27 October 2008

Slavery, Abortion, and Rights

In the Virginia state legislature's resolution apologizing for the state's role in slavery (Feb. 2007), it states:
[Slavery] ranks as the most horrendous of all depredations of human rights and violations of our founding ideals in our nation's history.

I am wondering exactly why slavery is thought to be such a bad thing today. Was it abolished on grounds of some rights or principles in the Constitution? Or was it on moral grounds? I think it is an important question for us to ask today in comparing slavery to abortion. If someone finds it self-evident that slavery is bad yet allows for abortion, isn't this inconsistent?

In looking at the slavery comparison, the above quote says slavery is worth apologizing for since it violated "human rights" and "founding ideals in our nation's history." Since "human" rights are referred to, this means one of two things happened: either humanoids of African descent were acknowledged to be humans, or the definition of human was broadened to include African descent humanoids.

We can see an example of broadening the definition of human in certain groups' attempts to extend rights to animals and plants. Isn't it obvious that documents like the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution refer to human beings? But in our morally relativistic postmodern world, why can't "human" also include pigs or rabbits? If you are a plant reading this blog, my advice is to move to Switzerland. You'll have rights there. We should note how evolution is at the root of this. If everything evolved from the same primordial soup, why should there be human dignity if not plant dignity?

Abe Lincoln said,

...I think the negro is included in the word "men" used in the Declaration of Independence.

I believe the declara[tion] that "all men are created equal" is the great fundamental principle upon which our free institutions rest; that negro slavery is violative of that principle; but that, by our frame of government, that principle has not been made one of legal obligation; that by our frame of government, the States which have slavery are to retain it, or surrender it at their own pleasure; and that all others -- individuals, free-states and national government -- are constitutionally bound to leave them alone about it.


Notice that both morals and American ideals are involved: Lincoln believed that slavery violated the principle that all men are created equal. But he knew that only applies if we understand blacks to be included under "men", so Lincoln had to fall back on a moral belief that black men were men--human--just as much as white men. So it seems that there is a political basis, but we can't begin to use it without a moral background.

How does this relate to abortion? I find it ridiculously incredible that the same philosophy that leads to animal rights also leads to no rights at all for unborn humans. As Lincoln recognized that "all men are created equal" includes blacks, we must today recognize that it also includes the unborn. Once we agree on that, we'll still need to deal with how a mother's pursuit of happiness can conflict with her child's right to life. Of course, it is all meaningless without belief in a Creator:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.


In a postmodern world, words can mean whatever you want them to mean--and that means all things mean everything, and thus nothing at all. Abe said, "I think Slavery is wrong, morally, and politically." We must return to such clarity and conviction.

Jesus, come.

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