A Dead-on Commentary by Charles Colson
January 20, 2006
This Sunday marks the thirty-third anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision—a day Americans should mark with sadness and shame. Forty million babies have been sacrificed on the altar of personal choice and autonomy.
When Roe came down, many of us argued that it was the beginning of a slippery slope, that once we devalued life in the womb we would devalue life—and endanger life—at all stages. After all, we had just established, as a matter of law and social priority, that individual choice trumps even the right to life.
Tragically, we have been proven right. The so-called "right to choose" has led to Supreme Court decisions like the Lawrence case that held that it is discriminatory for states to legislate against sodomy. As Justice Scalia put it in his dissent, "This opens the flood gates for gay marriage and makes it impossible for any morals legislation to be enacted." He is right. Who can say the common good demands the preservation of traditional marriage when personal choice is exalted to the summum bonum of society and is constitutionally protected?
The worst post-Roe decision was Casey v. Planned Parenthood, in which Justice Kennedy wrote: "At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life." Now, if you take those words literally, it makes it impossible to legislate any determination of the common good, because inevitably, the individual then has the right to say that does not conform to his idea about the meaning of life.
This is individualism run amok.
And this week more damage was done. By invoking federal drug laws, John Ashcroft, when he was U.S. Attorney General, tried to stop Oregon from allowing doctors to assist in patient suicide. This week the Supreme Court, in a 6-3 decision, held that the federal government cannot bar the dispensing of controlled substances for assisted suicide in the face of a state provision permitting it.
Thankfully, it is a limited decision. The Court did not rule on the constitutionality of the assisted suicide—except by implication. But it does suggest that six justices are sympathetic to it. If assisted suicide is ever permitted, it will soon become involuntary euthanasia, as it has in Holland.
I don't like to be an alarmist, but unless we do something—such as getting more justices like Roberts, Scalia, and Thomas on the Court—we will soon have Dutch-style euthanasia in America.
Some good news this week from the Court: On Thursday it unanimously ruled that a New Hampshire law requiring parental notification if a teenager is seeking an abortion can stand. An exception must be added for medical emergencies, but on principle, parental notification still passes constitutional muster. This vindicates the incremental strategy: Chip away at Roe.
On this anniversary, Christians must resolve to go on fighting, not only on behalf of the unborn, but addressing a broader question: Does our society have the capacity to rule itself according to what is the common good, adhering to its founding principles of the protection of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? Or will it be swept up in the notion that the only thing that matters is that individuals can choose for themselves whatever they want?
Don't give up this struggle. We must resolve to fight smarter and harder—for as long as it takes. Get links to further information on today's topic
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"BreakPoint with Chuck Colson" is a daily commentary on news and trends from a Christian perspective. Heard on more than 1000 radio outlets nationwide, BreakPoint transcripts are also available on the Internet. BreakPoint is a production of The Wilberforce Forum, a division of Prison Fellowship: 44180 Riverside Parkway, Lansdowne, VA 20176.