In 1958, the United States Supreme Court stated (in Trop v. Dulles) that the Eight Amendment must “draw its meaning from the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society.” In this case, the government was prevented from stripping a man of his citizenship as punishment for a crime.
And look where we have since gone in the name of “progress.” Less than twenty years later, the Supreme Court would say that these “evolving standards of decency” prevented Georgia from executing a man for the crime of rape (see Coker v. Georgia, 1977). The man had a sordid past that included murder, though not murder in the first degree.
And somewhere in between these two cases (beginning in 1965) the Court would imagine a new Right to Privacy. It would take less than a decade before the right to contraception would give birth to a right to abortion, which would remain intact long after the right to avoid pregnancy via the act of sodomy would become part of the constitution.
People very seldom take seriously the retort of one politician who was asked whether a woman impregnated by a rapist should be able to terminate the life of the baby. His suggestion that we should execute the rapist and not the baby was pithy but wholly unrealistic in a society that has so progressed and matured in the eyes of the Highest Court.
There may well be many progressive readers of this column who are satisfied with the status quo; namely, with the extension of rights to rapists and rape victims, but not to the products of rape.
Leaving only one of the three persons in the equation (rapist, victim, and baby) without rights could well be seen as a devolving standard of decency that marks the regress of a secular society. This conclusion is perhaps best avoided by assuming that the unborn are not fully human and, as such, cannot be fairly characterized as persons.
But, in order to avoid an eerie feeling of hypocrisy, “progressive” supporters of abortion rights must simultaneously assume that the convicted rapist is a person who has somehow managed to retain his full humanity and personhood in the wake of such an awful transgression.
Somehow I cannot muster the hubris to assert that the humanity of the fetus is surpassed by that of the convicted rapist. I thank God that evolution has not conspired to make me a part of such a mature and progressive society.