Valuing human life and liberty

Posted: Jul 24, 2002 12:00 AM
The Judeo-Christian tradition underlying Western and American civilization distinguishes itself by the incalculable value it places on human life. That is why President Bush is wise in drawing a line in the sand over the life issue. Two major events in the news this week will showcase the acrimonious debate between pro-lifers and those who would devalue life. The Bush Administration has indicated that it will withhold $34 million in funding for the United Nations' Population Fund because it believes the Fund helps to perpetuate a "one-child" policy in China involving compulsory abortions and sterilizations. Women's groups have cried foul over Bush's funding decision, claiming that it is "an excuse for the administration to do what it's wanted to do all along -- which is to defund family planning." Can we all agree that "family planning" is a euphemism for "abortion"? Regardless, Planned Parenthood is being disingenuous. The administration will still spend the $34 million but shift it to other international aid efforts on behalf of population programs that aren't abortion-favoring. "We'll keep the funding at the same level, but we're just not going to fund people who are involved in abortions," said an official administration official. But that won't satisfy Planned Parenthood President Gloria Feldt and her colleagues, according to the Washington Post, due to their concern that support of these other agencies could "subsidize limited family-planning approaches ... that emphasize sexual abstinence before marriage." May I ask what could possibly be objectionable about programs that emphasize premarital abstinence, unless it is that they detract from the militant pro-abortion agenda? Also this week, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold confirmation hearings over Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen, who President Bush recently nominated for the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. The pro-abortion lobby, as usual, is pulling out all the stops in opposing Justice Owen, in the name of protecting the integrity of the judiciary. Astonishingly, pro-abortion special interest groups, whose legal cause has depended on one of the most flagrant examples of judicial activism in this nation's history (Roe vs. Wade), are shamelessly opposing Owen's confirmation on the basis that she is a judicial activist. These pro-abortion groups have got to be guffawing behind closed doors as they publicly pretend to abhor judicial activism, which they have vigorously defended over the years on philosophical, as well as legal grounds. The truth is that Owen is anything but a judicial activist. Her judicial legacy is one of scrupulous adherence to the principle of judicial restraint. C. Boyden Gray, who served as Counsel to President George H. W. Bush, systematically refutes the false charge of Owen's judicial activism in a recently published paper on the subject, in which he refers to Owen as "a restrained, principled jurist." Reasonable people (at least on one side of the argument) could argue all day over the merits of the U.N. funding and the Owen nomination, but that's beside the larger point, which is that those on the other side of the argument know they are fighting a culture war. Their aim, mostly accomplished, is to supplant our system of moral absolutes with moral relativism. The defining issue in this war is the value we assign to human life. If relativists prevail across the board in their contention that human life is no more sacred than all other forms of life, then the primary pillar of Western Civilization will have fallen. And that's not just some sentimental lament from a conservative columnist. With the disintegration of this pillar will follow, in time, the implosion of our freedom. Why? Because in the absence of allegiance to the Biblical principle that human beings are created in God's image and entitled to dignity above other beings and forms of life, there will no longer remain any institutional obstacle to the oppression of human beings by other, more powerful ones. If humans are deemed just evolved versions of random collections of molecules, we will have removed the transcendent basis upon which our liberties depend. That is why President Bush is to be applauded and encouraged for not avoiding these controversial issues. By drawing the line he has signaled that he is aware that the culture war is raging, that the value of human life is its pivotal battle and that nothing less than our liberty is at stake. And if the rest of us care about our liberty, we can't afford to sit this one out.