On the road to Jericho
In his inaugural address, President George W. Bush said: “When we see that wounded traveler on the road to Jericho, we will not pass on the other side.” But along that road, when they come across a pregnant fellow traveler, lots of Americans will continue to argue about who is the good Samaritan and who is not.
Standing in the road, the extremists on both sides of the abortion issue carry on their dialogue of the deaf. But there is hope. Putting the extremists aside, polling data tell us the folks in the middle of the road do not like the premeditated taking of the life of another human being. This should be no surprise. This reverence for life has deep historical roots.
From the time of Moses, the taking of another human life was considered such a heinous act that only the State could engage in it and then only as punishment for the most serious crimes. But what about the soldiers who, in the name of national defense, take the lives of others? Saints Augustine and Thomas Aquinas said if a war could be “justified,” then soldiers were not committing murder.
Thus, until 1973, the right to take the life of another human being was restricted to the State for use as a punishment and to soldiers carrying out orders to kill others under the Doctrine of the Just War. Breaking with history, Roe v. Wade gave the pregnant mother the right to take the life of her unborn child.
Proponents of a woman’s “right” to terminate the life of her unborn child contend that the U.S. Supreme Court found a “right of privacy” somewhere in the U.S. Constitution. This right includes the right of a woman to decide what goes on within her own body. Pro-life advocates point out human reproduction requires a human to be created inside the body of another human being. They feel the new human being is created with certain inalienable rights; the most basic of which is the right-to-life itself.
Pro-lifers argue a woman should exercise her right-to-privacy by keeping her private parts private until such time that she is ready, willing and able to accept the responsibilities of parenthood. Or, if not, to carry the baby to term and give it to someone willing to accept those responsibilities.
The law tries to help women maintain sexual privacy by laws against rape and incest. All but the most hard-line pro-life advocates go along with the rape, incest and to save the life of the mother exceptions.
Pro-lifers claim Roe v. Wade merely created a woman’s right-to-convenience. Having failed to exercise her right-to-sexual-privacy prior to conception, they say the pro-choice mother wants to avoid the consequences of her earlier behavior by doing away with her unborn child. Abortion advocates counter by saying: I don’t want a bunch of old men in black robes telling me what to do with my own body. Right-to-lifers ask: Yes, but what about the body you helped to create?
Each year, science makes progress toward the invention of safer, more affordable and more acceptable ways of preventing conception. Granted, contraception still has its foes – mostly religious. But true contraception – an intervention that precludes conception -- has to be more acceptable to the pro-life movement than seeing abortion used as a method of contraception.
Our new President says there is not much point in overturning Roe v. Wade in the courts until it is overturned within the hearts and minds of our people. That means the road to an abortion-free Jericho will stretch well into the 21st Century. But it is a road more and more Americans want to shorten. And, now that Bonnie and Clyde have left the White House, we might even hope for a return to the time when marriage vows were meaningful and children were cherished and we did not pass to the other side.
William Hamilton is a nationally syndicated columnist and a featured commentator for USA Today.