The sanctity of life

I stumbled upon a fantastic editorial today written by Thomas Friedman on “Why I am Pro-Life”.

I’ve quoted part of what he says below, but what is interesting about his writing is that he draws attention to the idea of people getting lost in a debate that has largely lost its significance or meaning. I can recall many conversations where I’ve found myself drawn into an argument that has complete gone off track from where it had first started.

You can argue for hours and hours about a technicality that, in the grand scheme of things, is of little significance. When you’ve lost sight of the “why”, then it’s a sign that you should just stop talking.

Abortion is an important topic, but I agree wholeheartedly with what he says about the sanctity of life.

In my world, you don’t get to call yourself “pro-life” and be against common-sense gun control — like banning public access to the kind of semiautomatic assault rifle, designed for warfare, that was used recently in a Colorado theater. You don’t get to call yourself “pro-life” and want to shut down the Environmental Protection Agency, which ensures clean air and clean water, prevents childhood asthma, preserves biodiversity and combats climate change that could disrupt every life on the planet. You don’t get to call yourself “pro-life” and oppose programs like Head Start that provide basic education, health and nutrition for the most disadvantaged children. You can call yourself a “pro-conception-to-birth, indifferent-to-life conservative.” I will never refer to someone who pickets Planned Parenthood but lobbies against common-sense gun laws as “pro-life.”

“Pro-life” can mean only one thing: “respect for the sanctity of life.” And there is no way that respect for the sanctity of life can mean we are obligated to protect every fertilized egg in a woman’s body, no matter how that egg got fertilized, but we are not obligated to protect every living person from being shot with a concealed automatic weapon. I have no respect for someone who relies on voodoo science to declare that a woman’s body can distinguish a “legitimate” rape, but then declares — when 99 percent of all climate scientists conclude that climate change poses a danger to the sanctity of all life on the planet — that global warming is just a hoax.

The term “pro-life” should be a shorthand for respect for the sanctity of life. But I will not let that label apply to people for whom sanctity for life begins at conception and ends at birth. What about the rest of life? Respect for the sanctity of life, if you believe that it begins at conception, cannot end at birth. That radical narrowing of our concern for the sanctity of life is leading to terrible distortions in our society.

And on a completely unrelated note, this is another interesting read from the NY Times about China’s “left over” women.


3 thoughts on “The sanctity of life

  1. Have you read Factory Girls or any of the books by Peter Hessler? I find them a rather personal and candid portrayal of China by, I guess, sympathetic foreigners. Factory Girls in particular is a good look at the lives of female migrant workers.

    • Hi Quentin!

      I’ve heard of the book (another friend spoke highly of it) but have never gotten around to reading it just yet – I’ll pop it on my “to do” list when the summer holidays roll around.



  2. Alice, I just read the ‘leftover women’ article… I have no words. I must have read that article with half my jaw hanging.

    But the sad thing is, the more I think about it, the more I can recognise these sorts of attitudes during my time in China. Overall, the people I’ve had contact with all hold rather “traditional” family ideals — whether a woman has to get married at all, doesn’t seem to be something up for debate. And I think these “traditional values” messages affect women disproportionally: don’t get educated, don’t aspire in the workplace, stay out of the leadership hierarchy altogether. And, as someone who believes that education is empowerment…

    This makes me sad. A bit angry. Mainly sad.

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