an interview by the Associated Press

Indeed, I find myself forced to question the sincerity of someone like Santorum. Does he view the child as a human being worthy of protection or not? Under his system, were abortion left up to the individual states, and a state chose to permit abortion, I would never want any of my money or resources going to protect that wicked state. I say, let whoever had the inclination to sail across the ocean and invade a state that permited the slaughter of its children, have that state. The states ought to either agree to protect the rights of their people, or get out of the Union. The same applies to slavery. No state should be permited to remain in the union if they are so committed to slavery. Whether the Union is worth being forced to remain together, as Lincoln thought it was, is up for argument. But the responsibility of the federal government to protect the constitutional, God-given rights of its citizens should not be up for argument. Rather than argue as Douglas would (based on his defense of the pre-civil war system of slavery in the United States), that states should be free to murder its own children, those in the states rights wing of the pro-life movement need to recognize that uniformity of the defense of human rights is a pre-requisite to any sort of government, society, or nation worth defending and keeping whole.