John Whitehead’s Commentary
“Abortion on demand is the ultimate State tyranny; the State simply declares that certain classes of human beings are not persons, and therefore not entitled to the protection of the law. The State protects the ‘right’ of some people to kill others, just as the courts protected the ‘property rights’ of slave masters in their slaves.”—Ron Paul
The government wants to play god.
It wants the power to decide who lives or dies and whose rights are worthy of protection.
Delve beneath the rhetoric and spin that have turned abortion into a politicized, polarized and propagandized frontline in the culture wars, and you will find a greater menace at work.
Abortion may be front and center in the power struggle between the Left and the Right over who has the right to decide—the government or the individual—when it comes to bodily autonomy, the right to privacy, sexual freedom, the rights of the unborn, and property interests in one’s body, but there’s so much more going on here.
The Left would suggest that unborn babies do not have constitutional rights and the only right that matters is a woman’s right to privacy in choosing whether or not to abort a pregnancy. The Right, while fixated on saving the lives of unborn babies, seems less concerned about what happens to those lives from birth to death.
What few seem willing to address is that in the 30 years since the U.S. Supreme Court issued its landmark ruling in Roe v. Wade, the government has come to believe that it not only has the power to determine who is deserving of constitutional rights in the eyes of the law but it also has the authority to deny those rights to an American citizen.
This is how the abortion debate—a politicized tug-of-war over when an unborn child is considered a human being with rights—plays into the police state’s hands by laying the groundwork for discussions about who else may or may not be deserving of rights.
Even if (as a leaked draft opinion in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization suggests) the Supreme Court overturns its earlier rulings recognizing abortion as a constitutional right under the Fourteenth Amendment, that will not resolve the larger problem that plagues us today: namely, that all along the spectrum of life—from the unborn child to the aged—the government continues to play fast and loose with the lives of the citizenry.
Take a good, hard look at the many ways in which Americans are being denied their rights under the Constitution.
American families who have their dogs shot, their homes trashed and their children terrorized or, worse, killed by errant SWAT team raids in the middle of the night are being denied their rights under the Constitution.
Disabled individuals who are being strip searched, handcuffed, arrested and “diagnosed” by police as dangerous or mentally unstable merely because they stutter and walk unevenly are being denied their rights under the Constitution.
School-aged children as young as 4-years-old who are leg shackled, handcuffed and strip searched for violating school zero tolerance policies by chewing a Pop Tart into the shape of a gun and playing an imaginary game of cops and robbers, or engaging in childish behavior such as crying or jumping are being denied their rights under the Constitution.
Unarmed citizens who are tasered or shot by police for daring to hesitate, stutter, move a muscle, flee or disagree in any way with a police order are being denied their rights under the Constitution.
Likewise, Americans—young and old alike—who are shot by police because they pointed a garden hose at a police officer, reached for their registration in their glove box, relied upon a cane to steady themselves, or were seen playing with air rifles or BB guns are being denied their rights under the Constitution.
Female motorists who are unlucky enough to be pulled over for a questionable traffic infraction only to be subjected by police to cavity searches by the side of the road are being denied their rights under the Constitution.
Male pedestrians and motorists alike who are being subjected to roadside strip searches and rectal probes by police based largely on the color of their skin are being denied their rights under the Constitution.
American citizens subjected to government surveillance whereby their phone calls are being listened in on, their mail and text messages read, their movements tracked and their transactions monitored are being denied their rights under the Constitution.
Homeowners who are being fined and arrested for raising chickens in their backyard, allowing the grass in their front yards to grow too long, and holding Bible studies in their homes are being denied their rights under the Constitution.
Decorated military veterans who are being arrested for criticizing the government on social media such as Facebook are being denied their rights under the Constitution.
Homeless individuals who are being harassed, arrested and run out of towns by laws that criminalize homelessness are being denied their rights under the Constitution.
Individuals whose DNA has been forcibly collected and entered into federal and state law enforcement databases whether or not they have been convicted of any crime are being denied their rights under the Constitution.
Drivers whose license plates are being scanned, uploaded to a police database and used to map their movements, whether or not they are suspected of any crime, are being denied their rights under the Constitution. The same goes for drivers who are being ticketed for running afoul of red light cameras without any real opportunity to defend themselves against such a charge are being denied their rights under the Constitution.
