Voting My Conscience

She or he who votes influences every policy made during an administration. Never believe that you do not have a role as a private citizen. Each elected official and their political appointees are the direct result of your vote and they are most definitely influenced by the will of the people. This is all the more reason that it is essential to be well informed about how the government actually works. We should all know the powers each branch of government possesses, how laws and policies are made and then implemented, and the impact of bad policy originating from inadequate consideration of the consequences of actions.

As a practicing Catholic who finds peace at a Zen center, I vote. I always vote my conscience. I do not let absolutes rule how I vote nor do others decide for me.

Abortion – I believe we should strive to save all beings. Abortion isn’t the only way we harm beings or stopping abortion isn’t the only way to save them.

War – War harms beings. In generally I’m opposed to almost all war but would not deny people have a right to defend their countries and a responsibility to try and prevent genocide. It should be the last choice and not the first.

Right to life, liberty, and happiness – Does liberty matter if we are not safe, risk death in school or a movie theater, and, as a result, live life in fear and unhappiness? Fear can be derived from unaddressed terrorism, violence, crime, poverty, or even lack of access to health care, employment, or education.

Equality – Inequality harms beings. None of us are more or less deserving than another. Each of us is equally responsible for standing up for the oppressed and, to the extent possible, leveling the playing field.

Freedom – God endowed us with freedom of conscience and faith. We should endeavor to show equal value to all who choose to exercise that freedom. Sometimes it will make us less efficient and other times it may make us question the values of certain beliefs, but least it be my belief or your belief that is some day not valued let us value all beliefs and no beliefs. Let us also not work to impose those beliefs on others. They should come to them freely and in their own time or not at all.

People must decide for themselves how to weigh factors that are important to them. However, we should recognize that the factors are all connected. If the only issue that drives my voting choice is abortion and I don’t care about poverty, health care, education, and safety then am I pro-life? Likewise, if I’m a pacifist or strongly opposed to war and yet turn a blind eye to genocide or terrorism then what does it say about the value I place on life or peace?

What too many people fail to realize is that making policy isn’t like “Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education.” ― Franklin D. Rooseveltrunning a business. There is no profit to be made in government. Profit is easy to measure, whereas the impacts of policing or preschool programs is not. Whatever one does will result in some people being better off and others being worse off. The challenge is in finding the balance and learning how to hear those with little influence at the same volume as those with power and money. It takes humility to listen, determination to follow the evidence, patience to wait for and recognize the moment when public sentiment will make a policy feasible, and a skin thick enough to take the hostility from people who are willing to scream all manner of epithet and so frequently unwilling to serve or even learn about the government of this great country.

Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king. 1 Peter 2:17

What Does It Mean to Make a Moral Decision? Declining My 2nd Amendment Right

“Those that proclaim themselves to be the sole measure of realities and of truth cannot live peacefully in society with their fellow [wo]men and cooperate with them.” –Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church

Each of us, man and woman, young and old, of all races, nationalities, religions, and abilities, is meant to exercise stewardship over what God has given us. The exercise of good stewardship requires that we make sound moral decisions. I believe that declining the right to bear arms is a sound moral decision that each of us should make and then we must act. Like faith, moral decisions without works are dead, and we have enough death all around us. From the time I went to bed last night until I turned on the news this morning 5 more people had been shot in St. Louis; five more victims of gun violence.


I have never owned a firearm though I grew up around firearms of various kinds. Everything from a Derringer my mother carried in her purse to the gun my father brought home from WWII. There were guns in every room of the house and a reloading station in the basement. I knew how to use them all and how to load my own rounds. I learned to shoot a gun at a young age and then learned about guns in greater detail at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Academy. My father, who was a NRA member, never understood why I was opposed to guns. After the murder of my twin brother, we rarely discussed guns or my belief about the dangers they pose and the implicit responsibility we must accept for violence involving their use if we choose to own one or many.

I frequently wonder if we give enough thought to what it means to make a moral decision. I worry that we are so stuck in ideology and bound with fear that we cannot find the peace necessary for rational contemplation of the very serious issue of gun violence and violence in our culture. Whether one agrees with my stance or not I invite you to walk through the six-steps in considering the morality of gun ownership. Fill in your own blanks and take the time to contemplate what you learn.

