Sanctity of Life, Pro-Life and Capital Punishment

If someone you loved was assaulted and murdered, wouldn’t you demand justice?

Wouldn’t you want to protect your family, friends and others from such a brutal event ever happening again?

Wouldn’t you want the murderer permanently removed from society?

To ensure a murderer never kills again, wouldn’t the surest and quickest way be to end the murderer’s life?

Throughout history, many cultures have supported the “eye for an eye” justice system, whereby an offender is granted an equal punishment to match their wrong-doing. In the case of killing another person, this often meant death.

Surprisingly, most pro-life organizations do not take a position on the death penalty. While sanctity of life is often discussed in those circles, the tendency is to focus on right to life for unborn babies, the elderly or the infirmed. This may be for several reasons.

  1. The notion that life is sacred and worth protecting is an easier pitch when showing pictures of cooing babies or regal elderly than it is to argue a convicted serial murderer’s life has intrinsic value and should be spared.
  2. To be most effective, many organizations targeting cultural change opt to pick a single goal and focus on achieving it with laser-fine intensity. The idea is to achieve more with focused effort on a single cause than to thin your efforts over the herculean task of social change using a scattershot approach. In furthering the sanctity of human life movement, pro-life organizations predominately target protecting unborn babies. They do this through a number of activities, including lobbying, traditional marketing, educating and assisting community groups such as churches, pregnancy service centers and student organizations.
  3. Still, why not simply state a position on capital punishment and then let it rest at the sidelines? Why maintain a stance of “no stance” on the death penalty at all? There may be a feeling that addressing capital punishment—even at a surface level—gives the pro-choice opposition more ammunition. Think about it. If you are a pro-abortion leader who is trying to do your part to undermine the pro-life argument, which would you rather bring to your audience’s attention?

    1. The pro-life movement supports the right of the unborn to continue living; a right they say supersedes any desire the mother has to be free of the pregnancy.
    2. Or

    3. The pro-life movement wants to protect the murderer who slaughtered someone’s son or daughter, husband or wife, mother or father.

Right. Option B would be much harder to defend. In the United States, up until the late 1960’s, people were still being mob-lynched for race, religious beliefs and criminal activity. Other places across the globe are still seeing terminal mob-justice today. For example, following the earthquake that rocked Haiti in 2010, suspected looters were lynched by angry mobs. In South Africa, drug dealers and gang members have recently been hanged by vigilante groups.

“An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

Pro-Choice Mom Believes Any Reason Will Do

Recently, I stumbled across a blog that stated the following:

“As you all know, I am pro-choice. I don’t believe in parental notification laws. I believe you can have an abortion for whatever reason you want. And yes I am a mother. And yes I was upset when I miscarried cuz that was a baby to me. However, IT IS MY CHOICE!!! And that’s what the abortion debate is about. […] Fine, if you are prolife. I don’t push my opinions on you and I expect you to do the same.”

A few things struck me here:

  1. This person is a mother and still believes—even after having gone through the whole pregnancy and childbirth experience—that abortion (the right to kill her baby in utero) is still something she thinks she wants to defend.
  2. She admits she is aware there is a baby within. (Pro-abortionists usually favor referring to an unborn baby as a zygote or fetus—anything to avoid calling it a baby, because really—who wants to kill an innocent, defenseless baby? Killing babies is just bad mojo.)
  3. She illustrates defensiveness over anyone telling her what she can and cannot do with her body. This appears to be the main foundation upon which she rests her entire pro-choice position. One can only wonder if she takes other physical mandates as personally. After all, it’s against the law to physically assault others with your body. It’s against the law to neglect buckling your body into your car. It’s against the law to walk in public while nude. We have all these laws that tell us what we can and cannot do, where we can and cannot go and even what we can and cannot say.
  4. She says it’s not her place to tell others what to do. Isn’t this what laws are? Rules, created by people, set to define appropriate behavior? We live in a world of laws; otherwise we live in a world of chaos. Daily, we choose to either work within those laws (citizen), without those laws (criminal), or on the laws (lawmaker.) Throughout our lives, most of us have donned two or three of these roles at one time or another, to varying degrees.

I think the most troubling idea here is the notion this mother knows there is a baby in the womb but thinks her “right” is more important than her baby’s life. Some questions I’m struggling with:

  • Does this rigidity offer her a much needed sense of control or certainty in her life?
  • Does she feel her life is so restricted by laws that tell her what she can and cannot do with her body that she simply cannot bear one more law?
  • Is it that she was influenced by someone close to her in her past and now subconsciously clings to the pro-abortion paradigm that was originally given to her?

