I am 17 years old and have now attended seven election forums in my lifetime – five federal, one provincial and one partisan. At every one of them, candidates and members of the audience have brought up many different matters, a great deal of them trivial. Seldom has anyone brought up that matter which is of such importance that it can clearly be called the most important human rights issue of our day: abortion. And when one does bring it up, one does not have a pleasant reception. At nearly every forum, I have asked the candidates what they will do to stop the killing of unborn children and, once when I asked such a question, an older woman in the audience shouted that I was “sickening.”
Abortion is an evil to which our culture is now totally desensitized. That is why we must state now more than ever why abortion is the most pressing human rights abuse of our time. In brief, abortion directly violates the right that is the foundation of all other rights: the right to life.
The right to life is the “moral claim that a person has” to exist. It is rooted in the intrinsic dignity of the human person as a creature that God has created in his own image and destined for eternal beatitude. It therefore comes directly from God and can be taken away by no human power; it is a natural, inalienable right.
The human person indeed possesses other natural rights (such as liberty and private property), but the right to life is prior to them all, because without it, these other rights could not possibly be exercised. Liberty and property are not much good if one is dead.
Furthermore, the right to life is prior to all positive rights (those goods that are given by a government to its citizens), since natural rights as a whole are prior to positive rights, inasmuch as natural rights come from God and positive rights come only from the state.
Therefore, the right to life is the most fundamental of all rights. Consequently, the violation of the right to life is the most fundamental of all violations of rights. And abortion is precisely that: the violation of the right to life – the cold-blooded killing of an innocent human person.
It is an indisputable fact, rooted in science, philosophy and divine revelation, that personhood begins at conception and that the union of the sperm and the egg is a new being composed of a body and a rational soul, “the seed of eternity we bear within ourselves.” Personhood is independent of and prior to any functions that one performs. “He who will one day be a man is a man already.”
Thus, abortion is an offence no different than the murder of a born person. Over time, I have realized more and more that we are living in a time not unlike that of Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia. I have realized that the Morgentaler Kensington abortuary in Calgary (near where I live) is no less evil than Hitler and Stalin’s concentration camps. But the massacres committed by Nazism and Soviet communism were confined to areas under German and Russian control. Abortion, the massacre committed by relativism, is a global evil.
Indeed, the number of abortions that occur in the world is massive. According to the Guttmacher Institute, the research arm of Planned Parenthood, 46 million abortions were committed worldwide in 1995. But in addition to this number is the countless number of children killed through abortifacient contraceptives. “Throughout the world, an estimated 250 million abortions are caused by the IUD and pill each year.” In the words of Monsignor Vincent N. Foy, Canadian priest and canon lawyer, “Is it an exaggeration to describe the world as a slaughterhouse?”
Last year, I read Memory and Identity, the last book by Pope John Paul II. In this book, the Holy Father stated that at the root of the widespread slaughter of abortion is the rejection of God as self-existent being and supreme Creator, as the One who alone can tell us what is right and wrong. After recently reading Fr. John A. Hardon’s Atheistic Communism: The Destruction of Human Person, Family, Civilized Society, I realize that in this rejection of God we can clearly see the quintessential role of Marxist communism in creating the culture of death. Communism denies the existence of God and the immortality of the soul and thus, holds that the human person is a mere blob of matter who has no intrinsic dignity or “divine rights to be born alive.” All that the individual person has are the benefits given him (and therefore capable of being taken away from him) by the “collectivity.”
Is this usurpation of God by the state not precisely what we see when governments arbitrate to themselves the authority to determine that certain human beings shall have the right to live and others (such as the unborn) shall not?
Therefore, when we speak of abortion as the greatest human rights issue of our day, we are speaking of something far more grave than a “merely constitutional issue of civil rights.” We are speaking of man undermining the most fundamental of all the rights God has invested in the human person.
Furthermore, when abortion is accepted (and, by necessity, contraception and sterilization, abortion’s bedfellows, as well), numerous other attacks against human rights, both the right to life and other rights, will inevitably follow.
Any society that embraces abortion will, as a matter of suit, embrace infanticide and euthanasia. Holland is a perfect demonstration of this reality. In Canada and the United States, infanticide is legal under the euphemism of “partial-birth abortion.” In Canada, a Bloc Quebecois member of Parliament has “vowed to resurrect ‘sooner than later” a measure that died on the table last year to legalize euthanasia. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has promised a free vote if euthanasia is raised in the House of Commons. Throughout North America and Western Europe, euthanasia is rapidly being accepted.
By creating a lack of respect for human life, abortion leads to artificial reproductive technologies (such as in-vitro fertilization), which violate the right of every child “to be the fruit of the specific act of the conjugal love of his parents.”
It is no coincidence that in Canada, where children are mercilessly exterminated in the womb, the rights of children to loving, stable families are undermined through widespread divorce and homosexual “marriage.”
I will conclude with the words of Pope John Paul II: “If the right to life is not defended decisively as a condition for all other rights of the person, all other references to human rights remain deceitful and illusory.” Abortion, the direct violation of the inalienable right to life, is the most important human rights violation of our day, against which we must fight until it is totally abolished.
This is one of three co- winning essays for the 2007 Father Ted Colleton Scholarship Award. Derek Remus lives in Coaldale, Alberta, and is homeschooled.