Six-Steps in Considering the Morality of Gun Ownership

  1. Gather the information on injuries and deaths related to firearms.

People will give various reasons for wanting a gun. They list the least benign as a desire to kill Bambi or Thumper. Some genuinely claim a need to defend self or family. The only group I would consider paranoid is those that fear the government. Whatever the stated reason one must consider whether the purchase of the gun to achieve the end is morally right? Do the circumstances (living in a dangerous neighborhood, traveling alone in an unsafe neighborhood, going to school) affect the act? The more I deliberated the more I reflected on Matthew 5:21-26:

21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder,[a] and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca, is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

  1. I identified the ethical problem. The ethical dilemma was between the individual rights or good versus that of the community.

It is certainly true that guns are sometimes used for self-defense. This year there have been 922 times guns have been used for defensive purposes. Of course, that pales when compared to 40,387 gun incidents in the same time period. Is the fear one person has for his or her safety more important than the safety of those around who are by all evidence at greater risk due to the presence of the gun? We are one of the nations with the greatest number of guns per capita and we are one of the nations with the greatest gun violence. People can cite urban vs. rural, and this city or that, but in the end we are one nation.

  1. What approaches can I use to analyze the problem?

I first approached the problem from a veil of ignorance, which is to say if I were the person who was the least powerful and the most vulnerable what would I want? I concluded that while I wanted to live and be safe. For that to happen it would be best for no one to have a gun. I also wanted all those around me to live and be safe. The risk to others from a gun in the house was greater than the risk to others and me without one.

I then took another approach using an adaptation of the Crisis Conceptual Nursing Model, which is a mechanism I’ve used to assess disaster risk and planning within nursing. When considered within a framework it is easier to see that there are actions that can be taken, provided the public or individual has the will to do so, to keep oneself safer.

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  1. After gathering the information, determining the moral dilemma, and using a framework to logically examine the problem it was time to make a judgment to determine which means are best under the current circumstances.

There really are only a few practical alternatives: 1) accept the status quo, 2) actively advocate for a rational change in gun laws, and 3) decline the right to bear arms and encourage others to do the same. I do not see repealing the 2nd Amendment as a practical alternative and thus it is not included. The 2nd Amendment is too engrained in the culture, has too big of a lobby supporting it, and would not be supported by the majority.

  1. Act

Once I made the decision to decline the right to bear arms it was time to act. A moral decision occurs when the intellect and the will come together, but without action serves little purpose. First, I am acting for myself in pledging never to own a gun. I decline the right to bear arms. Second, like many other pledges people may take I will develop a pledge to share. Third, one day soon I hope to invite others to join me in taking action.

  1. Evaluate the process and outcomes

The final step is always to determine if the choice and the action was effective. Only time will tell.

I pledge that I will never own a firearm of any kind. My heart will be guided by love and there will be no door opened for fear. When that door of fear is cracked it lets in evil and blots out reason. Not just the reason that comes from a well-developed human conscience, but the reason imparted through faith. When fear enters evil works to darken our souls to the inherent value of all life. That evil convinces us that property is of such great value that we can ignore the commandment not to kill and choose things over people. Fear causes us to listen to evil telling us that there are good guys with guns and that no harm will come from this instrument of death. Arm yourself with reason and faith and there will be no need for a gun.

Do We Serve for Love of Country or Love of Money

Congress has proposed a budget that keeps retirement pay of military retirees at 1% less than the Cost of Living Adjustment until the military retiree reaches 62.  This will cost the average retiree between $200,000 and $ 600,000 in lost pay.  However, it isn’t just military retirees that are giving up pay or benefits.  The federal civilian personnel will pay 1.3% more into their retirement in one of the three tiers.  This may seem hard, but is it worse than the cut to food stamps or to unemployment?

I retired at 48 years old after 20 years of service.  I retired at 20 to allow for another full career as a teacher.  Part of the compensation package was lifetime medical insurance and 50% of my base pay for life. I make more in retirement pay than 50% of the households in the U.S. earn even without considering the medical benefits.  My retirement pay was more than the average professor at one university was paid. Since retiring I’ve worked for two universities as a nursing professor and in both cases my retirement medical insurance is better than what is offered by the university and doesn’t cost me $400 or more per month.  It was without question a consideration and did make it easier to follow my conscience and accept less from a faith-based university.

