Over the last few weeks, many states have passed legislation aimed at stopping abortion. Most recently and surprisingly, Louisiana Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards signed a bill banning abortions throughout the state once a fetal heartbeat can be detected. These heartbeat bills have now been passed in many states across the union, bringing light to the fact that life is sacred and must be protected from its earliest stages onward.
The pro-life movement is winning, which has been a major political goal of the conservative movement since the atrocious U.S. Supreme Court decisions of Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey.
Yet, some “conservatives” still maintain that banning or even limiting abortion necessarily means opposing liberty.
This is a self-evidently ludicrous position. The entire idea of liberty is that it ends when someone else’s rights begin. If we were to, hypothetically, break down the notion that limiting something is always contrary to liberty, we wouldn’t have any laws at all. We wouldn’t have to have a government. And even if we, as conservatives, believe in a smaller, limited government, we still believe in the idea of having a government.
The government, however small it’s supposed to be, does have a purpose. It is meant to protect the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, as promulgated in the Declaration of Independence. Our Constitution has a durable structure and an accompanying Bill of Rights, which our government is meant to protect.
This is why we have murder laws, for example. If we were to take the false idea of all-out “liberty” to its logical conclusion, people could murder each other with no consequences, since the government would have no role in legislating action.
Of course, this example of murder may seem extreme. But why? If a government doesn’t have a role in protecting the right to life, what stops this logical conclusion of absolute “liberty” from following, as a result.
We have a federal government for a reason. As James Madison famously wrote in The Federalist No. 51:
If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.
Notice the pairing of the notions that the government needs to control BOTH the governed and itself. Hence, the idea that government should have no place in the life of the governed is not just wrong — it is antithetical to the very foundation of the republic.
However, the fact that the government must control itself is also of the utmost importance. This is why the Constitution is structured the way it is, with separation of powers and checks and balances, and also includes the Bill of Rights —rights to be protected and never to be trampled over, even in the name of “liberty.”
This is also why our Declaration of Independence lays out the unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. These are rights endowed by our Creator, which means no mortal can give or take them away. But notice that “life” is the first right listed by Jefferson. Without life, the notions of liberty and the pursuit of happiness are meaningless. Nothing else matters without life.
And that right to life is endowed to every person — even the unborn one, who is inarguably the most helpless, defenseless person on earth.
Without understanding what the right to life stands for, one cannot possibly understand what America, as founded, stands for.
Follow Jeremy Frankel on Twitter at @frankeljeremy.