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Why the Glendon Commission Matters

By Shaun Kenney 

David Carlin writes for The Catholic Thing about the US Commission on Unalienable Rights, formed by Secretary Mike Pompeo in an effort to cage the argument between natural rights vs. so-called human rights.

As one might suspect, there is a distinction between the two ideas. Natural law recognizes its source from a fixable point (“the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God” to put it in Jeffersonian parlance) whereas “human rights” are manufactured by the state. In short, natural rights come naturally from God; “human rights” come from us humans . . . because we say so.

Obviously, one can see immediate problems from a worldview arguing that rights come from the state, as Carlin argues:

Now if this is our standard (let’s call it the Jefferson standard), if we say that if X is to count as a fundamental human right, X will have to be self-evidently such, then our newer rights – the “rights” to abortion, to homosexual sodomy, to same-sex “marriage,” or to euthanasia – are not rights at all; for they are far, far from self-evident. If they were self-evident rights, there would be an almost universal consensus on them.

If we were to use the Jefferson standard, only if almost every American agreed that X is a fundamental human right would the Supreme Court declare that X, despite not being mentioned in the Constitution, is one of those unenumerated rights alluded to in the Ninth Amendment.

But if we are not to use the Jefferson standard when deciding what is, and what is not, a fundamental human right, what standard are we to use? Apparently, nothing better than a majority vote of the Supreme Court. If five justices say that X is a fundamental right, X is a fundamental human right.

And that’s how you get Roe v. Wade as law of the land.

What is slowly dawning on the pro-life movement despite the best efforts of the political class is that the solution to abortion is not going to be a piece of legislation slowly and carefully hammered out by means of compromise and consensus. Feckless politicians and half-life lobbyists continue to wheel and deal in the lives of human persons, both born and preborn

Worldwide, the problem is even more acute, as the United States, through a bevy of international programs, continues to promote gender ideology, contraceptives and abortifacients, and other secular ideas directly repugnant not only to the Catholic conscience but to the consciences of the individuals such aid is purportedly attempting to help—most notably in sub-Saharan Africa.

Carlin is not entirely optimistic that the Glendon Commission is going to radically change the substrata of the US State Department or the unelected fourth branch of government’s predilection for dead babies. Among Planned Parenthood, an egocentric program of education, and the everlasting problem of “the way it has been done before,” there is precious little hope for a Mr. Smith Goes to Washington result. 

All this having been said, to paraphrase St. Thomas More, it is worth standing fast awhile even at the risk of becoming heroes. And provided the commission recognizes the inalienable and basic right of every human person to exist no matter what their stage of development, for that effort alone, the Glendon Commission is laudable.