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Roe v. Wade and "Meaningful Life"

“It is a matter of life and death.”  When this sentence is spoken, all who hear it understand that the issue at hand is of the greatest seriousness and gravity.  Matters of life and death must receive the highest priority and attention, for life is our most precious worldly possession and blessing from God.  Regarding life, the Scripture says that God “gives to all life and breath and all things” (Acts 17:25) and that “in Him we live and move and exist” (Acts 17:28).

There are matters of life and death in that are being debated in our society right now, and it is important that we recognize them.  Specifically, abortion, eugenics, and euthanasia are matters whose core issue is life and death.  Abortion is the practice of terminating the lives of unborn babies.  Eugenics (from Greek meaning “good birth”) is the practice of intervening in the natural process of life to supposedly improve mankind.  Euthanasia (from Greek meaning “good death”) is the practice of terminating lives that are considered devoid of value.  These matters of life and death are justified or else refuted by the same logic, for they all hinge on the same essential question: When does life have value?

Regarding abortion, the United States Supreme Court gave legitimacy to that practice in 1973 when they ruled that a woman’s right to terminate her unborn child was protected by the Constitution.  In the words of their ruling, they validated the dangerous concept of “meaningful life” in mankind, which suggests that there is some human life that is not meaningful.  In terms of the abortion issue, they arbitrarily decided that human life became “meaningful” only when a child could live outside the mother’s womb.  In doing so, they discounted the objective truth that life begins at conception, a fact to which authorities in medicine, law, and ethics agreed at the First International Conference on Abortion in 1967.  Nevertheless, the Court legalized abortion, including abortion in some cases where the life of the child would be considered “meaningful” even in the Court’s opinion.

The term “eugenics” was first coined by Sir Francis Galton, a cousin to Charles Darwin, the father of the theory of evolution.  The idea of eugenics is that humanity can be improved by encouraging the “most fit” members of society to reproduce more often and preventing the “least fit” from procreating at all.  When the premise of eugenics is accepted, it opens horrifying possibilities, some of which we have already witnessed in our world.  The logic of eugenics will justify state-sponsored discrimination, forced sterilization of persons considered genetically defective, and the killing of persons who lack, in terms of Roe v. Wade, “meaningful life.”  Such ideas were used to justify the holocaust in Nazi Germany, and they are still advocated today.

Euthanasia is really just an extension of eugenics into the matter of death.  Typically, those who favor euthanasia argue that it is a matter of mercy to provide death for persons who are in hopeless misery (the terminally ill, the permanently disabled, the severely retarded, etc.).  However, if it is accepted, then the logic behind euthanasia justifies much more than “mercy killings.”  Once again, the Roe v. Wade concept of “meaningful life” comes into play, and the arbitrary decision of who deserves to live and who does not presents a fearful moral, ethical, and legal enigma.  Who should decide when a person is no longer fit to live?  His family?  The courts?  Presently, Oregon is the only state that has legalized euthanasia (the so-called “Death With Dignity Act” passed in 1994), but there are organizations working to pass euthanasia laws throughout the United States.

Regulating life and death has led us down a slippery slope upon which we are sliding farther and farther.  It was once understood that man was not to be in the business of determining death, but rather that life and death were in the hands of God.  Physicians take the Hippocratic Oath, which originally included the statement, “I will prescribe regimens for the good of my patients according to my ability and my judgment and never do harm to anyone.”  It also included the statement, “I will not give a lethal drug to anyone if I am asked, nor will I advise such a plan; and similarly I will not give a woman a pessary to cause an abortion.”  This oath began with homage to the Greek gods, so the pagans were more moral on the issue of abortion than many so-called Christians.  Now, with the subjective concept of “meaningful life,” causing the death of a human being can be considered as just part of the job of a physician, like writing prescriptions or giving a physical exam.

When Moses repeated God’s law to the children of Israel in Deuteronomy 30:19-20, he said:

“I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving the LORD your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days, that you may live in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.”

The promises of God were given to Israel, but surely our nation can learn the principle “choose life in order that you may live.”  May we see the terrible errors of our ways and turn to God lest our nation perish from this land.

 Stacey E. Durham



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