“The world has never had a good definition of the word liberty, and the American people, just now, are much in want of one. We all declare for liberty; but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing.” -Abraham Lincoln
House Democrats are celebrating a first-round victory in the battle to nationalize America’s health care system—a victory claimed on behalf of every American’s right to high-quality, affordable health care [cue patriotic music]. Opponents of the House bill are not without a victory of their own, however. Thanks to Bart Stupak, Joe Pitts, and 238 pro-life representatives from both sides of the aisle, the tradition of the Hyde Amendment has been upheld: federal funds will not be used to finance abortion as part of any government-managed health care plan—at least for now. Those seeking abortions will have to pay for the procedure without the unwitting aid of the American taxpayer.
The pro-abortion camp is incensed by the passage of the Stupak-Pitts Amendment, denouncing the move as “an unprecedented overreach into women’s basic rights and freedoms in this country.” Aside from the irony of complaining about government overreach at the same time as they are stumping for a government takeover of America’s health care system, the assertion that basic rights and freedoms are at stake unless tax monies are used to fund the killing of innocents again demonstrates the logical and moral incoherence of the pro-abortion position. This absurd position demonstrates that Lincoln’s words are as true today as they were when he surmised that, though all Americans declare for liberty, we have yet to reach a consensus on what liberty actually is and to whom it applies.
America fought a bloody civil war because of our inability to agree on the meaning and scope of liberty. In the dark days of the pre-war South, a slave’s existence was contingent entirely upon his master’s goodwill. If the master decided to sell him, or beat him, or kill him, that was the final word on the matter. The slave did not enjoy basic human freedoms because, in the eyes of the law, a slave was not really a person.
A century and a half later, it is no longer skin color that provokes controversy over the question of liberty, but other criteria such as size, age, and location (inside or outside the womb). Because we have decided that they are not “persons,” the continued existence of the unborn has become entirely contingent upon the whims of the mother. The pro-abortion camp insists that an unborn child only counts when it is wanted. Rights have nothing to do with the matter—it’s really all about wants. Thus, when a woman who has decided she wants to be a mother suffers a miscarriage, society views it as a tragedy and a cause for mourning. Yet if this same woman carries her child for nine months only to decide at the eleventh hour that she is not willing to accept the responsibility of motherhood, she can destroy the child, and society is expected to defend her “right” to do so. And if Nancy Pelosi has the final say, your tax dollars will pay for it!
What abortion advocates ignore is that unless we first preserve the right to life, all other rights are meaningless. Rights mean nothing to a corpse. Life is necessary to enjoy freedoms and exercise rights—including the so-called right to healthcare.
Thus, those who insist that Americans have a right to healthcare and a right to taxpayer-funded abortions suffer from a severe form of moral schizophrenia. And their claims that the Constitution supports their warped position only adds insult to injury. In order to maintain any form of coherence, they should rest their arguments on the writings of Friedrich Nietzsche or Peter Singer and leave the Constitution out of it.
Attorney Ken Connor is the Chairman of the Center for a Just Society in Washington, DC, and the former President of the Family Research Council. He served as counsel to Governor Jeb Bush in Bush v. Schiavo during the Terri Schiavo case, and is co-author of “Sinful Silence: When Christians Neglect Their Civic Duty.”