In chemistry, a litmus test is used to reveal the presence or absence of a substance. In the last few days, Todd Akin has served as a potent litmus test for pro-life principle. The Romney/Ryan GOP’s reaction to his stand against murdering nascent children in cases of rape has served as an excellent RINO detector, revealing Mitt Romney’s abortion tolerant properties and forcing pro-lifers to examine the destructive implications of his leadership for the principles that justify the pro-life movement’s political cause.
In an article on my blog, “What really drives the GOP’s anti-Akin lynch mob,” I conclude that “What the Romney/Ryan Republicans object to is Akin’s principled defense of the nascent child’s unalienable right to life in cases of rape.” When forcible rape is involved, it’s self-evident that the pregnancy came about against the mother’s will. Therefore, it’s emotionally difficult to entertain the argument that she’s responsible for the child’s life from the moment of conception. Isn’t it a violation of her unalienable right to liberty to enforce a responsibility she never consented to bear?
The American people have answered that question every time their elected representatives authorized the U.S. government to institute a draft to provide for the nation’s defense. How is this consistent with individual liberty? Well, the right to liberty, like other unalienable rights, comes to us as an endowment by our Creator. It reflects His goodwill and intention in creating us, His program, as it were, for the preservation of our existence as human beings (our nature). On account of this programming, we are inclined toward certain actions and activities – actions and activities that are right for us because they are consistent with the preservation of our nature.
On account of this inclination, we feel obliged to do, or constrained from doing, certain things: to eat and drink, for example; to seek shelter or relief from intemperate conditions; to flee or fight against harm; to procreate; to take comfort in the company of other human beings, and so forth. Yet unlike other creatures we can observe, though we are inclined to act in certain ways, we not unequivocally compelled to do so. Our special consciousness includes the capacity to stand apart from our natural inclinations, to envisage the consequences of our actions and activities and to select, in light of our judgment of those consequences a course of action, according to our will. We can choose. On account of this capacity to choose, it is our nature to feel responsible for what we do, so that when we act and react in and to the world around us, it is not simply our nature that responds for us. We answer for ourselves.
When our answer corresponds to the goodwill and intention of God for the preservation of our nature, we do what is right. When it contravenes that intention, we violate right. America’s founding principles, as articulated in the Declaration of Independence and the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution, see government as an institution established by people in light of their shared commitment to defend one another as each and every one of them pursues the intention all have in common, which is to do what is right as God gives us to see the right, i.e., according to the Creator’s endowment of (program for) our nature.
It is, of course, not always the case that human beings associate for purposes of good government. Because people are capable of choice, they may choose against the “better angels of our nature” to form societies that are committed to violating natural right, and defending themselves against any who would call them to account for their crimes. The “glorious” Roman Empire apparently began as just such a covenant of wrongdoers. By contrast, America’s Declaration of Independence expresses a covenant among people of goodwill. It explicitly articulates their commitment to exercising and defending their natural rights, to make clear that this is the reason and justification for their decision to throw off the authority of the British king.
This first and fundamental choice in favor of right conditions the subsequent choices of the people who join themselves together on the basis of it. As a community, they have agreed to put aside the unconditional freedom that includes the alternative of wrongdoing. They have decided that as individuals it will be their practice to do right – and that as a community they will join together to enforce this practice, so that the willingness to exercise their rights gives rise to an obligation and responsibility to enforce and defend that exercise.
In the early days of American republicanism, this was reflected in local laws that required all able-bodied men capable of bearing arms in defense of the community (the militia) to come together to practice the skills required to do so effectively. (It required, as the Constitution says, “a well-regulated militia.”) These laws and the modern institution of the draft in time of war are rooted in the same principle. In either case, the institution rests on the assumption that, to secure the liberty of all, the permanent will for the security of rights that the people as a whole have ratified as individuals may, when necessary, be enforced against the particular will of this or that individual.
Thus, a society may compel a particular individual to accept his or her responsibility for the preservation of right when necessary to secure the exercise of unalienable right for all individuals. This is why our wartime presidents have evoked the preservation of our rights and the justice of our institutions in that regard, as causes which justify the risk and sacrifice of our drafted soldiers’ lives in combat. Their rhetoric reflects the underlying logic that makes the ultimate sacrifice of physical freedom (physical death) a sensible, fit and honorable expression of dedication to God-endowed liberty.
But is dying the only sensible, fit and honorable expression of that dedication? Isn’t the way we live equally, if not more, so? When people like Martin Luther King appealed to America’s conscience to decry the contradiction between our principles and our practice, he was relying on our common sense that it is. And if it is, what aspect of the way we live is more essentially related to our dedication to the unalienable right to life than our response to the sense of right that impels us to perpetuate the species? Therefore, every parent of a child, and, in particular, every child’s mother, has a responsibility for the exercise of right with respect to her child that derives from her membership in what is, as it were, the militia that, in living rightly, fulfills our people’s commitment to preserve the exercise of right. She is bound by that commitment of all to practice, as an individual, the actions that are required to fulfill it, even when doing so constrains her particular will. That constraint is in principle no different than the one our drafted soldiers have endured. And her sacrifice in living so as to exercise the right to life is surely no more onerous than the one offered up by those who died so that she could do so.
So when Mitt Romney and other so-called Republicans like him dismiss Todd Akin’s defense of the unalienable right to life in cases of forcible rape, they are, in fact, casting aside the aim for which people of goodwill come together to institute government, which is to secure the unalienable rights of all. Of course, such so-called Republicans may embrace the view that our nascent offspring are not human beings – that they, therefore, need not benefit from the Creator’s endowment of our nature. But in doing so, they reveal what I and others have repeated tried to point out. Mitt Romney so-called Republicans are, in principle, not pro-life at all. Indeed, they are no longer people committed to implementing the logic of America’s Declaration of Independence. For the sake of their cynical pursuit of office and power, they feign pro-life, Declaration views. But when push comes to shove, they will not push for the unalienable right to life, and they mean to shove from the political arena those who are determined to do so.