The Least Advantaged Members of Society

by Jim Kruzer
Harvard Right to Life

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American culture is one that exudes life but at the same time is filled with signs that remind us of our mortality. Driving down the highway is a perfect example of where we see subtle hints that our current state of being is not forever. To the nicotine addict, there is a billboard that announces: "Surgeon General's warning, smoking causes cancer". To the reckless driver, a sign admonishing him to "Buckle Up". And for the person with an unhealthy diet, a warning to have his cholesterol checked and to exercise more frequently. Sadly, for the young child in his mother's womb, there can be no sign telling him not to suffer a premature death from an abortion. Because abortion unfairly robs a human being of a chance at living, I conclude that it is perhaps the greatest injustice in our society.

In America, we measure our quality of life by the degree to which we can achieve our natural rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. At different times in our history, various groups have been deprived of these rights. African Americans were discriminated against. Through all of these painful episodes, America could not truly claim that it was the land of the free or the land of opportunity for all. In much the same way, when our country allows the unborn to be singled out and completely robbed of their rights, America suffers a great hypocrisy.

The Declaration of Independence says that all men are created equal, not that they become equal or appear equal but really aren't. There are no outside factors or criteria that grant some people rights and not others. This statement, that humans are naturally endowed by their creator with inalienable rights, is the beginning of a call for the end to abortion in our country. All relevant philosophical discussion for the past 2500 years demands that life be protected for the citizens of a country for that nation to function properly and justly. And despite its greatness, the United States is not above this requirement.

Philosopher John Rawls writes that in order to determine what is just for a society, a government must ensure that its laws and actions benefit the least advantaged members of that society. Although Mr. Rawls reaches a different conclusion on the issue of abortion than I and many other people do, I agree with his standard that being fair means being fair to all, especially the weakest members in our country. In America, what group is weaker and more vulnerable than the unborn children? What group has no say of its own and must rely on the kindness of others to voice concerns on their behalf? And finally, what group can take no action when others decide to conspire to harm and kill them? Surely, by these standards, the unborn demand our attention and equal protection under the law, a guarantee for all other people in our country.

Some argue, I would say falsely, that unborn children are not true members of society. That because they cannot speak and act for themselves they don't deserve the rights we enjoy. But to assume one's dignity and value is based on his ability to add to the material wealth and prosperity of the country is a dangerous statement. For example, say you are a police officer, a patrolman, who is paralyzed after being shot while on duty. You no longer have the use of your legs and cannot perform the same functions that you once could. Are you now a worthless individual? Is your dignity any less because of your physical condition?

In the same way that a person who is disabled is equal in moral worth to a person who is not, an unborn child has the same claim to the rights that we enjoy. Denying the rights of people who have not yet been born is nothing more than a form of discrimination based on arbitrary factors. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 made it illegal to deny people what they are due based on color, race, or religion. How different is it that we refuse to even allow the most basic rights to people because of size or age? I compare abortion to a law that would legalize the murder of anyone under 5 feet tall and over 6 feet tall, or under the age of 10 and above the age of 40. Clearly, such factors are meaningless in determining who should live or die. What makes abortion, a practice that allows killing based on size and age, any more just?

Abortion, the murder of an innocent life, is the most heinous form of killing. As a person who believes that the right to life is the greatest claim that humans possess, I am greatly saddened any time life is unnaturally taken. But circumstances seem to draw human emotions to certain forms of injustice more than others. We can understand when our country has to go to war with an enemy who threatens the peace of the world. Or a bank robber is killed in a shoot-out after endangering the lives of innocent civilians. Some consider these examples either necessary evils or just deserts based on one's actions. Regardless of the conclusion one comes to, nearly all would concede that the degree to which you act in ways that are evil or immoral influences the consequences you should face. This assertion becomes particularly striking when it is used to examine abortion. An unborn child is in no way guilty of a crime against anyone or anything. He or she is completely pure and innocent, human life in its simplest form. How great an injustice is committed when this innocence is then killed?

John Donne once said that "no man is an island" meaning that all humanity experiences a certain interconnectedness and interdependence. Our actions do not exist in a vacuum, and it is difficult to imagine a person who could live completely removed from his fellow man. So just as great triumphs and success are reason for all of us to rejoice, evils and injustices call everyone to react in an outrage and work to correct the problem. Abortion is one of those glaring injustices present within our society. With the death of over 1.3 million innocent children every year, our own humanity and our own worth is being called into question.

Socrates asserted that people only commit evils because of ignorance. It is my sincere hope that he was correct and abortion exists only because of a lack of knowledge about what it really is and how it affects us. Optimistically, I look to groups like the one gathered here today, especially the young men and women dedicated to change. America has suffered injustices before and has managed to correct itself because of youth who have heard the call to justice. It should be our same hope that this generation of young people can work to correct the evils of abortion.

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Posted 18 Nov 2000. (Minor grammatical correction, 23 Oct 2004.)

Copyright 2000 by Jim Kruzer.
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