I was not at all surprised to hear that Rudy Giuliani has lately expressed views that welcome the rising prominence of Sarah Palin in the GOP. Giuliani is the archetype of the politicians who wear the Republican label but staunchly support the pro-abortion agenda. Of course, he imitates the pro-abortion Democrats by using the "pro-choice" label to dress his position in deceptively American garb. The use of that term is one of the cleverest rhetorical ploys in the history of American politics. If the slaveholders had thought of it, people like me might still be doing stoop labor for no wages. After all, what could be more American than choice? Isn't that what freedom is all about?
Actually, no; not in the sense of the political liberty the American people have up to now enjoyed. Our liberty is based on the idea of unalienable rights articulated to justify our nation's assertion of independence from Great Britain. "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
Unalienable rights give rise to opportunities for choice, but in a context that first takes account of the standard of justice from which the claim of right derives. Human life involves certain actions and inclinations that, as a rule, tend to support and preserve it, both for individuals and for the species as a whole. This rule is the result of determinations made by their Creator, whose will thus constitutes the standard for their actions. As they accept the gift of life and perform the actions necessary to sustain it, their respect for the Creator's rule sets the standard for their action. Right action preserves and perpetuates human life. Wrong action damages and destroys it. People are in the right when they act rightly. Should others, without cause or provocation, seek to interfere with their action, they have the right to resist and to defend themselves against that interference.
Advertisement - story continues below
The concept of unalienable rights thus arises from respect for the rule of the Creator. People acting rightly (i.e., in conformity with the rule) act on the Creator's authority. They may use in defense of their actions whatever powers they possess in consequence of that authority. Their physical, mental and emotional capacities may all be brought to bear to enforce (that is continue with) their right action. These capacities include the ability to discern and choose among different courses of action that achieve the desired result. As they do so, they have a right connected with and arising from their respect for the Creator's rule.
In and of itself, therefore, choice is not a "right." Rather it is a consequence of the conformity to right. Yet the capacity for choice is part of human nature, which is to say the way human beings have been fashioned by the Creator. People have the capacity for choice. But they only have the right to do as they choose when they have used that capacity in accordance with the Creator's rule. Put simply, their choice does not involve a right when what they choose to do is fundamentally wrong.
Government exists because God made humanity with the capacity to do wrong, i.e., envisage and set our sights on a different course than the one that is, on the whole, compatible with the possibility of human existence. In light of this capacity, the purpose of government is to limit and/or repulse the effective action of wrongdoers, thereby securing the rights (i.e., right courses of action) of those who respect the Creator's will.
Advertisement - story continues below
This logic is the basis in principle for the pro-life rejection of the superficially potent argument that a woman may do as she chooses when it comes to taking the life of the child in her womb. Her freedom to choose does not extend to violating the Creator's demand of respect for the child's unalienable right to life. God's demand of justice limits individual choice. But it also limits how those entrusted with the powers of government may legitimately (i.e., lawfully) employ them. This is the substantive basis for the concept of limited government. The limitation does not arise from ideological whim, or from social or historical circumstances. It arises from the same determination of the Creator's will that sets the stars on fire and the courses in which planets revolve around them.
Just as the individual's choice is limited by the Creator's determination of what harmonizes with the possibility of human existence, so the use of the powers of government is limited to actions compatible with the aim of securing the unalienable rights of human nature (i.e., those connected with actions and inclinations compatible with the decisions of the Creator that make our existence possible.) No government (including the state governments of the United States) may, in law or action, justly depart from this aim by violating or tolerating the violation of the unalienable rights of anyone subject to its jurisdiction.
Sarah Palin appears to be pro-choice for state governments. (I invite readers to review the arguments I have made in this regard in "Sarah Palin: Already compromised?" and "Palin's choice: An afterword.") Yet just as the principle of unalienable right places a limit on the individual choice of the mother, it also limits the choice of the community of individuals (civil society) acting by means of the state governments. Except for the just demands of that principle, the intimate, personal consequences of the decision about pregnancy would favor giving moral priority to the mother's choice, not that of state legislators otherwise unaffected by its result. Herein lies the grave danger connected with identifying "pro-choice for states' politicians" as acceptable champions of the pro-life cause. They step away from the solid ground of principle provided by the Declaration of Independence reliance upon unalienable rights. By doing so, they set the stage for the ultimate defeat of the pro-life position. Sadly this also undermines the argument that the consent of the governed is the sine qua non of governmental legitimacy (lawfulness). For unless it respects requirements of right action, government based upon consent contradicts the Creator's rule, and so cuts the ground out from under the just demand it claims to represent.