The value of life

Roger Stenson

July 09, 1992|By Roger Stenson

WE'VE got the right to have all the heterosexual sex we want. It's legal. All we need are consenting adult partners of opposing genders. While there are questions and compunctions concerning morality, the right to have unlimited, unbridled sex is very clear in this secular society.

However, as with any right, there are responsibilities.

We have the right to drive our cars -- as long as we have consenting automobiles and driver's licenses -- as much as we want. The only limiting factors in driving are responsibilities. There are limits enforced for public safety. There are speed limits, traffic lights, stop signs and school crosswalks. Yet even though we may practice "safe driving," accidents happen. When they do, we are required to live up to our responsibilities and pay for the consequences.

When we exercise a right, we buy the responsibility. It's a package deal. To take only the right is, well, irresponsible.

The exercise of sex is a package deal, too. Even with "safe sex," accidents happen. Babies are made. Yet, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled and reaffirmed in last week's Casey decision from Pennsylvania that responsibility need not be observed.

Instead of being accountable for our actions, we can dispose of their consequences under the notion of reproductive freedom.

The heart you have pumping blood through your body right now is the same heart that was pumping blood through your little body just 21 days after your conception (the consequence of your parents' exercise of sexual rights). Our little "accidents" are hardly blobs of tissue. They are real humans. Real live consequences.

Responsibilities are not always fun. While they are sometimes gravely unpleasant and difficult, they come with the territory. No matter how inconvenient -- even painful -- the existence of a child may be, killing the child is nobody's right.

However, "choice" reigns supreme.

I was recently told by a television executive that he, as a devout Catholic, resented my saying that his being pro-choice was the same as his being pro-abortion. Very simply, he bought the "choice" hoodwink.

And so have a lot of Americans. For example, 37 percent of the respondents in an October 1989 Wirthlin poll answered "Yes" to both these statements: "The lives of unborn babies should be protected" and "Women should have the right to choose to have an abortion."

They are mutually exclusive. The hoodwink is in the word "choose" or "choice." The freedom to make choices is very American, and when it comes to abortion, much of the public has bought it without examining what that choice really means.

Marylanders are faced on the ballot this November with accepting or rejecting the new abortion law passed last year in Annapolis. It is radical and extreme, and it should be rejected. And so is the old abortion law still on the books. Despite differences in wording, both laws result in essentially the same abortion practices.

The major difference is the providing of information concerning alternatives to abortion, a provision of the old law that is repealed in the new. The Supreme Court at least upheld that requirement in the Pennsylvania decision. So should the people of Maryland. It would at least be a first step toward the recognition that human life is valuable and should be protected.

Roger Stenson is executive director of Maryland Right to Life Inc.

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