Right to life
The right to life is a moral principle based on the belief that a human being has the right to live and, in particular, should not to be unjustly killed by another human being. The concept of a right to life is central to debates on the issues of euthanasia, capital punishment, abortion, self defense and the morality of war.
- In 1776, the United States Declaration of Independence declared that all men are endowed with certain inalienable rights, and that "among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness".
- In 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly declared in article three:
|“||Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.||”|
- In 1950, the European Convention on Human Rights was adopted by the Council of Europe, declaring a protected human right to life in Article 2. There are exceptions for lawful executions and self-defense, arresting a fleeing suspect, and suppressing riots and insurrections. Since then Protocol 6 of the Convention has called for nations to outlaw capital punishment except in time of war or national emergency, and at present this pertains in all countries of the Council. Protocol 13 provides for the total abolition of capital punishment, and has been implemented in most member countries of the Council.
- In 1966, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly.
|“||Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life.||”|
—Article 6.1 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
- In 1982, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms enshrined that
|“||Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.||”|
—Section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
- In 1989, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).
- The Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany holds the principle of human dignity paramount, even above the right to life.
- The Catholic Church has issued a Charter of the Rights of the Family in which it states that the right to life is directly implied by human dignity.
- Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, 1950, guarantees the right to life to all persons within the territory of India and states, "No person shall be deprived of his right to life and personal liberty except according to procedure established by law." Article 21, though couched in negative language, confers on every person the fundamental right to life and personal liberty which has become an inexhaustible source of many other rights.
The entitlement of a person to make the decision to end their own life through euthanasia is commonly called a right to choose, while the opposing side who oppose the legalization of euthanasia are commonly called right-to-lifers.
Abortion debate framing
The term "right to life" is a rhetorical device used in the abortion debate by those who wish to outlaw the intentional termination of a pregnancy. Pro-life advocates argue that prenatal humans are human persons from the moment of conception and have the same fundamental "right to life" before birth as humans have after birth. Generally speaking, those identifying themselves as "right-to-life" believe abortion is morally unacceptable.
The term "right to choose" is a rhetorical device used in the abortion debate by abortion-rights proponents. Abortion rights advocates argue that prenatal humans are not human persons and do not have the same fundamental "right to life" as a mature human. The distinction is that a human becomes a person and is given rights at some point after birth.
Generally speaking, those identifying themselves as "right-to-choose" are advocates for legal elective abortion. At the same time, some advocates for legalized abortion state that they simply do not know for sure where in pregnancy life begins; then-Senator Barack Obama took this view in the 2008 election. Some biologists however, have determined that the properties of life emerge at the cellular level. Other advocates have stated that they hold personal views against abortion but do not support putting those beliefs into law; then-Senator Joe Biden took this view in the 2008 election.
Ethics and right to life
Many utilitarian ethicists argue that the "right to life," where it exists, depends on conditions other than membership of the human species. The philosopher Peter Singer is a notable proponent of this argument. For Singer, the right to life is grounded in the ability to plan and anticipate one's future. This extends the concept to non-human animals, such as other apes, but since the unborn, infants and severely disabled people lack this, he states that abortion, painless infanticide and euthanasia can be "justified" (but are not obligatory) in certain special circumstances, for instance in the case of a disabled infant whose life would be one of suffering, or if its parents didn't wish to raise it and no one desired to adopt it.
- Abortion law
- Biocentrism (ethics)
- Consistent life ethic
- Culture of life
- Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen
- National Right to Life Committee
- Reproductive rights
- Right to die
- Sanctity of life
- Terri Schiavo
- Haleigh Poutre
- Baby K
- Pontifical Council for the Family. The Family and Human Rights Vatican website. Retrieved 2011-07-09.
- Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India AIR 1978 SC 597
- 1999, Jennifer M. Scherer, Rita James Simon, Euthanasia and the Right to Die: A Comparative View, Page 27
- 1998, Roswitha Fischer, Lexical Change in Present-day English, page 126
- Solomon, Martha. "The Rhetoric of Right to Life: Beyond the Court's Decision" Paper presented at the Southern Speech Communication Association (Atlanta, Georgia, April 4–7, 1978)
- Dinan, Stephen (August 17, 2008). "Obama, McCain air moral, ethical views". The Washington Times. Retrieved January 7, 2010. "Sen. Barack Obama Saturday said that defining when life begins is "above my pay grade"."
- Solomon, Eldra P.; Berg, Linda R.; Martin, Diana W. (2002), Biology (6th ed.), Brooks/Cole, ISBN 0-534-39175-3, LCCN 2001095366
- Phillips, Kate (September 7, 2008). "As a Matter of Faith, Biden Says Life Begins at Conception". The New York Times. Retrieved January 7, 2010. "Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic nominee for vice president, departed Sunday from party doctrine on abortion rights, declaring that as a Catholic, he believes life begins at conception. But the Delaware senator added that he would not impose his personal views on others, and had indeed voted against curtailing abortion rights and against criminalizing abortion."
- Singer, Peter. Practical ethics Cambridge University Press (1993), 2nd revised ed., ISBN 0-521-43971-X