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Debating church and state separation

Letter to the Editor | Thursday, October 9, 2003

Abigail Wheetley’s Oct. 6 U-Wire column defended the Alabama Ten Commandments ruling which invoked the principle of separation of church and state. She made the comment that this principle of separation is being undermined by laws restricting abortions. In this subtle line, however, Wheetley underscored the fallacious claim that restricting abortions is somehow a religious imposition which should therefore be separated from the legal matters of the state.

The problem is, as detestable as abortion is from a moral or religious standpoint, it is also abhorrent in the eyes of the state. Restricting abortions holds pragmatic purposes. The common argument is that no state has the right to impose any authority over a woman’s “right” to choose whether or not to abort her child.

Using this same line of reasoning, the state is out of line when it prohibits murder. Who is the state to say that we can’t kill our fellow citizens? After all, we have a “right” to do whatever we want. The point is, as much as we like to isolate our actions from the world, we can’t. The absurd notion of permitting murder fails to acknowledge that we can’t act freely to the extent that we harm others.

From a purely legal standpoint, heroin is illegal not because it is immoral, but because its use creates myriad problems, from psychological problems to violence to death. And society pays the price. Its tax dollars go to work to aid addicts in rehabilitation. It pays the medical bills. In the instance of murder, society pays for the murderer’s court cases. Try as we might, we can’t separate these “individual” actions from their subsequent consequences. The job of the government, therefore, is to protect the welfare of all its citizens. Call it a religious principle, call it a law, call it whatever you wish: our laws should protect us and see the human dignity inherent in every person.

With this in mind, it is a wonder that abortion has flourished so much in this country. You have a living, breathing fetus with its own heartbeat and a body completely distinct from its mother’s, with its own distinct DNA and traits, its own brain and its own organs, and our government gives the green light for us to terminate it. Whenever we want, by the way. Not just in the beginning phases, but up to the ninth month, when the child is fully grown – if a nine-month old child isn’t a life, what is?

How can we fail to see the monstrosity in puncturing the skull of a partially delivered child? Because it’s “our” body and “our” decision. No, it isn’t our body. It’s the distinct body of the being we brought into life. And the government has just as much a need of protecting that defenseless fetus as it does every other human being. Abortion, plain and simple, is taking the life and dignity away from a child, from a son, from a daughter and from a citizen.

Ricky McRoskey


Knott Hall

Oct. 8