Four R’s of Civilized Societies-Pro-Life/Pro-Choice Issue
By: Mohammed Safiuddin, Ph.D., Research Professor Emeritus
Rights, Responsibilities, Rules of Law, and Respect for other’s Rights
As individuals, families, communities, and nations, we have been bestowed with certain powers. These powers fall into categories of “Physical Power”, “Intellectual Power”, and “Spiritual Power”. At the individual level, physical power comes from the body, often enhanced with personal tools and weapons, as well as monetary wealth. The intellectual power comes from the mind, often enhanced with technology, as well as socio-political status. The spiritual power comes from our soul, often enhanced with religious convictions. Similarly, at the national level, physical power is measured by military and economic strength. The intellectual power comes from the institutions of education, research, and technology. The spiritual power comes from the moral and ethical values of its people.
Within civilized societies, we as individuals, families and communities, claim the “Rights” to freely exercise these powers to protect and/or advance our own self interests or those of our friends and allies. Same appears to be also true for governments in a civilized international community of nations. However, the “Rights” to freely exercise these powers without “Responsibilities” results in conflicts at the boundary, where it begins to infringe on the “Rights” of others. In the absence of any ethical or moral framework to constrain the “Rights” of individuals and nations, at these boundaries from exercising their powers, a framework of “Rules of Law” is needed to protect weaker individuals, families, communities, and nations from abuse of power by the stronger ones. Only when individuals, families, communities, and governments, “Respect” others’ Rights to pursue their own self interests, we can claim to be a civilized society. On the other hand, when individuals, communities, and governments choose to exercise their powers beyond the framework of laws and/or without respect for others’ rights, conflicts arise resulting in violence and break-down of civil order. Those guilty of breaking the law and order in such conflicts are then brought to courts to face justice. Unfortunately, as the history of human civilization shows, there have been no periods where the guns have remained silent, or no violence has taken place. Stronger individuals, families, communities, and nations have consistently preyed over the weaker ones to dominate and subjugate them.
Pro-Life Vs Pro-Choice Issue
Let us examine the “Pro-Life” / “Pro-Choice” issue, and the murder of Dr. Barnett A. Slepian in Amherst, NY; October, 1998, with respect to these four Rs of civilized behavior. On October 23, 1998, James Kopp sneaked into the backyard of Dr. Barnett A. Slepian’s home in Amherst, NY, and shot him through the kitchen window and killed him. James Kopp claimed that he belonged to the “Army of God” and exercised his “Right to bear arms” guaranteed under the US Constitution. Also, with no remorse, Kopp and his supporters continue to claim that he took the “Responsibility” to take away Dr. Slepian’s “Right-to-Life”, because the Dr. was performing abortions and, hence, taking away the “Right-to-Life” of the unborn. However, James Kopp was hunted down in France, arrested, and extradited back to the US to stand trial for murder, then convicted and sentenced to life in prison, under the US “Rules of Law”. The death sentence in this case was revoked due to the terms of extradition of the criminal from France. This case is more significant than thousands of murders that are committed routinely in the US every year. First, the act committed falls within the scope of “terrorism” since James Kopp terrorized the family of Dr. Slepian with his weapon(s). Secondly, in spite of being in a prison serving a life term, he continues to enjoy a great deal of support and following from the advocates of “Pro–Life” movement. The boundary of the “Rules of Law” was crossed over by James Kopp when he claimed that his Right to freely exercise his power to protect yet unborn fetuses, from possible abortion before their births, was ordained to him by God. He and his supporters continue to claim that they have the God given right, the responsibility, and the authority to be the judge, the jury, and the executioners to prevent early termination of pregnancies through abortion. One of the web sites even quotes the following statement from the late Bishop Austin Vaughan of New York.
“The moral law of God does not unequivocally condemn the use of force to stop persons who seek to harm innocent life. The use of violence to protect human life from attack is not intrinsically immoral. Those who take up arms against abortionists cannot be simply condemned, nor are they guilty of murder”
On the other side of the coin, as a secular civilized society, we must consider the Rights of women who freely choose to safely terminate their pregnancies earlier, under the guidance and care of clergy and health care professionals. Since parents have been given the Right, the Responsibility, and the authority for care and welfare of the children born to them until they reach puberty, it must be then concluded that their Rights, Responsibilities, and the authority for the unborn fetuses supersede those of the State or the self-proclaimed guardians of faith. The “Rule of Law” must then be established to protect these Rights and Responsibilities for the parents, and health care professionals who assist them, without fear of intimidation from others. While we all agree that a human life ends when the soul leaves the body, no one knows for sure as to when the soul enters the body and human life begins. Therefore, those who claim that:“The use of violence to protect human life from attack is not intrinsically immoral”, need to first establish as to what is human life and when does it begin. Life exists in all forms from cells which can only be seen through power full microscopes to giant elephants that roam the earth. What distinguishes all forms of life from “human life” is existence of soul. While it is universally accepted that human life ends when the soul departs the body, there is no certainty as to when the soul enters the body to start the human life. Does the soul enter the body at birth when the new born takes the first breath in the world outside the mother’s womb? Or, does it enter when the development of heart is complete and starts to beat? Or, does it enter the fertilized ovary as it makes its way to the wall of the mother’s uterus? However, we can say this much, beyond reasonable doubt, that the soul does not enter the fertilized embryo cells. The US Supreme Court needs to first establish, beyond reasonable doubt, the point at which the human soul enters the body during pregnancy to start a human life, before they can overturn the well known “Roe-V-Wade” decision. Otherwise, the fetus is no more than a glob of living cells, just like other parts of the expectant mother’s body, giving women their full Rights to its care, development and/or disposition, within their own moral and ethical framework. In the hierarchy of Rights, the rights of an individual must be higher than the rights of the family, the community, the State government, the Federal government, and/or five judges of the Supreme Court. In a civilized society, an individual like James Kopp, or an NGO like “Army of God”, and even the State and Federal governments, must then Respect this Right without any interference or violence in this matter.