Editor’s note. The following is excerpted from an amicus brief filed by the late Mother Teresa of Calcutta with the U.S. Supreme Court, Feb. 14, 1994. It makes for absolutely riveting reading.
“[N]o one in the world who prizes liberty and human rights can feel anything but a strong kinship with America. Yours is the one great nation in all of history that was founded on the precept of equal rights and respect for all humankind, for the poorest and weakest of us as well as the richest and strongest. As your Declaration of Independence put it, in words that have never lost their power to stir the heart: ‘We hold these truths to be self evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness …’ A nation founded on these principles holds a sacred trust: to stand as an example to the rest of the world, to climb ever higher in its practical realization of the ideals of human dignity, brotherhood, and mutual respect. It has been your constant efforts in fulfillment of that mission, far more than your size or your wealth or your military might, that have made America an inspiration to all mankind.
“It must be recognized that your model was never one of realized perfection, but of ceaseless aspiration. From the outset, for example, America denied the African slave his freedom and human dignity. But in time you righted that wrong, albeit at an incalculable cost in human suffering and loss of life. Your impetus has almost always been toward a fuller, more all-embracing conception and assurance of the rights that your founding fathers recognized as inherent and God-given. Yours has ever been an inclusive, not an exclusive, society. And your steps, though they may have paused or faltered now and then, have been pointed in the right direction and have trod the right path. The task has not always been an easy one, and each new generation has faced its own challenges and temptations. But, in a uniquely courageous and inspiring way, America has kept faith.
“Yet there has been one infinitely tragic and destructive departure from those American ideals in recent memory. It was [the U.S. Supreme] Court’s own decision in 1973 to exclude the unborn child from the human family [in Roe v. Wade]. You ruled that a mother, in consultation with her doctor, has broad discretion, guaranteed against infringement by the United States Constitution, to choose to destroy her unborn child. Your opinion stated that you did not need to ‘resolve the difficult question of when life begins.’ That question is inescapable. If the right to life is an inherent and inalienable right, it must surely obtain wherever human life exists. No one can deny that the unborn child is a distinct being, that it is human, and that it is alive. It is unjust, therefore, to deprive the unborn child of its fundamental right to life on the basis of its age, size, or condition of dependency. It was a sad infidelity to America’s highest ideals when this Court said it did not matter, or could not be determined, when the inalienable right to life began for a child in its mother’s womb.
“America needs no words from me to see how your decision in Roe v. Wade has deformed a great nation. The so-called right to abortion has pitted mothers against their children and women against men. It has sown violence and discord at the heart of the most intimate human relationships. It has aggravated the derogation of the father’s role in an increasingly fatherless society. It has portrayed the greatest of gifts—a child—as a competitor, an intrusion, and an inconvenience. It has nominally accorded mothers unfettered dominion over the independent lives of their physically dependent sons and daughters. And, in granting this unconscionable power, it has exposed many women to unjust and selfish demands from their husbands or other sexual partners.
“Human rights are not a privilege conferred by government. They are every human being’s entitlement by virtue of his humanity. The right to life does not depend, and must not be declared to be contingent, on the pleasure of anyone else, not even a parent or a sovereign. … You must weep that your own government, at present, seems blind to this truth.
“I have no new teaching for America. I seek only to recall you to faithfulness to what you once taught the world. Your nation was founded on the proposition—very old as a moral precept, but startling and innovative as a political insight—that human life is a gift of immeasurable worth, and that it deserves, always and everywhere, to be treated with the utmost dignity and respect.”
Please send your comments to email@example.com.