Q: Is it ever ethical to take a human life?
Killing is not always murder.
In most societies and most jurisdictions, preventing another person from taking one’s own life is justifiable even if deadly force is required.
If a law enforcement officer fears for his or her life or to protect the life of another, the Use of Force Continuum must be applied. There are various models but this is the basic one that has been taught to federal officers.
Taking the life an enemy soldier with a rifle pointed at you may not cause ethical anguish when considered abstractly. It must not cause a moment’s hesitation on the battlefield.
Today, sometimes the person who “pulls the trigger”, or launches the drone in the Middle East or Southwest Asia could be sitting in an air-conditioned room in the Nevada desert. He or she is in no immediate danger. But it is warfare none the less.
But when an Al-Qaeda or ISIS operative is taken out in Pakistan or Afghanistan, for instance, his family including possibly small children are going to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I would submit that the toughest decision ever made by a U.S. President and Commander-in-Chief fell upon the gentleman from Independence, Missouri. The war of attrition continued in the Pacific after Germany had already been defeated in Europe. The Empire of Japan would never have surrendered had not the atomic bombs been dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 under orders from Harry S. Truman.
I personally served in the United States Air Force for 5 1/2 years between December 1968 and June 1974 during the Vietnam era with assignments for nearly three years in the Philippines and on Okinawa. But I never faced combat.
Friends and family who did fight in Vietnam understandably did not like talking about it. War is hell. No doubt. That particular war should never have happened. But the blame is upon political leaders not the soldiers who just did their duty. They just did what they had to do to protect themselves and their fellow soldiers.
I live in Hawaii which does not and surely never will execute criminals for any crime whatsoever. Byran Uyesugi committed the worst mass murder in Hawaii history on November 2, 1999 murdering 7 people at Xerox on Nimitz Highway in Honolulu. I haven’t seen an article or heard word mentioned about him in years. No need to Google it again now.
But of course I hear about executions in many states on the U.S. mainland, many of them in Texas. I can’t say whether Byran Uyesugi would be a threat to public safety if he ever was released or escaped. Life imprisonment may well serve the cause.
Executing a prisoner as punishment or retribution is something that I would not personally want to happen. But if a person is liable to harm others, and if the people of a state support capital punishment, that is a decision they and their elected officials must make and bear responsibility for.
This is a separate category from warfare per se. Some may call it asymmetrical warfare. But here we are not dealing with nation-states and formal military combatants.
I have no problem whatsoever with KSM having been waterboarded. If he expired during that, and it resulted in information that saved innocent lives, it would have been justifiable in my book. He’s still in Gitmo and they may as well throw away the key.
It was an abortion issue that led me down the path of this ethical dilemma. But first I wanted to address other scenarios where we as human beings, even the most moral among us, usually agree that there are limited circumstances where one may and must take another human life.
IS ABORTION EVER NECESSARY?
That is the key to dealing with the ethical dilemma.
In the strictest sense, the answer is no. The possible exception to that would be the life of the mother. If a medical doctor determines that either she or her baby can survive but not both of them, both lives have equal value.
There are mothers who will sacrifice their own life to bring new life into this world. If she is not medically capable of making her own decision, then that is the most heart-wrenching choice her husband could ever have to make.
Life begins at conception. A sperm or an ovum by itself is not yet a life, but when the DNA of both mother and father form a zygote, it is a new distinct life which is not a clone of either parent. Therefore, I would not even support the morning after pill.
The part that we as Christians and as conservatives may legitimately differ over is the matter of rape and incest. Either way, an abortion kills a living child. There’s no getting around that.
Therefore I believe that in both cases, the pro-life position is that exceptions should not be made. This is not as simple a conclusion to reach as it might at first seem.
A woman’s life is already tragically impacted when she is raped. Adding to that, killing her offspring in her womb due to the circumstances of the conception and the unknown hereditary traits that might be passed along from the rapist will further traumatize any woman with a conscience.
While I would hope that a loving Christian mother would want her child no matter what, I would not condemn her for whatever she decides. If she does not choose to raise the boy or girl herself, adoption is a far better option than abortion.