It sometimes amazes me the number of college professors that first served their country in uniform.  It seems as if that desire to serve, the need to be needed, does not go away after one takes off the uniform.  We are hired by all manner of colleges and universities, but are particularly attractive to small faith-based colleges and universities that can’t equal the compensation package of state universities.  Because we have a retirement pay and medical benefits we are generally willing to work for less and to follow our hearts and moral convictions rather than the money.  I owe the ability to work for less partially to my government retirement pay, but more because of the medical benefits.  I also owe it to the government that provided me a free PhD at the Uniformed Services University for the Health Sciences (USU) and arranged the classes so I could attend in the evening after work.

The policy decision that created a PhD in Nursing program at USU did consider that graduates would retire and then help address the faculty shortage by teaching.  Likewise, the decision to promote good pay and medical benefits was to encourage and support fully voluntary uniformed services in the U.S.  Since Vietnam not one person has been drafted.  This has not come without a cost to the taxpayer.  Yet, we must consider if the cost is worth the benefit.

Possible Consequences:

  • Fewer uniformed service retirees accept positions at colleges and universities resulting in their life experience being lost to students.
  • The money saved on salaries will be transferred to more unneeded planes, ships, and bombs and thus no actual cost savings.
  • A shift in the demographics in the uniformed services that is even less representative of the nation than the current military.
  • A less educated uniformed service because fewer are staying in for a full career.
  • Loss of institutional knowledge.

Possible Benefits:

  • A smaller uniformed service with fewer commitments to stay in for 20 year resulting in cost savings.
  • Service member leave younger with a commitment to continued work in public and community service and thus even more years to contribute.

I think we diminish what it means to serve one’s country when we complain about retirement pay that is more than 50% of people in the country earn working.  Granted all retirement pay is not equal. I know we made sacrifices.  I know that every move resulted in my husband giving up his job and starting over and earning less as a result.  I know we moved frequently enough that it was hard to buy homes without loosing money.  My concern is that when we make serving one’s country about money we risk attracting not the people who serve because they love their country, but people who see it as only a job and a good income. We risk attracting only those who want to get ahead and not those willing to risk displeasure for the good of the country.

When Congress votes on the current budget I hope they support the change to retirement pay, but I also think they need to add a provision to assess the impact it has on the number of retired officers and NCOs that choose to work for colleges, universities, and not-for-profit organizations.  If it found that it pushes these highly trained, efficient, and practical people away from these organizations and into the business world then I believe it will have a long-term negative impact on our social fabric and should be revised.

I loved getting up in the morning, putting on the uniform, and knowing that I worked for an organization that was bigger than me. I would have gladly taken the oath and given the country 20 years with fewer benefits because it wasn’t about the money.  It was about service to my country, caring for the poor and suffering, and being part of the mission to protect, promote, and advance the health and safety of the Nation.  I carried that commitment with me into my teaching and think it would be a huge loss if one of the adverse consequences were that fewer retired service members are willing teach after retirement.  One John Hopkins professor that came to work for us when I was still with the government said if he knew then (teaching) what he knows now (putting policy into action), he would have taught in a different way.   Likewise, what I have learned since I’ve been a college professor is that professors work harder than most people think and they do it for significantly less than the average officer.   More importantly, I’ve learned that we serve for the greater good and not for financial reward; and, in all we do we are teaching students the importance of service and leading by example.

Let us not be drawn into the greed demonstrated by those who do not understand service and do their job primarily for the financial reward.  I hope that most service members accept this spending bill with grace, knowing that we are and will still be well compensated for our service and have been given much by the taxpayers that fund our salaries and our retirement benefits.  We only need to look at those that are homeless, unemployed, disabled, or immigrants to remind us of how fortunate we are.  By our sacrifice there may be less sacrifice ask of those who have little.  We need to ask ourselves if we served for love of God and country or love of money.


Policy 101 – Never Propose an Alternative (Sequester) With Which You Can’t Live

I wonder if there is a single American that isn’t frustrated with the President and Congress over the sequester.  We need to reframe our approach to fiscal policy.  Specifically, we should seek just policy over mere charity, compassion and equity over profit and special interest, and human dignity over personal preference and convenience. The Sequester is a failure of Congress and the President to seek just policy, demonstrate compassion and equity, and show a preference for human dignity.  I should add, and to do their jobs.  I can’t help but wonder how it came to be that Congress and the President care more about winning than the country and their neighbors?  How is this leadership?

