Ronald Reagan: “As a nation, we must choose between the sanctity of life ethic and the ‘quality of life’ ethic”

By Dave Andrusko

Editor’s note. My family is on vacation. While we are gone I’ll be running articles from the past 12 months that you’ve indicated you particularly enjoyed. Dave

Last Friday, in anticipation of the commemoration of the 100th birthday of pro-life President Ronald Regan, I wrote a well-received piece about the Gipper’s enormous contributions to the defense of innocent life—the unborn baby, the newborn who came into this world with disabilities, and the medically dependent elderly [www.nrlc.org/News_and_Views/Feb11/nv020411.html].

I quoted from his book, “Abortion and the Conscience of a Nation,” the first book ever penned by a President while he was still in office. Today, a day after that 100th birthday celebration, I thought you would very much enjoy this additional excerpt from the book.

The 1981 Senate hearings on the beginning of human life brought out the basic issue more clearly than ever before. The many medical and scientific witnesses who testified disagreed on many things, but not on the scientific evidence that the unborn child is alive, is a distinct individual, or is a member of the human species.

They did disagree over the value question, whether to give value to a human life at its early and most vulnerable stages of existence.

Regrettably, we live at a time when some persons do not value all human life. They want to pick and choose which individuals have value. Some have said that only those individuals with “consciousness of self” are human beings. One such writer has followed this deadly logic and concluded that “shocking as it may seem, a newly born infant is not a human being.”

A Nobel Prize winning scientist has suggested that if a handicapped child “were not declared fully human until three days after birth, then all parents could be allowed the choice.” In other words, “quality control” to see if newly born human beings are up to snuff.

Obviously, some influential people want to deny that every human life has intrinsic, sacred worth. They insist that a member of the human race must have certain qualities before they accord him or her status as a “human being.”

Events have borne out the editorial in a California medical journal which explained three years before Roe v.Wade that the social acceptance of abortion is a “defiance of the long-held Western ethic of intrinsic and equal value for every human life regardless of its stage, condition, or status.”

Every legislator, every doctor, and every citizen needs to recognize that the real issue is whether to affirm and protect the sanctity of all human life, or to embrace a social ethic where some human lives are valued and others are not. As a nation, we must choose between the sanctity of life ethic and the “quality of life” ethic.

I have no trouble identifying the answer our nation has always given to this basic question, and the answer that I hope and pray it will give in the future. American was founded by men and women who shared a vision of the value of each and every individual. They stated this vision clearly from the very start in the Declaration of Independence, using words that every schoolboy and schoolgirl can recite:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

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