And the biggest question of all:

  • What pushes this young mother to defend this pro-abortion mindset even after seeing her baby for the first time? Can a new mother truly look at her newborn baby after enduring 10 months of pregnancy’s highs and lows and think, “Yes, I should definitely have had the right to kill this child while she was inside my body?”

Really?

Suicide for a Higher Good?

An example of a “loving” suicide is shown in the following Buddhist fable:

The Starving Tigress

the monk and the starving tigress“Born into a family of Brahmans renowned for their purity of conduct and great spiritual devotion, the bodhisattva became a great scholar and teacher. With no desire for wealth and gain, he entered a forest retreat and began a life as an ascetic. It was in this forest where he encountered a tigress who was starving and emaciated from giving birth and was about to resort to eating her own newborn cubs for survival. With no food in sight, the bodhisattva, out of infinite compassion, offered his body as food to the tigress, selflessly forfeiting his own life.”

(Shakyamuni Buddha – Jataka, http://www.himalayanart.org/image.cfm/50191.html, retrieved October 20, 2011.)

What then becomes of a sanctity of life position when life is given out of the highest form of respect?

Sanctity of Life and the Hippocratic Oath

Notice how the Hippocratic Oath has changed since inception.

Original Hippocratic Oath, translated into English

I swear by Apollo, the healer, Asclepius, Hygieia, and Panacea, and I take to witness all the gods, all the goddesses, to keep according to my ability and my judgment, the following Oath and agreement:

To consider dear to me, as my parents, him who taught me this art; to live in common with him and, if necessary, to share my goods with him; To look upon his children as my own brothers, to teach them this art.

I will prescribe regimens for the good of my patients according to my ability and my judgment and never do harm to anyone.

I will not give a lethal drug to anyone if I am asked, nor will I advise such a plan; and similarly I will not give a woman a pessary to cause an abortion.

But I will preserve the purity of my life and my arts.

I will not cut for stone, even for patients in whom the disease is manifest; I will leave this operation to be performed by practitioners, specialists in this art.

In every house where I come I will enter only for the good of my patients, keeping myself far from all intentional ill-doing and all seduction and especially from the pleasures of love with women or with men, be they free or slaves.

All that may come to my knowledge in the exercise of my profession or in daily commerce with men, which ought not to be spread abroad, I will keep secret and will never reveal.

If I keep this oath faithfully, may I enjoy my life and practice my art, respected by all men and in all times; but if I swerve from it or violate it, may the reverse be my lot.

Modern Hippocratic Oath, most used today

In 1964, Dr. Louis Lasagna, former Principal of the Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences and Academic Dean of the School of Medicine at Tufts University, drafted a modernized version of the Hippocratic Oath. Notice the references to abortion have been removed. This is the version of the Hippocratic Oath that is commonly used today.

I swear to fulfill, to the best of my ability and judgment, this covenant:

I will respect the hard-won scientific gains of those physicians in whose steps I walk, and gladly share such knowledge as is mine with those who are to follow.

I will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures [that] are required, avoiding those twin traps of overtreatment and therapeutic nihilism.

I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon’s knife or the chemist’s drug.

I will not be ashamed to say “I know not”, nor will I fail to call in my colleagues when the skills of another are needed for a patient’s recovery.

I will respect the privacy of my patients, for their problems are not disclosed to me that the world may know. Most especially must I tread with care in matters of life and death. If it is given to me to save a life, all thanks. But it may also be within my power to take a life; this awesome responsibility must be faced with great humbleness and awareness of my own frailty. Above all, I must not play at God.

I will remember that I do not treat a fever chart, a cancerous growth, but a sick human being, whose illness may affect the person’s family and economic stability. My responsibility includes these related problems, if I am to care adequately for the sick.

I will prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure.

I will remember that I remain a member of society with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm.

If I do not violate this oath, may I enjoy life and art, respected while I live and remembered with affection thereafter. May I always act so as to preserve the finest traditions of my calling and may I long experience the joy of healing those who seek my help.

