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Every Life is Precious?

My recent post, Dear Pro-Life Friends, Can We Talk?  generated a fair amount of engagement. With 64% of the country opposing the overturn of Roe, I anticipated some support, but I’m not naive enough to think that it wouldn’t be met with strong reactions from the other side.  I won’t lie… it was difficult to put out there.

We are fortunate that we live in America (and not Russia) and our opinions in speech and writing are still protected by the First Amendment.

I received a few hateful messages, but for the most part, even those who opposed my viewpoints were respectful in expressing their views.  For that I’m grateful and optimistic that we might actually make it through this messy, polarized, complicated space we’re in.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the comments that “in God’s eyes, all life is precious” and how “quality of life” fits into that position.  Some say this isn’t about religion, but… c’mon…God is at the center of the argument. My position is that this isn’t a theological issue – it’s a human issue.  The truth is, we have done an absolutely terrible job – especially in states poised to ban abortion – of taking care of children outside the womb. In my previous article, I shared a wealth of verifiable information about everything from health care to education to child poverty demonstrating that we simply do NOT treat all life as “precious gifts from God” once they are born.

Beyond taking rights away from women and girls who’ve been victims of rape or incest, the discussion veered to pick apart the construct of “quality of life” with specific examples of devaluing the life of a child with Downs Syndrome or mental impairments or physical disabilities. I want to address that point very specifically. I believe that all humans deserve fundamental human rights.  I cannot imagine the pain of that decision… that your child will face a lifetime of excruciating challenges, that the child may not survive, or that your own life is in danger if you proceed with the pregnancy. Those women who have other children must certainly be agonizing over them if they die giving birth. (For example, Mississippi will be one of the states forcing women to give birth — their rate of maternal mortality of 22.1 per 100,000 live births is well above the national average of 17.47.)

No doubt we align on that point because I recognize that, at its core, the pro-life movement is about the value and equality of all human beings: babies, mothers, the elderly… children in schools, grandmas in grocery stores, people in church.

Where we do not align is that  I do not assume to have the moral superiority to make that difficult personal decision for another human being.

While I hear a lot of outrage from pro-life folks for unborn lives, where’s the outrage for the 21 lives lost in an elementary school in Uvalde, TX?

Where is the outrage for the 10 people who were gunned down in a grocery store in Buffalo, NY a few weeks ago?

Where is the outrage for the 17 people killed at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL?

Where is the outrage for the massacre of 20 children and 6 adults in an elementary school in Newtown, CT?

Where is the outrage for the 11 people who were executed when they went to the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA for Sabbath services one Saturday morning?

The list goes on.  The United States of America has the most guns (1.2 guns per person), and the most mass shootings in the world, and guns have become the leading cause of death for American kids. Firearms killed more children and adolescents in 2020 than car accidents, which had long been the leading cause of death for youth from infancy to age 18.

I know what you’re probably thinking… gun rights are different from women’s reproductive rights.  Gun rights are protected by the Constitution.  Yes, I know. The Second Amendment protects the rights of a person in Texas to walk into a gun store days after he turned 18 and purchase 2 military-style weapons and enough ammunition for a day at war before shooting up a school full of little kids.

I am not suggesting that we revoke anyone’s Second Amendment rights.

But if this discussion truly is about the sanctity of human life – if all human life is “precious in God’s eyes” – I’m curious what the pro-life folks are doing to save lives from gun violence.  The pro-life movement is about the value of life –  no matter the circumstance – so those folks must be vociferously trying to ensure gun safety, amping up background checks, and maybe even raising the legal age to purchase an assault rifle… right?

Um… no. The same people who are staunch protectors of the unborn are even more resolute in their protection of guns.

It’s hard to believe that gun rights are more important than human rights. But when you compare the vehement opposition to “killing unborn babies” with the “thoughts and prayers” for dead second graders, the “value and equality of all human life” talking point is, at best hypocrisy, in reality, a lie.

The toll of violence, especially on children, has grown.   The CDC reported that the rate of gun deaths for children ages 14 and younger rose by 50% from the end of 2019 to 2020.  Mass shootings have become so common in our country that only the most horrific make it to national headlines.

My previous article was intentionally factual. Those who oppose my perspective didn’t address many of those facts as to how we might do a better job taking care of human life. Here. Now. In our schools. In our churches and synagogues. In our grocery stores and movie theaters.

Those who oppose my perspective argue beliefs based upon their faith.  I respect their right to make choices for them based upon their beliefs and their faith. Where I feel compelled to speak up (again, thank whatever God you pray to for the First Amendment) is when they feel justified to impose those values and beliefs on me. And if I don’t subscribe? I’m a “baby killer.”

There are many reasons why a woman may be faced with the difficult decision of terminating a pregnancy.  I believe that decision belongs to her. There is only one reason that a person would take an assault weapon into a school or church or grocery store.  The same people fighting to strip a woman of her own reproductive rights are also fighting to protect the rights of the next person who decides to buy an assault rifle to kill people.

Forgive me… I don’t see the same level of protection of “God’s gifts.”

Life is sacred? Respectfully, until I see gun “rights” scrutinized at the same level as women’s reproductive “rights,” that whole sanctity of life bit is pretty hollow.

Melissa Hughes, Ph.D.
Melissa Hughes, Ph.D.https://www.melissahughes.rocks/
Dr. Melissa Hughes is a neuroscience geek, keynote speaker, and author. Her latest book, Happier Hour with Einstein: Another Round explores fascinating research about how the brain works and how to make it work better for greater happiness, well-being, and success. Having worked with learners from the classroom to the boardroom, she incorporates brain-based research, humor, and practical strategies to illuminate the powerful forces that influence how we think, learn, communicate and collaborate. Through a practical application of neuroscience in our everyday lives, Melissa shares productive ways to harness the skills, innovation and creativity within each of us in order to contribute the intellectual capital that empowers organizations to succeed with social, financial and cultural health.

8 COMMENTS

  1. I comment on this article for many reasons, but the one comment I will make comes from personal experience not only on the streets of LA as a cop but as a protective parent while my daughter at a young age, along with myself could have been a victim. 90% of the suspects apprehended and arrested while working the streets that were in possession of hand guns, and rifles, achieved possession illegally, some through the black market. More than half of the crimes committed with weapons were with knives and sharp weapons which did not make a sound. The young man who committed the unthinkable in Uvalde Texas was most certainly mentally and emotionally broken, angry and possessed with evil that took the lives of innocent children and two teachers. The question is, where did the money come from to purchase what he did both in assault rifles and ammo, along with a bullet proof armored vest that had to be over 1,000 dollars. In Chicago alone, the guns used to kill so many children over the last decade were either stolen, bought on the black market, or purchased illegally, but (Not Legally) and I would venture to say the same for the above. The question was asked; where is the out rage of what happened in Uvalde Texas?.. You just had to turn on the TV to see it was everywhere. Yet where is the outrage of the children killed in Chicago over the last decade? A young child shot 24 times by gangs and thugs who probably obtained the guns used illegally. Removing guns from citizens who respect possessing them in order to protect their homes, property and loved ones, especially as our world continues to increase with so much violence, wokeism and total disregard for human life are just as much outraged by shooters such as Uvlade. The solution in strictly my opinion. is tighter guns laws, STRONG CRIMINAL PROSECUTION, strong background checks, but most importantly protecting our boarders and shipments coming into our country, curtailing the Cartel now included along with drug and sex trafficking, but weapons as well. As you can see, my one comment turned into several and as a final note, if our country does not wake up soon to how our country is changing not for the better, irreparable damage will be done.

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Lynn. I suspect on this one we agree more than we disagree. I think everyone on the planet agrees that the school shooting was horrible and that the 18 year old shooter suffered from mental illness. I actually don’t care where he got the money. I can’t wrap my head around the fact that he was able to purchase 2 assault rifles and enough ammunition to take out half of that small community. You asked where the outrage is for the children killed in Chicago. I’d say that there are many who have been outraged by the increasing numbers of gun deaths in our country for a long time. Chicago. Buffalo. Philadelphia. There are so many to be outraged about. But the outrage is continually met with silence and inaction in Congress. I listened to a talking head Senator yesterday say that the solution was to “harden” schools with one entrance/exit, armed police, tighter security, etc. He said nothing about changing the legal age from 18 to 25 (when the prefrontal cortex of the brain is actually done developing), he said nothing about making weapons of war illegal (the sole purpose of the AR-15 is to kill as many people as possible as quickly as possible), he said nothing about guns at all.

      If the problem isn’t guns, I’d like to know which we will “harden” next: grocery stores? movie theaters? synagogues and churches? or maybe hospitals should be next?

      You also made a comment about removing guns from citizens who use them responsibly. I didn’t suggest that and I actually have never heard eliminating 2nd Amendment rights as a serious argument. I think most responsible gun owners agree that we have tighter gun laws, more extensive background checks and border control. The problem is that we’ve done NOTHING. I understand that taking small measures like adjusting the legal age and requiring background checks and maybe even a waiting period won’t eliminate every shooting or every death. But if we make it harder for the next 18-year old with mental health issues to buy an assault weapon, isn’t that a start?

  2. Melissa — Thank you for your well-stated thoughts. To me, the fundamental issue around guns and gun violence is perspective. That wily leader of the Senate – even though he’s currently only the head of the minority caucus – Mitch McConnell, noted as much when he directed Senator Cornyn (R-TX) to engage with Democrats on a “bipartisan solution” on gun violence. Guns and gun violence are seen as a party (underscore/ital) issue.

    Dems want to stem the violence. Reps want to protect what they see as a near God-given right for the average person to openly carry weapons of war without regulation. Dems blame the problem on the lack of gun control. Reps blame people with mental illness.

    The negotiators are NOT united in seeing the situation as one of citizen safety and a national (underscore/ital) responsibility. They are meeting in a sterile Senator’s office when they should be meeting in the blood-drenched classrooms and hallways where kids and teachers died. They are meeting behind closed doors when they should be surrounded by the parents of all the kids murdered in CT, FL, TX, CO, etc. It’s easy to be positional and point to the “originalism” of the Constitution when you don’t have to bear witness to the astounding horror of inaction and the individual’s rights taking priority over society’s.

    Here’s the bottom line for me: this situation, like so many other issues we face today, is about power instead of policy. When we can’t see problems from a national perspective but only from an increasingly partisan one—backed by partisan state legislatures, a highly partisan SCOTUS, and money-soaked special interest groups aka the NRA—our current slide toward minority, authoritarian rule is almost assured. (Oh, it can definitely happen here, folks.)

    And just so we’re clear, I am NOT an advocate of getting rid of the 2nd amendment and taking rights away from responsible gun owners.

    • Thank you for weighing in, Jeff. I am glad you clarified that you’re not advocating for stripping Americans of their rights (hmmm… ). I’m not either. But I find it hard to believe that we cannot put some common sense safety measures in place. And then I realize… people who refuse to consider any of these measures clearly value their gun rights more than they value human life. The hypocrisy is deafening.

  3. I am also at a loss to understand how “pro life” stops as soon as a child is born. If you agitate to prevent any woman from choosing to terminate a pregnancy, surely you must have strong feelings and a duty of care to all living beings. I am against the killing of our kids in schools, our adults in supermarkets and places of worship. I am told that makes me an enemy of the 2nd amendment. I disagree. If anything, it makes me pro-life in the literal sense, despite firmly believing that I have no right to interfere in a woman’s decisions about her body.

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