It is clear that the President proposed the sequester, but it is also clear he did it in order to avoid the debt ceiling crisis.  Likewise, Congress went along with it because they, like the President, believed no one was so self-centered and so lacking in judgment as to let it occur.  That was unwise on all parts.

Having spent many years focused on policy in the government and now teaching health policy to graduate students I have one hard and fast rule.  Rule #1 for policy alternatives, never put an option on the table with which one cannot live. Count on the fact that someone will think it is a good idea; even if it is only to eventually make a rival look bad. The sequester was a bad idea.  It was bad policy.  It has proven that one party will follow the other right over the cliff in order not to “tap out” and I use the term because it is mental image I have in my head of Congress and the President.

It will not be an easy task to get to a reasonable budget and it will require a lot more than political speeches.  A reasonable policy to address our current financial needs should have some key elements:

  1. Assess Needs:  A reasonable assessment of needs should be conducted and not a department wish list.
  2. Respect Spending:  Recognize that a million dollars is a lot of money and stop approaching it as if it is insignificant.  It has caused a mind set that makes cuts harder than they should be by only examining big-ticket items.  It results in many departments ignoring the “small” items.  They do add up and just because they can’t resolve the budget crisis alone does not mean that small wasteful spending should not be stopped.
  3. Stabilize Funding:  Broad policies are needed that address the stabilization of funds, debt limits, and operational mechanisms.  I recognize the government has such mechanisms, but they do not work.  When something isn’t working it is a good idea to take another path or hire people that know how to make it work.  A budget needs to be a multi-year appropriation.  It takes significant time and effort for every department to prepare a budget that then it is rarely passed in a timely fashion if at all.  For example, the President proposes a budget in his or her first year for 4 years.  If Congress does not pass a budget by the end of the first year the President’s budget is automatically accepted and will run through the first year of the next President’s term.  It would require clear priorities and nothing could be added without an emergency appropriation.   It would also mean that the budget would be a significant issue that would require some specificity in Presidential campaigns rather than vague sound bites.  Finally, any funding not used by the end of the fiscal would role over into the next year (or 75% would role over and 25% back to treasury).  This may stop or reduce the absolutely crazy end of year spending many agencies do so that it doesn’t appear the money appropriated wasn’t needed.  This would necessarily require a change in current laws.
  4. Evaluate Performance and Make Necessary Changes:  A mechanism to measure success, reward it, and eliminate what is shown to be ineffective is needed.  Keeping programs because they are pet projects, or have big lobbies, or even because it is a good photo op has to end.  All like programs should be combined.  There are many programs that exist for which there are virtually identically programs in other departments.  People in government are often unaware that another department is doing virtually the same work.  Least anyone wonder why this happens it is usually because Congress does it without recognizing what they are doing.
  5. Revise the Tax Code:  A fair and equitable tax code that is significantly simplified must be created.  This would require completely eliminating the current tax code, which is far too complex (we have more taxes and fees attached to specific items than you can imagine – imports, gas, alcohol, tobacco, etc).  There must be equality for the poor, the middle class, the rich the ridiculously rich, and businesses.  If corporations are people they should be treated and taxed like people.  Likewise, unearned income should not be taxed at a lower rate than earned income nor should inheritance be excluded.  I didn’t earn my parents money, they did.  When it comes to me it is unearned and to me it is income and should be taxed.  I should be able to tell you how much I paid in taxes, but I can only tell you my income tax.  I doubt the government even knows how many ways we are taxed.
  6. Apply Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs:  A consistent mechanism to assess whether the budget ensures the bottom two rungs of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs are meet should be implemented – after those needs are meet what is done is what the people are willing to pay for in taxes without incurring greater debt.
  7. Enhance Education:  A priority to ensure the most highly educated workforce in the world should be an automatic priority – good things will follow.  Maybe we can even acknowledge that testing doesn’t make us smarter, but it cost a lot of money.
  8. Public Input – Implement a mechanism to gather public input on budget priorities.  The people pay the taxes and there should be a mechanism for input.  At one time that was by our vote for our representatives at all levels.  This now only allows input of Republicans to Republicans and Democrats to Democrats, neither of which appear to listen.  A letter gets a form letter reply most likely from a twenty something staffer.  That is not input.  The electronic capabilities exist to post budgets, link supporting documents, and provide a period of feedback from the people that pay the taxes.  Ultimately, Congress passes the budget, but it will no longer be able to hide large pet projects.  All budgets should be publically available at all phases of the process, including drafts.
  9. Department Reviews:  Not all departments or agencies are currently relevant.  Let me give you a few expensive examples.  Do we need separate medical components for the Army, Navy, Air Force, U.S. Public Health Service, and Veterans Affairs?  Could we not have one component that serves them all and save all the administrative duplication?  Do we need the Department of Education?  Has our educational system improved as the department has grown or have we fallen further behind?  How many times has it been recommended that the SSBG be eliminated only to have Congress not eliminate it, but add even more money to it?  Does anyone really believe that the retirement age should not be 68 or 70?  Remember, what the life expectancy was when Medicare and Social Security was first instituted and adjust it accordingly.
  10. Human Dignity:  Each budget item should, at a minimum, not harm human dignity either within or outside the U.S.  The budget tells us much about our morality.  It tells us what we truly value.
Maslow's Hierachy of Needs