Sanctity of Life Quotes

The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.
“I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life . . .”
~ Deuteronomy 30:19

“We hold these truths to be self-evident . . . that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, and among these life . . .”
~ Declaration of Independence

“Thou shall not kill.”
~ God

“There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
~ Albert Einstein

Abortion Quotes

“It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish.”
~ Blessed Mother Teresa

“Nothing we do to defend the human person, no matter how small, is ever unfruitful or forgotten. Our actions touch other lives and move other hearts in ways we can never fully understand in this world. Don’t ever underestimate the beauty and power of the witness you give in your pro-life work.”
~ Archbishop Charles Chaput
(view The Little Things Matter, a video series on the Butterfly Effect, by motivational speaker, Andy Andrews)

“Pro-choice and pro-life activists live in different worlds, and the scope of their lives, as both adults and children, fortifies them in their belief that their own views on abortion are the more correct, the more moral, and more reasonable. When added to this is the fact that should ‘the other side’ win, one group of women will see the very real devaluation of their lives and life resources, it is not surprising that the abortion debate has generated so much heat and so little light.”
~ Kristin Luker

“An abortion kills the life of the baby after it has begun. It is dangerous to your life and health.”
~ Planned Parenthood Federation of America, 1952
(see the pamphlet)

Capital Punishment Quotes

“We oppose the death penalty not just for what it does to those guilty of heinous crimes, but for what it does to all of us, it offers the tragic illusion that we can defend life by taking life.”
~ Most Rev. Joseph A. Fiorenza

“You can’t save a man if he’s dead.”
~ Unknown

Respect Quotes

“That you may retain your self-respect, it is better to displease the people by doing what you know is right, than to temporarily please them by doing what you know is wrong.”
~ William J. H. Boetcker

“I’m not concerned with your liking or disliking me… All I ask is that you respect me as a human being.”
~ Jackie Robinson

“Men are respectable only as they respect.”
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Suicide Quotes

“Here in the bathroom with me are razor blades. Here is iodine to drink. Here are sleeping pills to swallow. You have a choice. Live or die. Every breath is a choice. Every minute is a choice. To be or not to be. Every time you don’t throw yourself down the stairs, that’s a choice. Every time you don’t crash your car, you reenlist.”
~ Chuck Palahniuk

“Suicide sometimes proceeds from cowardice, but not always; for cowardice sometimes prevents it; since as many live because they are afraid to die, as die because they are afraid to live.”
~ Charles Caleb Colton

“Settle down, precious. I know what you’re going through. Ten minutes before you got here, I was gonna jump too.”
~ Unknown

“The most authentic thing about us is our capacity to create, to overcome, to endure, to transform, to love and to be greater than our suffering.”
~ Ben Okri

“Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.”
~ Phil Donahue

“Anyone desperate enough for suicide…should be desperate enough to go to creative extremes to solve problems: elope at midnight, stow away on the boat to New Zealand and start over, do what they always wanted to do but were afraid to try.”
~ Richard Bach

“To make yourself something less than you can be – that too is a form of suicide.”
~ Benjamin Lichtenberg

“All healthy men have thought of their own suicide.”
~ Albert Camus

“The only reason I don’t end it all is because I keep waiting for it to get better, to make friends, and be prettier.”
~ Unknown

“No one ever lacks a good reason for suicide.”
~ Cesare Pavese

“Nine men in ten are would-be suicides.”
~ Benjamin Franklin

War Quotes

“He who joyfully marches to music rank and file, has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would surely suffice. This disgrace to civilization should be done away with at once. Heroism at command, how violently I hate all this, how despicable and ignoble war is; I would rather be torn to shreds than be a part of so base an action. It is my conviction that killing under the cloak of war is nothing but an act of murder.”
~ Albert Einstein

“Patriots always talk of dying for their country and never of killing for their country.”
~ Bertrand Russell

“The direct use of force is such a poor solution to any problem, it is generally employed only by small children and large nations.”
~ David Friedman

“There is no instance of a nation benefitting from prolonged warfare.”
~ Sun Tzu

“There is nothing that war has ever achieved that we could not better achieve without it.”
~ Henry Ellis

“There was never a good war, or a bad peace.”
~ Benjamin Franklin

“War will exist until that distant day when the conscientious objector enjoys the same reputation and prestige that the warrior does today.”
~ John F. Kennedy

“What is the use of physicians like myself trying to help parents to bring up children healthy and happy, to have them killed in such numbers for a cause that is ignoble?”
~ Benjamin Spock

“You can no more win a war than you can win an earthquake.”
~ Jeannette Rankin

“Man has no right to kill his brother. It is no excuse that he does so in uniform: he only adds the infamy of servitude to the crime of murder.”
~ Percy Bysshe Shelley

“Mankind must put an end to war before war puts an end to mankind.”
~ John F. Kennedy

“It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets.”
~ Voltaire

“All wars are civil wars, because all men are brothers.”
~ Francois Fenelon

“An unjust peace is better than a just war.”
~ Marcus Tullius Cicero

“I’m fed up to the ears with old men dreaming up wars for young men to die in.”
~ George McGovern

“If it’s natural to kill, how come men have to go into training to learn how?”
~ Joan Baez

“If we don’t end war, war will end us.”
~ H. G. Wells

“In modern war… you will die like a dog for no good reason.”
~ Ernest Hemingway

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.”
~ Dwight D. Eisenhower

Sanctity of Life and Prolife Patriotism

Prolife PatriotismPatriotism is also a favorite theme in prolife campaigns, often portrayed by a national flag in the background, apparently in an attempt to attach a belief in the value of life with deeply-rooted patriotic feelings to further foster a greater sense of team spirit and loyalty to the cause. Just as with religious or political undertones, while this may galvanize a group with patriotic attachments, ultimately this dilutes and distracts from the pure and simple truth that life is sacred.

