It's human nature: We want to live life on our own terms – to be gods unto ourselves. We strain against the timeless, universal Moral Law that marks out certain behaviors as right and others as wrong. When we legitimize, through civil law, behaviors that conflict with the Moral Law, we think we are creating miniscule loopholes, based upon compassion for others. But those loopholes quickly become chasms littered with the victims of our insatiable desire to control our own destiny.
Consider physician-assisted suicide, now legal in seven states. While legalizing this morally fraught practice is typically justified by an appeal to our humanitarian desire to allow dying individuals an escape from unbearable physical suffering, a recent study released in the New England Journal of Medicine indicates that those who seek physician-assisted suicide via Canada's Medical Assistance in Dying Law do so not to escape physical pain, but rather to escape what researcher Medeline Li referred to as "existential distress." She explained that these patients "are used to being in control of their lives, and it's how they want their death to be."
The implications of this reality are difficult to escape. If we allow doctors to assist patients in ending their lives because they simply want to control the means of their death, on what basis can we deny this same option to people who are simply old? And if euthanasia is available to the mundanely soon-to-be-dying, how can we prevent the entire universe of sick and elderly from feeling subtle pressure to "choose" it in order to avoid burdening loved ones?
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Now consider the other end of the spectrum. In a Newsweek article last year, law professor Sherry Colb explained that while pro-abortion activists generally emphasize the physical intrusion of pregnancy upon a woman's body as justification for her to abort the baby, most women do not choose abortion for this reason. In most cases, a woman chooses abortion "because she does not want the child that would result if she took her pregnancy to term."
Abortion activists once pleaded for policies to make abortion "safe, legal, and rare." Fifty-nine million abortions later, these same activists fight, tooth and nail, over efforts to impose sanitation standards on abortion clinics or to require that abortions be performed before the baby can feel pain.
By legalizing abortion, we victimize unborn human beings. By legalizing physician-assisted suicide, we victimize those who "choose" it out of concern for others. But in both cases, we victimize entire classes of human beings because we cannot bear the thought of constraining human choice. And in both cases, while we tell ourselves we are creating a last-resort "choice" for a few suffering people facing unbearable situations, we actually enable a broad class of people in relatively common situations to simply indulge their desires for control over the most ultimate circumstances of life – and death.
Most Americans already enjoy the freedom to make a wide range of choices about how our lives will play out – what foods we will eat, our exercise regimens, clothing, friends, leisure activities, educational paths and career choices. But we live in a society that tells us we should also choose our own gender, whether to bear the child that has been conceived, whether to keep our marriage vows, whether to "marry" someone of the same or opposite gender, and when and how we will die.
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At the end of the day, whether we like it or not, we live in a world that was designed and ordered to operate in a certain way. Our legal codes are echoes of the ultimate, choice-constraining Moral Law that is written on the heart of every man and woman. When our insatiable yearning to control our own existence pushes us to defy that Moral Law by making "legal" a choice that is fundamentally immoral, all we do is facilitate disaster – not only for the individuals who are misled by our perverted legal code into making an immoral choice, but for the victims of those choices and the society that is impacted by the collective acts of its members.
Civil law is a warning that we are approaching an important moral boundary – like a guardrail before a cliff. Society can take away the guardrail, but it can never take away the cliff. And while those individuals who would "choose" the cliff may celebrate the removal of the guardrail, the rest of us have a duty to maintain it for the sake of unwitting future victims.