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Defending life from the moment of conception

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Abortion and Slavery - Part III

Posted by Matthew McCusker on 28 February 2012

Law exists in order to promote the common good.

Just laws ensure the order, freedom and security necessary for individuals to pursue authentic goods for themselves and for the society in which they belong.

Therefore it is clearly necessary for men and women to obey the law and, to some extent, to conform their own actions to those laws made by legitimate authority. Throughout the western world there are societies, such as our own, that have long enjoyed the blessings of the rule of law, and consequently most people respect the law and place a high value on obeying it.

This attitude towards the law, while on the whole good and necessary, can unfortunately be harmful when individuals fail to recognise that human laws, being the creation of man, have no sure guarantee of being in conformity to the natural moral law. This is especially the case with laws that are introduced at the behest of an organised minority to further an ideologically motivated agenda, rather than being based on the surer ground of precedent and custom.

Unfortunately most people, brought up to regard obeying the law as a one of the most important social virtues, often find it difficult to conceive that political, social, intellectual and economic elites could have collectively committed themselves to enshrining a grave moral evil in law.

This is seen most tragically in the case of those who, while having no personal inclination to support or promote abortion, allow their consciences to be lulled, and their response to be muted, by its legality. 

What should we say to those who act as if that which is legal is always right? Or those who presume that what is sanctioned by the highest authority in a supposedly civilised nation cannot also be a grave abuse of human dignity? For convincing evidence we need look no further than the degrading treatment of those of African descent in the United States. No less a document than the Constitution of the United States was held to have enshrined slavery in law.

That same document was interpreted by the Supreme Court as denying citizenship to those of African race. These federal acts were replicated by state laws across the Union. Laws of segregation persisted until the 1960s. The legality of slavery was regarded as beyond argument; the legal arguments were accepted as watertight; the right to own slaves was far more deeply enshrined than the alleged right to abortion; yet was it not wrong nonetheless?

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