jeudi, avril 19, 2007

The dignity of human life

...While the ruling will thus have a direct impact on only a relatively small subset of abortion practice, the decision has broader implications for abortion regulations generally, indicating a change in the court’s balancing of the various interests involved in the abortion debate.
Most notable was the emphasis in the majority opinion, by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, on the implication of abortion’s “ethical and moral concerns.”
“The act expresses respect for the dignity of human life,” Justice Kennedy said." April 19 NYT

It's been quite a week for the debate over the dignity of human life, has it not? In Virginia, teachers and administrators wonder what on earth they could have done to prevent a student who reportedly suffered from mental illness from killing 32 students and faculty.

The debate over what you can do to protect the innocent against someone who may or may not pose a danger to themselves or to others is quite lively. But in the background of this controversial debate is another-whether Americans will ever be willing to allow any limits on the availability of guns.

In Washington D.C. the Supreme Court, against the rulings of lower courts, upheld the Federal Partial-birth Abortion Ban Act. The ruling means that this procedure, in which the fetus is extracted from the uterus to terminate pregnancies late in the first trimester, will not be available to women seeking abortions except when a mothers life is threatened. Women who claim a health exception will have to go to court to challenge the law as it applied to them.

Pro-choice advocates see this as the camels nose under the tent-the beginning of an assault on the so-called 'right to choose.' But what is also worth considering is how the Supreme Court, in its 5-4 majority (the usual justices on the usual sides) has endorsed allowing Congress to legislate morality.

There are places, frankly, where I'd love to see Congress construct a moral compass for this nation. But is that a good idea? I have to say that I'm not sure.

And yet I suspect we let Congress do so a lot more than either right or left would like to admit.

In this case the probability is that the justice so concerned with fetal life would go to great lengths to avoid legislating gun control. They would pick another argument to support their case.

But I happen to see the pro-choices forces and the anti-control forces as partners in an unusual conspiracy-to stifle reasonable debate on measures that would make abortions more rare and guns less prevalent.

Everyone has the right to own a gun. Every woman has the right to choose an abortion. Both assertions are reductive, and both tear at the fabric of our society and the notion of a common good.

Until we can reasonably balance individualism with respect for the lives of others, we will continue to see lives lost to people who found it all too easy to purchase a weapon. How can you talk to people (those oppose any and all limits) who won't talk to you because they feel like they have won already?

And until we admit that abortion is often a choice of convenience, and that legislating when life begins is a moral dodge rather than a legal fact, those of us in the muddled middle won't have a place at the table.

I'm not at all sure we should , or can legislate American morals. But I'm not at all certain, on the other hand, that we can't, or don't, or even should not, do so every day.

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