Testimonies of people who were conceived by rape confirm that their lives do matter. The ethical dilemma comes in whether we criminalize abortions in cases when the baby was conceived via rape.
I want the children to live. But do we really want to tell a doctor he cannot abide by the decision of the woman who suffered the rape?
I pose the question but I’m not going to try to provide a conclusive answer. You will have to decide for yourself on this.
This is a harder issue to deal with than rape. The reason is that hereditary and genetic anomalies may occur as a result of inbreeding. An entire extended family will be disrupted by any case of incest.
Incest is one of the most unpleasant subjects to even have to consider. It totally disgusts decent people. Unfortunately, in this world it happens all too frequently.
That’s why I believe that a baby in the womb conceived by incest must lead to respect of a professional medical evaluation of the situation.
I will not go into how the birth of such a child complicates any family structure. You can visualize that easily enough for yourself.
Yes, every human life has value from the moment of conception. That is why it is one of the most difficult choices a pregnant woman will ever have to make on behalf of her entire family.
Again, as with rape cases, do we really want to bring felony charges against a medical doctor who is caring for a mother who has an incest-conceived child in her womb?
WHO MAKES THE LIFE OR DEATH CHOICE?
In the case of a civilian facing a deadly threat to himself or herself, or of a police officer or a soldier in the line of duty, he or she must make a split-second decision whether to use lethal force. It is an irrevocable decision, the consequences of which are the alternative to possibly dying on the spot.
With capital punishment, it is a decision which each sovereign state must make. There is a federal death penalty but it is used rarely for people such as Timothy McVeigh.
Concerning terrorism, this will continue to be a thorny issue as long as our leaders refuse to properly focus upon the underpinning ideology of Jihad. Suffice it to say here, this is an existential issue that is just going to have to be dealt with realistically.
BUT IS ABORTION A CHOICE?
That is tearing our society apart at the moment. Both the Bible and the Constitution were written before modern technology existed. We can never fully comprehend the eternal and infinite wisdom of Almighty God as long as we are still here on this mortal sphere. We must also apply the U.S. Constitution to technology which did not exist in the 18th century or in the minds of our Founders.
For Christians, this is very much a spiritual and religious issue. But how do I present an argument to U.S. Senator from Hawaii Mazie Hirono who is a Buddhist? She does not accept or acknowledge the Judeo-Christian tradition. I have no idea if Buddha ever had any concept regarding abortion nor does that line of reasoning hold any promise in this present context.
Therefore, I hope she can realize that defining the object of abortion as a human life is not just a modern conservative invention. When she talks about decades of precedent set by Roe v Wade, that pales in comparison with millennia of respect for life in the womb.
Of course I realize that neither I nor any other of the people she was elected to serve here in Hawaii will ever convince Mazie that abortion is not just a woman’s healthcare choice.
It’s hard to imagine that anyone can seriously look at an ultrasound in this day and age and declare that abortion-on-demand up to the moment of delivery is a constitutional right.
If they cannot see that it is a human baby in the womb, then they suffer from cognitive dissonance. No further discussion or debate will change their mind.
If they say it is already a child but they don’t care, likewise they have made their choice and it is a choice of death.
OUR ORIGINAL QUESTION
Is it ever ethical to take a human life?
Yes, but abortion on demand is not one of those circumstances. Children conceived in rape or incest have a right to life.
The question with which I will leave you is:
Will you prosecute medical professionals who perform an abortion at the behest of the mother in cases of rape and incest? That’s what state laws that will inevitably be decided by SCOTUS will determine.
In Hawaii, we must elect conservatives to Congress because none of the incumbents will ever change course and support pro-life legislation. If your U.S. Senators and Representatives in your state are more reasonable, please contact them with your views. The same goes with state legislators.
This could go either way when it reaches the U.S. Supreme Court. It’s possible that Roberts and Kavanaugh could go the wrong way and let Roe v Wade stand. I’d rather see this reach that ultimate arbiter after President Trump has the opportunity to nominate someone to succeed RBG.
The ethical dilemma does not extend to the wanton slaughter of pre-born babies. But, you must answer for yourself what should be done in cases of rape or incest. Do you believe abortions under such circumstances should be criminalized and doctors prosecuted? Don’t tell me; contact your legislators.