The right to life movement has always understood itself to be a human rights movement. Above all it advocates the right to life for those who cannot represent themselves. While at the beginning it only had to do with the unborn, societal and medical developments in the meantime have brought along additional spheres: the aged, the sick, and the handicapped as well as test tube embryos.

Nowadays the unborn individual is in a sense not a person who is received, but rather, and contrary to all logic, not a person until he or she is received – an unwanted child does not have a right to life.

Human rights means, however, that a person is endowed with dignity before encountering any other person or institution such as the family or the state. Every other person, and a fortiori the state, finds us imbued with dignity. No one creates it by the power of his or her office.

The prohibition against killing the innocent belongs to the essence of a constitutional state. All opponents of the death penalty in fact expect from the state that they will not even kill anyone who is guilty. But the most innocent and the most helpless, those who are in a mother’s womb, are left without any government protection when those who should actually protect them more than everyone else, the mother, father, and physician, determine their death.

At present there is one national or European anti-discrimination measure and guideline chasing the other. However, the fact that the unborn are discriminated against, or additionally the handicapped or unloved, or even worse, those because of their gender, does not concern those who say that protection against discrimination so far does not go far enough.

Every unborn child is, from the moment it is conceived, a person who has a claim on the same human rights as every member of the human community. His or her life is to be protected unconditionally, and to kill that individual is unthinkable.

As are all human rights, the human rights of embryos are also independent of others’ consciences, for instance the consciences of mothers or physicians.

Cases where an individual can still be legally killed include the situation where it is done to prevent that individual from killing (e.g., self-defense, the self-defense of the state) – something that is excluded with respect to the unborn.  Another case where an individual can be legally killed is in a grave situation where there is a collision of obligations, one in which life is pitted against life (e.g., just war, self-sacrifice for another individual), but never, however, in order to defend a lesser value.


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