A Duty To Protect Human Life and the One-Flesh Union
Discernment, a fundamental virtue, is the ability to distinguish ‘good’ from evil. This faculty is critical for managing the daily demands that influence the behavior of individuals, organizations and communities. The ability to discern shapes our perspectives about human life, marriage and children.
Good begins with an acceptance that others exist and have an equal right to do so. Evil, alternatively, elevates self above all, and excludes concern for others.
Human survival and the propagation of life require man and woman, as natural partners, to protect common values and concerns in order to thrive. This partnership safeguards life in powerful ways. Research on human ecology shows that children born to married couples have substantive, physical, emotional and developmental advantages that begin at conception and continue to accrue the longer parents remain married and committed to each other.
Consider the phenomenon of procured abortion, which (excluding miscarriages) leads to the termination of 25% of all pregnancies. Unmarried women account for 83% of all abortions, which is five times more than married women (17%). Never-married women opt for 67% of abortions, four times the figure for married women.
Women cite social reasons for ending their pregnancies, such as not wanting to have a child or the inconvenience of pregnancy, in 93% of terminations. While potential medical issues for either mother or child may explain up to 6% of abortions with rape accounting for less than 1%, in truth and practice these concerns do not account for the abortion frenzy.
Marital commitment provides a mighty inducement for couples to overcome the problems that prompt single women to abort their unborn children. Marriage is the most effective, most pro-life, safeguard for both born and unborn children—marriage and the intact biological family serve as a natural child protection agency.
In every category of social pathology, from child abuse and domestic violence to school failures and mental illness, marriage offers children and spouses the safest and healthiest environment to thrive. Marriage is pro-life and benefits all family members, including the elderly, developmentally impaired, disabled, and vulnerable.
The integrity and unity of family, and consideration for the inherent dignity of each man, woman and child, means there’s an inherent impetus and responsibility to protect. Acceptance of this responsibility requires an ability to discern, a capacity society must value, cultivate and nurture or face the likely result: social, moral and physical decline of the community. Fidelity to spouse and family promotes and reinforces this capacity to discern. This is one of the many fruits marriage bestows upon societies and nations.
Both Abrahamic and Asian faiths view the life-giving partnership of man and woman as sacred covenant. Roman Catholics claim that the assertion of their founder, Jesus Christ: “What God has joined together, no human must separate,” means marriage must be a life-long commitment.
Case law, state policy, and faith-based institutions all agree that marriage is far more than a contract. The U.S. Supreme Court views marriage as a noble and sacred institution that is protected by the first, fourth, fifth, ninth and fourteenth amendments. Indeed, the Supreme Court deems marriage as a fundamental liberty interest, entitled to the protections of due process as stated in the Loving v. Virginia opinion:
Marriage is one of the basic civil rights of man, fundamental to our very existence and survival…[and is a] fundamental freedom.
Every state government and each of its citizens have a duty to defend their offspring as well as the sanctity of the one-flesh union against civil rights violations. Karol Josef Wojtyla (Pope John Paul II) elaborated this point quite eloquently, “No State has the right to contradict moral values which are rooted in the nature of man himself. These values are the precious heritage of civilization. If society begins to deny the worth of any individual or to subordinate the human person to pragmatic or utilitarian considerations, it begins to destroy the defenses that safeguard its own fundamental values.”
In an address to the United Nations in April of 2008, Pope Benedict XVI observed that a society’s respect for these human and basic civil rights and the guarantees that issue from them, “are measures of the common good.” They serve to quantify the relationship between justice and injustice, between security and instability, fidelity and infidelity—good and evil!
Despite an elaborate body of law that upholds the intrinsic value of life and the one-flesh union, and despite our tradition of liberty and respect for the rule of law, our government has sanctioned 43 million marriage terminations—affecting nearly 130 million spouses and children—and 49 million terminations of unborn children since the early 1970’s when Roe v. Wade together with unilateral ‘divorce-on-demand’ established our nation as the culture of death.
Basic human rights must always include the right to life and the right to preserve and protect marriage, children, and religious freedoms. A citizen should not have to deny God in order to enjoy one’s rights nor should any citizen be forced to make such a choice between faithfulness to God and denial of these fundamental rights. Where there are clear violations of the order of creation and forced severance of the one-flesh union, we have failed in our responsibility to protect.
Marriage is the most powerful, pro-life institution known to mankind. Those who choose fidelity with the values of the founding fathers, and of the faith traditions that uphold marriage and life, should consider how to establish the culture of life, to protect the lives of unborn babies and of the elderly, disabled and vulnerable citizens, and to preserve basic civil liberties. By investing in efforts to restore the safeguards of marriage we can help fulfill our responsibility to protect the other and make the greatest, most effective contribution to re-establish the culture of life.
(Statistics cited in this article come from the Guttmacher Institute.)
Dr. Kathy Garcia Lawson is a clinical psychologist and a consultant on preserving the integrity of marriage and family; she serves on the Executive Board of Defending Our Father’s House.
Dr. Michael T. Ross, an emergency physician, is President of Defending Our Father’s House, a national organization whose mission is to safeguard the legal and institutional integrity of marriage and family. His email address is [email protected].