Moral Imperative?

In the ongoing debate over abortion, some states have proposed codifying the protections of Roe V. Wade. Rhode Island being one.

The latest proposed measure, The Reproductive Health Care Act, failed in committee in the Senate. The bill mirrors the measure passed by the house (http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText19/HouseText19/H5127.pdf)

There were two arguments made against the bill that troubled me. One was from a Senator who opposed the bill because of the “Moral Imperative in the sanctity of life endowed by our Creator.” He said he understood he held a secular office, but this “Moral Imperative” guides his decisions. While he didn’t specify the Christian basis for his opposition, the implication was clear.

I would argue this, if one will invoke a “higher authority” imposing a moral imperative on operating government, is it too much to ask that we see actual evidence of the higher authority? Something other than quotes from ancient texts? Something other than faith, no matter how sincere?

If a legislature wishes to pass laws that meet the standard of moral imperative, shouldn’t we be able to test the validity of such a statute without having to resort to our imagination? Without having to imagine what such higher authority is. Without pushing incredulity to new heights.

I don’t think it too much to ask we keep crafting secular laws, operating a secular government, and secular enforcement of such laws, secular.

The second argument is even more ludicrous and disingenuous. Some Senators who opposed the current format of the legislation expressed concern the language of the legislation would mitigate other laws protecting unborn fetuses injured by criminal actions.

Under Rhode Island law, killing a pregnant woman can result in two counts of murder. Thus, one may argue, Rhode Island law already defines a fetus as a human. It does not, but that is not what strikes me as incongruous.

It is this trend to creating special classes of victims because being just a “plain ole” victim doesn’t seem enough to warrant protection under the law.

It reminds me of the TV show Law & Order Special Victims Unit.

The term “special victims” always struck me as odd, Now I understand the inherent abhorrence about sexual assaults and crimes against children, but the term “special” victims implies there are “not so special” victims.

Or “sort of” victims. Or “we’ll get to you when we have time” victims. Or “you deserved what you got” victims. I understand the perception we often ignored these “special” victims, but that doesn’t mean we solve it by ignoring others.

Perhaps the problem is not losing the option to charge someone with two counts of murder when the case involves a pregnant woman. Maybe the problem is the way we’ve created a special class of victims.  Wouldn’t it be enough if we considered all victims of crimes equal under the law?  Wouldn’t treating every victim the same accomplish the purpose?

If someone commits murder, why should it matter the condition of the victim? Why would we need to waste time and effort arguing that killing a pregnant woman somehow requires more severe punishment than an elderly woman, or a woman who is not pregnant, or a man? Why does the status of the victim determine the severity of the crime?

I do not see the difference between killing a woman and killing a pregnant woman. If killing the pregnant women is “worse” than the implication is killing a non-pregnant woman is not as bad. Now that is ludicrous.

Shouldn’t taking a human life—a living person—be enough to warrant the same penalty no matter who they are or what they are in life?

I can only hope rationality reasserts itself in this debate but, under the specter of the moral imperative and with disingenuousness raised to an art form, I have my doubts.

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