The unalienable right to life in ventre sa mere
By Roy S. Moore
— Sir William Blackstone, “Commentaries on the Laws of England,” Vol. I, p. 126 (1765)
Our nation was founded upon the “self-evident” truth that “all Men are created equal” and “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,” as our founders wrote in our nation’s charter, the Declaration of Independence. “Among these” unalienable rights, the very first right the founders listed was, of course, “Life.” The Declaration recognizes the self-evident truth that human beings enjoy inherent dignity and the right to life as a direct result of being created by God.
“Life is the immediate gift of God,” wrote Sir William Blackstone, in his “Commentaries on the Laws of England” — the authoritative legal book of the American founding era — “a right inherent by nature in every individual; and it begins in contemplation of law as soon as an infant is able to stir in the mother’s womb,” and this “immediate donation of the great Creator, cannot legally be disposed or destroyed by any individual. …” (Vol. I, pp. 125, 129; emphasis added) Modern technology has shown unequivocally that life begins at conception. This right to life is protected by both the fifth and the 14th Amendments to the United States Constitution.
Amazingly, the public debate over embryonic stem-cell research seems to have quickly skipped the fundamental question of the morality of the research or the legality of the process and has plunged headlong into the question of whether federal tax dollars should subsidize it. While I agree with the president’s veto of the latest attempt by Congress to spend additional tax dollars on research that destroys embryos, I believe it is time to return to the real issue of whether such “research” is moral or even legal.
Embryonic stem-cell research destroys the embryos used in the research. I know of no debate on that point. On the other hand, there is a viable argument that the use of “adult” stem cells from, for example, umbilical cords or bone marrow actually has advantages and makes the destruction of the embryo completely unnecessary.
Biologically, we are each a “clump of cells,” and it is morally wrong for one clump to take the life of another, albeit smaller, cell clump. At what point does the unalienable right to life attach to an embryo or an unborn fetus or a born child?
If all men are created in the image of God, they have inherent worth from the point of creation and enjoy the human rights that inure thereto. The point of creation must be at the point of conception, for there is no other stage in human development that demands such a radical miracle as the fertilization of the human egg and the simultaneous formation of unique DNA material. This is the only time at which the right to life can begin. Any later point is fluid or arbitrary or both. Neither viability nor birth features a dramatic or sudden change in the physiology of the “cells” we call a “fetus” or “baby.”
The term “embryo” is therefore synonymous with “a new human being.” If we are a country that truly values life, proponents of embryonic stem-cell research cannot simply ignore the moral or legal issues involved.
If we are not created by God, then we have no unalienable right to life and no God-given inherent worth. Our worth as human beings is simply what other human beings larger or more powerful or more educated than us determine it to be. In such a society, men alone determine the worth of other men. History has taught us painfully well the terrorizing evil of such a God-less view of life.
Adolf Hitler and his scientists considered Jews and other so-called societal “misfits” to be sub-human, subjecting them to gruesome, state-subsidized experiments in the name of scientific potential.
America needs to return to the principle that every life has inherent worth because God created it and endowed it with unalienable rights. Man has no right arbitrarily to take away the life that God has given. Adult stem-cell research may be useful for potential medical cures, but medical research that destroys human life, which God has created, can never be legal or moral. With God’s truth as the premise, the answer to such questions as federal subsidization of embryo destruction becomes self-evident.
Judge Roy Moore is the chairman of the Foundation for Moral Law in Montgomery, Ala., and the author of “So Help Me God.” He is the former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court who was removed from office in 2003 for refusing to remove a Ten Commandments monument he had placed in the Alabama Judicial Building to acknowledge God.
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