One who believes strongly in the sacredness of human life may not necessarily hold any great sense of country, regardless of their national origin.

Furthermore, it is the continued disconnected thinking of people—reinforced by the lines on a map—that helps us maintain the myopic view that this is a problem “in the United States” or a problem “in China” instead of recognizing the devaluation of life as a global human short-sightedness.

Sanctity of Life, God and Religion

Many times, a prolife stance may turn into a discussion about God and religion. Unfortunately, imagery and Christianity tends to remind those standing outside those religious paradigms of their separateness; the exact opposite effect of fostering and understanding of unity and connected thinking.

An atheist who rejects the belief that there is a Divine force that surrounds us and guides us may be put off by the use of religious imagery. In a recent news story, an atheist group filed a lawsuit in New York to remove the cross (a distinctly Christian symbol) from the Ground Zero memorial at the site of the World Trade Center.

Indeed, people on both sides of this issue may be missing the point. Those who put up the cross meant well and likely were not seeking to alienate anyone. Yet it is likely atheists have not been the only segment to notice the cross speaks to Christian loss and grieving—at exclusion by omission of all other faiths (or in the atheists’ case, non-faith.)

A peace-loving Muslim who may have suffered racial or religious rebuke by their non-Muslim neighbors as a result of the 9/11 attacks may notice a purely Christian monument at the center of Ground Zero and feel a pang of isolation. In that moment, that person may feel very much outside the American melting pot in which they are trying to belong.

Often in prolife circles, the sanctity of human life argument is placed squarely upon quotes from the Bible. Here are several of the more poignant biblical verses:

  • So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. ~ Genesis 1:27
  • You shall not murder. ~ Exodus 20:13
  • I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. ~ Deuteronomy 30:19b-20
  • Before I was born the Lord called me; from my birth he has made mention of my name. ~ Isaiah 49:1b
  • Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart. ~ Jeremiah 1:5a
  • For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. ~ Jeremiah 29:11
  • Your hands have made and fashioned me. ~ Psalm 119:73a
  • You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb. I praise you, so wonderfully you made me; wonderful are your works! My very self you knew; my bones were not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, fashioned as in the depths of the earth. Your eyes foresaw my actions; in your book all are written down; my days were shaped, before one came to be. ~ Psalm 139:13-16

It is my belief that the principle of the sanctity of life is separate from any religious backing. Regardless of which body of religious teachings you hold—whether built upon the Bible, the Qur’an, the Tanakh, or other religious works—I believe the idea of sanctity of life to be a separate issue. Your religion (really, your interpretation of your religion) may agree with a belief in the sanctity of life and if it does, great. However, I believe the sanctity of life to be a universal principle and this is different than being a religious mandate, subject to interpretation by a group of believers.

Sanctity of Life in the Prolife Movement

Popular in prolife circles, the term “sanctity of life” describes the belief that all human life is sacred, from the moment of conception (even science has proven this is the instant the spark of new life begins) leading until an individual’s natural death.

Unfortunately, there are often other messages that accompany and serve to dilute the prolife delivery of a sanctity of life message. Many times a prolife delivery of a sanctity of life message carries spiritual, political, religious or patriotic undercurrents through its choice of words and imagery. This is fine, so long as the one experiencing the message subscribes to those additional views. The inherent problem is the potential alienation of anyone who stands outside those secondary belief systems.

Introduction

The sanctity of life. It’s a term used to describe a deeply-held reverence for life, often used in regard to human life.

Regardless of a person’s health, age, socioeconomic status, race, creed, political alignment, religion, sex or nationality—regardless of any factors we use to separate ourselves from one another—when a deep inner reverence for human life can be achieved, the realization that all life has intrinsic value must inevitably follow. This manifesto seeks to:

  • Address the concept that all life—herein, human life—is sacred, worth honoring and worth protecting.
  • Analyze the way sanctity of life messages have traditionally been delivered.
  • Discuss and implement ways to expand the idea that all life is sacred until a global awakening is achieved.