Loading
March 24, 2011
Double standards & the American identity
By Andrew Haines *

By Andrew Haines *

In a recent article for Ethika Politika, Catherine Palmer asks whether double standards on fetal value are deforming America. In support, she notes a series of paradoxes about our language on pre- and post-born human life, and draws the conclusion that ambivalence concerning life is tantamount to consent in ending it.

In the end, Palmer offers the words of Blessed Mother Theresa of Calcutta to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1994:

America needs no words from me to see how your decision in Roe v. Wade has deformed a great nation. The so-called right to abortion has pitted mothers against their children and women against men. It has sown violence and discord at the heart of the most intimate human relationships.

Human rights are not a privilege conferred by government. They are every human being’s entitlement by virtue of his humanity . . . I have no new teaching for America. I seek only to recall you to that faithfulness you once taught the world.

Palmer’s look at the effects of double standards – and ultimately the atrocity of legalized abortion – prompts a few questions. Most importantly, we might ask: is the defense of unborn life something we as a nation should take seriously for reasons other than ethical ones?

I don’t want to be misunderstood: abortion is wrong because it’s the intentional termination of innocent human life, an act that is never morally justifiable. But it deserves to be asked whether some current proponents of abortion might also find reason to reject it on the grounds of preserving a national identity and integrity.

It’s no mystery that pro-choice rhetoric is grounded firmly in a language of “rights” – a woman’s right to choose, rights to healthcare coverage, etc. But given Palmer’s paradoxes (e.g., things like charging drug-addict mothers with felonies while condoning open-access to cheap abortions) the very meaning of the word, “rights,” is totally obscured. In one case, an unborn fetus is the victim of a serious crime; and in another, she’s the unfortunate object of a lethal yet permissible procedure.

At bottom, ambiguity on the legal status of the unborn fetus is a dilemma that transcends morality. Rather, it’s something that threatens to undermine the integrity of personal identity across the board, be it in judicial, economic, or policy settings. If we can’t agree on just what a person is – i.e., on who is a bearer of rights and precisely why that’s the case – then arguing in favor of such rights (e.g., to life, to trade, to healthcare, to self-defense, etc.) is a vacuous measure.

Part of the strength of the American identity, as Mother Theresa rightly pointed out, has been our willingness and eagerness to teach the rest of the world the meaning of human dignity, hard work, and liberty – as she calls it, “faithfulness.” But as she points out, permitting discord at the “heart of the most intimate human relationships” has not only compromised our ability to do so, but has even “deformed [our] great nation” from within.

Mother Theresa provides answers to the questions I’ve posed here: personal rights are not privileges conferred by governments, but are grounded in the fact of humanity. They are, as Mother Theresa and pro-choicers would each agree, “entitlements.” But what they are – the meaning of such “rights” – is a product of the significance of human life itself. Authentic rights cannot contradict the goodness of life, nor the goodness or integrity of an enduring national identity.

To be American is, at bottom, to defend the inseparability of human life, liberty, and a pursuit of happiness. And permitting paradoxes to injure one’s understanding of any of these basic rights is, ultimately, to contradict the very thing that makes our nation great.

Andrew Haines is president of the Center for Morality in Public Life and a PhD student in Philosophy at The Catholic University of America. He lives in Virginia with his wife, Kathleen, and their son.
« Previous entry     Back to index     Next entry »
Ads by Google
(What's this?)
blog comments powered by Disqus

RESOURCES »

Ads by Google (What's this?)

Featured Videos

New book 'The Vatican unknown'
New book 'The Vatican unknown'
A Look at India from Rome
3D Church mapping
#PAUSEforPeace Initiative
Dedicating art to San Juan de la Cruz
A state without territory elects new government
The renewal of the Legionaries of Christ
Presentation of the book "The Pastor"
Synod on the Family October 2014
Preferential option for the poor
God is alive, even in sport
'A forbidden God' named Best Film at the International Catholic Film Festival
Vatican backs a 'Pause for Peace' during World Cup final
The effects of religious violence in Sarajevo 
The origin of Corpus Christi 
Corpus Christi at the Vatican 
Homage to an Indian Cardinal
Train of the Child's Light
New book explaining gestures of the Mass
Encounter between Pope Francis and the Charismatic Renewal in the Spirit Movement.
Aug
1

Liturgical Calendar

August 1, 2014

Saint Alphonsus Liguori, Bishop and Doctor of the Church

All readings:
Today »
This year »

Catholic Daily

Gospel of the Day

Mt 13:54-58

Gospel
Date
08/01/14
07/31/14
07/30/14

Daily Readings


First Reading:: Jer 26: 1-9
Gospel:: Mt 13: 54-58

Saint of the Day

St. Alphonsus Liguori »

Saint
Date

Homily of the Day

Mt 13:47-53

Homily
Date
07/31/14
07/30/14
07/29/14

Ads by AdsLiveMedia.com

Ads by AdsLiveMedia.com
     HTML
Text only
Headlines
  

Follow us: