Right to life

Right to life

Right to life is a phrase that describes the belief that a human being has an essential right to live, particularly that a human being has the right not to be killed by another human being. The concept of a right to life is central to debates on the issues of capital punishment, euthanasia, self defense, abortion and war. The right to life is enshrined in article 3 of the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, making it a legally enforceable right in every United Nations member state:

Pro-life advocates who support this concept argue that human fetuses (as well as embryos and zygotes) are unborn human beings who have the same fundamental right to life as that of a human being after birth. Generally speaking, those identifying themselves as "right-to-life" are strongly opposed to abortion; many oppose euthanasia, and some oppose embryonic stem cell research. (However, some notable right-to-life figures do support stem-cell research; e.g. US Senator Orrin Hatch).

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" [ http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/family/documents/rc_pc_family_doc_20001115_family-human-rights_en.htmlPONTIFICAL COUNCIL FOR THE FAMILYThe Family and Human Rights ] in which it states that the right to life is directly implied by human dignity.

Juridical views

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 except Russia. Protocol 13 provides for the total abolition of capital punishment, and has been implemented in most member countries of the Council.

In 1989, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), stating that "the child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth....States Parties recognize that every child has the inherent right to life." The only two non-parties to this Convention are the United States and Somalia. While Madeleine Albright, at the time the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, signed the Convention in 1995, it was not ratified by the Senate. President Bill Clinton chose to submit the Convention to the Senate for ratification by a two-thirds majority; nevertheless, this never happened. In September of 2001, the U.S. presented a document to the U.N. that stated in part:"The Convention on the Rights of the Child may be a positive tool for promoting child welfare for those countries that have adopted it. But we believe the text goes too far when it asserts entitlements based on economic, social and cultural rights. ... The human rights-based approach ... poses significant problems as used in this text." [http://wnd.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=21590] Despite not having been ratified by the United States, the CRC was used in 2005 by the United States Supreme Court to help justify banning the juvenile death penalty, in the case of "Roper v. Simmons".


The controversies around right to life consistently energize voters with many being single issue voters. Around abortion issues, it also plays a large role in powerful appointed positions, especially judicial appointments in the United States with the charge from both sides of it being a "litmus test".

Opposing viewpoints

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 animals, such as 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 severely disabled infants whose life would cause suffering both to themselves and to their parents.

Another argument against the "right to life" states that abortion is not a form of murder, hence "pro-choicers" are no less "pro-life" than "pro-lifers." These pro-choicers typically do not advocate Singer's more radical beliefs, including zoophilia, as they find these beliefs distinct from the more common concept of the right of a woman to choose abortion. Somewho? would also state that capital punishment and war are necessary tools to protect society and civilization as a whole, and are thus morally acceptable.

Test cases

Among recent significant test cases were Terri Schiavo (United States) and a case involving an infant born very prematurely [ [http://society.guardian.co.uk/health/story/0,,1596729,00.html Q&A: Charlotte Wyatt case] by David Batty, The Guardian, October 21, 2005, accessed June 4, 2007] [ [http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4158/is_20041009/ai_n12820554 Ethics review set up after ruling on Wyatt baby] by Maxine Frith, The Independent, Oct 9, 2004, accessed June 4, 2007] in the United Kingdom. These both involved decisions to remove life support from patients which were challenged in the courts.

ee also

* Culture of life
* Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen
* Pro-life
* Right to die
* Sanctity of life
* Terri Schiavo
* National Right to Life Committee
* Consistent life ethic or seamless garment


External links

* [http://www.nrlc.org/ National Right to Life Committee]
* [http://www.hli.org/ Human Life International]
* [http://www.pldaily.com/ Pro-Life Daily]
* [http://ieet.org/index.php/IEET/HETHR_bios/degrey/ Our Right to Life]

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