Protesters and activists who are being labeled domestic terrorists and extremists and accused of hate crimes for speaking freely are being denied their rights under the Constitution. Likewise, American citizens who being targeted for assassination by drone strikes abroad without having been charged, tried and convicted of treason are being denied their rights under the Constitution.
Hard-working Americans whose bank accounts, homes, cars electronics and cash are seized by police (operating according to asset forfeiture schemes that provide profit incentives for highway robbery) are being denied their rights under the Constitution.
So, what is the common denominator here?
These are all American citizens—endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, rights that no person or government can take away from them, among these the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness—and they are all being oppressed in one way or another by a government that has grown drunk on power, money and its own authority.
If the government—be it the President, Congress, the courts or any federal, state or local agent or agency—can decide that any person has no rights, then that person becomes less than a citizen, less than human, less than deserving of respect, dignity, civility and bodily integrity. He or she becomes an “it,” a faceless number that can be tallied and tracked, a quantifiable mass of cells that can be discarded without conscience, an expendable cost that can be written off without a second thought, or an animal that can be bought, sold, branded, chained, caged, bred, neutered and euthanized at will.
It’s a slippery slope that justifies all manner of violations in the name of national security, the interest of the state and the so-called greater good.
Yet those who founded this country believed that what we conceive of as our rights were given to us by God—we are created equal, according to the nation’s founding document, the Declaration of Independence—and that government cannot create, nor can it extinguish our God-given rights. To do so would be to anoint the government with god-like powers and elevate it above the citizenry.
Unfortunately, we have been dancing with this particular devil for quite some time now.
If we continue to wait for the government to restore our freedoms, respect our rights, rein in its abuses and restrain its agents from riding roughshod over our lives, our liberty and our happiness, then we will be waiting forever.
Already, the politicos are beating the war drums to herald the next phase of the abortion wars.
President Biden wants voters to elect more pro-abortion rights officials to ensure that “a woman’s right to choose is fundamental.” The Senate plans to vote to codify the right to an abortion into federal law. Chief Justice John G. Roberts is opening an investigation into how the Supreme Court’s draft abortion ruling was leaked. And polling indicates that the majority of the American people want abortion to remain legal.
Like clockwork, we find ourselves smack dab in the middle of yet another political circus that could get scary, ugly and overwhelming really fast.
Before you get too distracted by this conveniently timed diversion that has everyone forgetting about spiking gas prices, inflation, housing shortages, and warring empires, remind yourself that no matter how the Supreme Court rules in Dobbs, it will not resolve the problem of a culture that values life based on a sliding scale. Nor will it help us navigate the moral, ethical and scientific minefields that await us as technology and humanity move ever closer to a point of singularity.
Humanity is being propelled at warp speed into a whole new frontier when it comes to privacy, bodily autonomy, and what it means to be a human being. As such, we haven’t even begun to wrap our heads around how present-day legal debates over bodily autonomy, privacy, vaccine mandates, the death penalty, and abortion play into future discussions about singularity, artificial intelligence, cloning, and the privacy rights of the individual in the face of increasingly invasive, intrusive and unavoidable government technologies.
Yet here is what I know.
Life is an inalienable right.
By allowing the government to decide who or what is deserving of rights, it shifts the entire discussion from one in which we are “endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights” (that of life, liberty property and the pursuit of happiness) to one in which only those favored by the government get to enjoy such rights.
If all people are created equal, then all lives should be equally worthy of protection.
There’s an idea embraced by both the Right and the Left according to their biases that there is a hierarchy to life, with some lives worthier of protection than others, but there is no hierarchy of freedoms.
All freedoms hang together.
As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People and in its fictional counterpart The Erik Blair Diaries, we must never stop working to protect life, preserve our freedoms and maintain some semblance of our humanity.
Freedom cannot be a piece-meal venture.
ABOUT JOHN W. WHITEHEAD
Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president The Rutherford Institute. His books Battlefield America: The War on the American People and A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State are available at www.amazon.com. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Nisha Whitehead is the Executive Director of The Rutherford Institute. Information about The Rutherford Institute is available at www.rutherford.org.