Maslow’s Hierachy of Needs

The sequester was a colossal lack of leadership by the President and lack of judgment by Congress.  The first to admit they made a mistake and undo it will earn my respect.  Those who cannot admit their errors do not deserve our respect or our votes.

Exempting the Department of Defense and not programs that feed the poor, house the homeless, and ensure education of the children is not acceptable.  As Congress and the President approaches the budget I hope they can keep in mind the Judgment of Nations.

 The Judgment of the Nations.* 31“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, 32and all the nations* will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. 34Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35h For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, 36naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ 37Then the righteous* will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’ 40i And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’ 41*  Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’ 44* Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’ 45He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’ 46And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

The Pope Resigned and I’m Still Thinking about Contraception Policy

I am a supporter of the Affordable Care Act as a move in the right direction.  I have never understood why health care is for profit, why it doesn’t appear to be treated as a human right in the U.S., or how anyone can proclaim to support human dignity and yet not be in favor of universal health care.  Health care adds to productivity and labor and has derived value.  If anything, I think the Affordable Care Act fell short on supporting human dignity.  Yet, the contraceptive mandate bothers me and I’ve been trying to figure out why.  It is not because I think the contraceptive mandate is an attack on religious freedom – I do not think that was the intent.  It is also not because I have a personal objection to helping pay for anyone’s “health care” or “preventative” services (though I fully believe the Church should be exempt).  I recognize my faith as mine and that others don’t share it.  I may hope and pray that others agree with me, but believe in conversion by persuasion and not force.  It isn’t even because it is against the teaching of the Catholic Church; though that clearly prompted my consideration of the issue.  The Catechism states:

  • 2399 The regulation of births represents one of the aspects of responsible fatherhood and motherhood. Legitimate intentions on the part of the spouses do not justify recourse to morally unacceptable means (for example, direct sterilization or contraception).
  • 2370 Periodic continence, that is, the methods of birth regulation based on self-observation and the use of infertile periods, is in conformity with the objective criteria of morality. These methods respect the bodies of the spouses, encourage tenderness between them, and favor the education of an authentic freedom. In contrast, “every action which, whether in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible” is intrinsically evil: Thus the innate language that expresses the total reciprocal self-giving of husband and wife is overlaid, through contraception, by an objectively contradictory language, namely, that of not giving oneself totally to the other. This leads not only to a positive refusal to be open to life but also to a falsification of the inner truth of conjugal love, which is called upon to give itself in personal totality. . . . The difference, both anthropological and moral, between contraception and recourse to the rhythm of the cycle . . . involves in the final analysis two irreconcilable concepts of the human person and of human sexuality.

Common forms of contraception

I have concerns about the long-term impact of the policy that makes all FDA approved forms of contraception and sterilization available without a copay.  It is unclear to me whether this covers natural family planning. I fully understand the positive benefits of contraception and its use in treatment of medical conditions.  I can understand why one would want to limit family size.  I even understand the various forms of non-hormonal birth control and the advances that have been made in their effectiveness.  My concern is about how the perception of “free” birth control will change our views on pregnancy and on women who become pregnant.  It is the unintended consequences that disturbs me. 

