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A Virtuous Society and the Value of Life

By James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.

Dwarfed by the high drama of recent events surrounding the White House, an important vote that delivered a strategic victory for pro-abortion forces in America received little attention. By a tally of 224 to 198, the House of Representatives passed a law that would affect approximately 1.2 million women of childbearing age who obtain health coverage through federal employee plans. Not only did the House explicitly designate contraceptives to be among those prescription medications covered by federal health insurance plans, but an amendment that would have forbidden the inclusion of prescription drugs expressly designed to cause abortions was defeated by a margin of 222 to 198.

The significance of this outcome is momentous, for with this critical turn of events some of the more subtle attacks on life in the womb are now readily facilitated and tacitly sanctioned.

Under the new legislation, there are five types of prescription contraceptives that will be covered by federal health insurance plans: birth control pills, diaphragms, intrauterine devices, Norplant and Depo-Provera. Four out of five of these modes are abortifacient, the diaphragm being the exception. This means that use of these particular kinds of birth control may result in the inducement of abortion. Numerous studies have shown that for women using such methods, fertilization can occur up to 70% of the time.

To refer to these items as "contraceptives" is misleading and inaccurate since the ultimate result is not merely to prevent conception, but if "necessary" to abort an already formed human being. This is done by creating an environment in the womb that is hostile toward the implantation of a developing new life.

The conduct on the part of the House is reflective of the schizophrenic and distorted view that our culture maintains with respect to both the sanctity and the definition of human life. Human life is both sacred and indivisible, and we instinctively know it. The confusion in the public square today lies largely with our failure to establish and adhere to a set of reasonable criteria in which we acknowledge the origin of personhood.

If we look at the process of life objectively, we see that it unfolds in the form of a continuum. Typically, we proceed on this journey from zygote, to embryo, to fetus, to newborn, to youngster, to mature adult, until ultimately we reach the end of our course. But these terms marking our growth points are simply arbitrary labels that we use to describe the various stages of life along the progression. Each stage is an integral component of a human individual. Nevertheless, there is one clear line of demarcation prior to what we call conception.

Neither a sperm nor an ovum has any capacity to develop into anything other than what it is. But when a sperm penetrates an ovum something extraordinary occurs, and the outcome is far more than the sum of its parts. It is estimated that the amount of information contained in the chromosomes of a fertilized human egg is equivalent to thousands of volumes of encyclopedias. This information is realized in a gradual, ongoing and progressive transition. The transformation begins with conception and continues until death. One thing is certain in this process of human development, though ­ we are in a constant state of change.

The sacred strand of humanity that begins at fertilization and persists until death is fundamental to the very essence of liberty. Abortifacient "contraceptives" are tools for the annihilation of "potential persons." As with abortion, promoters of abortifacients try to characterize a life in the womb as not really a human life, not yet an actual person. This is based on the notion of "viability," referring to the ability to survive under hostile conditions. But viability has nothing to do with whether legal personhood exists, for if we follow this line of reasoning to its logical conclusion, the elderly, the retarded, and the very young could not be considered legal persons at all.

Our nation is founded on the notion of inalienable rights to life, liberty and property. The Founding Fathers placed the right to life at the top of the list for a reason. Conception is a normal, natural consequence of human activity. The safest most secure place for life to be situated is in the womb. Constitutional rights attach to the human person within that womb, and those constitutional rights are not superseded by some manufactured right to a "choice."

In an era where we are slowly seeing individual freedoms slip away, the ultimate oppression by the government occurs when certain human beings are classified as non-persons, and therefore they are not entitled to the full protection of the law. The truth concerning abortifacient drugs and devices needs to be exposed, and as a decent and virtuous society we must make it clear that we will not tolerate the kind of legislative maneuvering that so demeans the value of life.

Copyright © 1999 -
James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.

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