Respect Life Sunday is an annual recognition that the central moral question of our age has to do with preserving the dignity of human life from the mounting encroachments of our secular world. The so called Death with Dignity referendum that will be on our ballots come November is the latest and most challenging threat to human dignity since the infamous Roe v Wade Supreme Court decision of 1973. The fact that prognosticators and pundits are forecasting a "win" for this referendum should give us all a reason to pause and reflect on the culture that may bring this about.
The Roe v Wade decision was not directly about the legitimacy of abortion. The court's decision that effectively allowed abortion on demand rested on what it termed a constitutional right to privacy. Because of this so called 'right to privacy,' all laws prohibiting abortion throughout the United States were effectively thrown out. What is most interesting about the current Death with Dignity referendum and Roe v Wade is that both have their roots in a philosophy of individualism that is at odds with the basic instincts of a liberal society.
The "New Deal," the "Great Society" and even "compassionate conservatism" recognize that there are basic injustices and inequalities in society that need to be addressed by government. Our society cannot be ruled by the law of the jungle where only the powerful survive. Because we are a civil society, we have a responsibility to care for one another. The so called "safety net" is not a luxury that can be jettisoned when the economy turns sour. Rather, it is our fundamental obligation as a self-governing people if we are to call ourselves a civilization.