Human nature being what it is, I wonder if in ten years we will look at poor pregnant women with revulsion.  We already hear the snips like, “why is she having another baby?” We use terms like “welfare mom” and ask people who are poor and need assistance to be drug tested as if poverty is the result of immorality.  Will we be saying there is no excuse for being poor and pregnant now that everyone has access to contraception and sterilization at no cost?  Will it become an expectation that we take oral contraceptives rather than it being a choice?  The stigma of pregnancy may be in our future.  Supporting choice must mean not stigmatizing the choice to have a child. 

As this law moves forward it is going to be important to be vigilant.  For the contraceptive mandate to protect human dignity women must choose to take oral contraceptive because they are using them for family planning or for medical reasons, but not because they are too poor to have a family, fear not being able to feed or care for a child because of economic reasons, or feel they are not valued if they have children – in other words because they feel they have no choice.  The policy does pose the real risk that the use of oral contraceptives will become a social expectation and that those who do not use them will be viewed as irresponsible.  If this occurred it would violate the dignity of women.

At some point the manipulation of human nature must be examined further as policies make it easier for one generation to have power over the next.   We must ask if self-respect and self-worth are protected by the contraceptive mandate?  Does the mandate make women the mere object of action by the government and unintentionally pressure women to reduce the number of children or does it free women to control their bodies, economic prospects, and future?

Human Dignity in Public Policy

“Those that proclaim themselves to be the sole measure of realities and of truth cannot live peacefully in society with their fellow men and cooperate with them.”

Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church

It would seem obvious that human life is sacred and that there is inherent dignity in all humans.  However, a quick look at public policy, media, and even individual human actions reveals that it is not at all obvious that life is treated as sacred or that there is inherent dignity in all humans.  One only needs to ask what it means to respect life and a heated debate may ensue with all parties proclaiming to be the sole holder of truth.  Most such discussions never proceed beyond abortion, the death penalty, war, and guns.

When asked what is human dignity, a frequently provided answer is the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  No it was not a question about the Declaration of Independence.  Yet, it appears that the representatives that signed the declaration understood human dignity and its foundation in our creation in the likeness of God, in stating, “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.”

Why then is this not part of the intellectual reasoning process in making public policy?  And, why for our entire history have we failed to live up to these words in the Declaration of Independence?

On the anniversary of Row v. Wade, let us consider life.  Life is a right.  Unfortunately, it is a right that we appear not to value as a society and a right for which we too frequently fail to give meaningful thought.  Here are a few areas where there is significant disagreement, and where life is either not treated as a right, or the issue gets inadequate public policy attention.

  • Abortion
  • Contraception
  • Culture of violence in video games, movies, and music
  • Death penalty
  • Domestic violence
  • Drug, alcohol, and substance use
  • Health care & mental health care- inadequate
  • Homelessness
  • Genocide
  • Guns
  • Malnutrition
  • Obesity
  • Poverty
  • Sex trafficking
  • Terrorism
  • Torture
  • Violence (rape, hate crimes, child sex abuse, etc.)
  • War

All of these either prevent, end, shorten, or seriously impact life or the quality of life.  There is no public consensus on how to address any of them.  In fact, within the last year each resulted in someone trying to justify the action and/or imply that it was self-inflicted.

The next time someone ask you if you are pro-life be sure to consider whether life is sacred and whether it is the foundation of your moral vision of society.  We can only protect human dignity and have a healthy community if we protect human rights and fulfill our responsibilities to each other.  We cannot shrug off poverty because it will always exist and ignore our responsibility to the poor and claim to be pro-life.  We cannot justify rape because the vagina was not ripped to shreds and claim to be pro-life.  We cannot let our children be murdered or sexually assaulted (or cover up the same) and claim to be pro-life. We cannot turn a blind eye to sex-trafficking and claim to be pro-life.  We cannot fulfill our responsibility without first recognizing the value of sharing ideas, cooperating to advance policy that supports human dignity, and admitting that no one individual is the sole purveyor of truth.

On this anniversary of Roe v. Wade consider whether abortion is blinding us to all other aspects of life and human dignity and whether a sole focus on protecting the unborn has resulted in public policy that ignores the threats to life that are all around us.  Likewise, consider whether treating abortion as a bad decision made under difficult circumstances has impacted our approach to human dignity in other areas.  Advancing the cause of human dignity in public policy requires us to fulfill our responsibilities and that must begin by listening to other people and hearing those perspectives with an open mind.  Maybe we would be more successful if we became pro-human dignity.