The Fallacy of Choice: 25 Years After RoeBy U.S. Rep. John Hostettler
As humans we have the curious and unique ability to hold two firm, yet contradictory beliefs at the same time. Not only individuals, but societies and nations throughout history have manifested this peculiar trait. These discrepancies can lie in the shadows, unexposed to the glare of reason, for generations. On occasion, however, circumstances conspire to force the matter into the light and compel a people to confront an issue they'd usually much rather avoid.
A classic example of this dualism and its consequences thrust itself on the national consciousness nearly 160 years ago and is the subject of the current film Amistad. On July 2, 1839 -- two days before the United States was to celebrate its own independence and freedom from tyranny -- a group of slaves abducted from West Africa revolted against the crew of a Spanish schooner that was transporting them to a life of slavery on Cuban plantations. That action triggered a remarkable chain of events that eventually involved two U.S. presidents and the Supreme Court.
When the Africans were brought to trial in New Haven, Conn., the inconsistency of American thinking was also put on trial. The United States was founded on the principle of self governance and the self-evident truth that "all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights," including "Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness." The nation had been birthed in the taking of arms against an oppressor who deprived its inhabitants of those rights.
The actions taken by the Africans against their captors would seem to mirror this philosophy. If the Africans had an inalienable and God-given right to liberty, they would be justified in fighting someone trying to deprive them of that right. Yet the Africans were tried as slaves who committed murder. Their "owners," the Spanish government, and even the administration of President Martin Van Buren -- who feared the case would divide his Democratic Party and cost him the next election -- argued that the Africans were "property" with no right to self defense.
In the end, the Supreme Court disagreed, the Africans were returned to their homeland and Martin Van Buren was defeated. Slavery, sadly, continued in the United States for another 23years. But the Amistad incident served to expose the inconsistency that pervaded public thinking, the polar opposite beliefs that human beings have an absolute right to be free, yet also have a right to own another.
Such inconsistent and implausible thinking was not limited to that era or to that issue. A recent item in the news captured the essence of a seemingly contradictory attitude that permeates our own society today. It's a tragic story that exposes two widely held beliefs that cannot be reconciled.
On Jan. 11, a Fort Wayne woman who was pregnant with twins was shot and killed. One of the unborn twins survived and was listed in critical condition in a local hospital. The other twin, like its mother, died of gunshot wounds. According to the coroner, the child's death was ruled a feticide, a felony punishable by up to eight years in prison.
Most reasonable people would agree that shooting and killing a child in his or her mother's womb is heinous and should result in a prison sentence -- at least. Yet if an abortionist had dismembered or poisoned the very same baby on the exact same day, many would say that was okay. Herein lies the contradiction.
According to a recent New York Times/CBS News poll, a growing number of Americans -- at least 50 percent -- believe abortion takes the life of an innocent human being. Yet many also say they believe a person should have the "choice" to end this innocent life. How can an act, which in one set of circumstances provokes sorrow and outrage, be acceptable under different circumstances? It makes no more sense than it does to say that all men are created equal and entitled to freedom, while simultaneously believing men should have the "choice" to own others.
The inconsistent logic with which this society treats the preborn is played out every day in many American hospitals. Doctors on one floor of a hospital may be operating to save the life of one baby in its mother's womb while an abortionist one floor below may be ending the lives of babies the same age.
Tragically, this logical fallacy has resulted in more than 30 million deaths in the 25 years since Roe vs. Wade. For those children it's too late. But in order to prevent further carnage we as a nation must confront this irrational way of thinking. If it is wrong to take an innocent human life, then it is wrong regardless of the size, race, religion, age, location of that human, or means of termination. We cannot redefine humanity or personhood to include ourselves and exclude others. To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, as I would not want someone to take my life, so I would not take the life of another.