Saturday, March 26, 2005

Natural Rights:Legal Rights

In this article at NRO, The Right to Life: Protecting one woman, Bill Bennett and Brian T. Kennedy, both of the Claremont Institute outline the Schiavo case, law and rights.

Florida courts have found that she is incapacitated and beyond repair. Doctors have voted three to two that she is in a "persistent vegetative state." Her husband and legal guardian claims that she would have wished not to be kept alive should she find such a state. The courts agree. Florida law, as interpreted by Florida courts, provides that she should be allowed to expire. It appears Terri Schiavo has no legal right to life.

But does Terri Schiavo have a natural right to life?

Yes. She is a human being. She has committed no crime and therefore she has forfeited not one of her natural rights. Our American faith teaches us that, "all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." And the purpose of all American government is "to secure these rights," not destroy them. (snip)

In theoretical terms, this is a conflict between the separate powers of Florida government, as the judicial and executive branches have different opinions about what the Florida constitution requires. But in practical terms, Terri's life hangs in the balance.

What I see is collision of two systems, that of laws, governance, powers, delineation of authority, and our natural rights. "Endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, among these are life..." When the first takes unto itself authority over the second, it founders on imponderable dilemmas. The law loses the respect of the people. Life is taken away in the name of the sanctity of Law. Somehow the Law must find its way back to its jurisdiction, and accede more readily to Life.

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