“Compassion is the key to dialogue and inclusion.”
A colorful table display in Tate Plaza announced yesterday’s lecture sponsored by Students For Life at UGA. The display posed the question “Who deserves the right to life?” on a large poster board with dozens of protruding sticky notes. Closer examination showed the notes clinging to a variety of pictures differentiating who has a “right to life.” The images ranged from drone strike victims, to prisoners of war, to death row inmates, to U.S. soldiers, to unborn fetuses. Passerbys placed the bits of colored paper on whatever pictures they thought were included in the phrase “deserving of the right to life,” leaving the poster a strange rainbow porcupine.
In Tuesday’s lecture, Aimee Murphy, founder of Life Matters Journal, spoke to a diverse group of students about a consistent life ethic of nonviolence, using “#trynonviolence” to draw her audience from across campus.
Murphy began by explaining her personal pro-life position. Hailing from Pennsylvania, she grew up pro-choice but was deeply affected by a “pregnancy scare” at sixteen. The child’s father threatened to kill Murphy and himself if she did not have an abortion. Faced with this incredible act of violence and aggression, Murphy says she realized that aborting her child herself would be no different from the actions of the man who threatened her. While she was not pregnant after all, this event changed Murphy’s entire worldview as she took on a stand on nonviolence.
After setting the scene with her personal narrative, Murphy began to explain the inconsistent positions political parties hold about the right to life. She asked the question, “When considering human rights and the right to life, who is excluded?” Murphy continued to point out that while many conservatives are pro-life when it comes to abortion, many still support capital punishment and drone strikes. While liberals generally oppose these, they look the other way concerning abortion, stem cell research, and euthanasia. Both sides, Murphy insisted, make exceptions to the rule about who has the right to life.
Murphy went on to explain the flawed reasoning in differentiating between groups and making exceptions to a rule of nonviolence. If all human beings have an intrisic right to life based off their humanity, then no person should be able to take that right from another. Every human has the right to life, whether he or she is a fetus, a two year-old, a 114 year-old, a death row inmate, or a soldier.
Here Murphy noted that neither a person’s innocence of crime or usefulness to society are valid reasons to make such exceptions. Lack of either quality does not demand forfeiture of human rights. As human beings ourselves, we are responsible to care and value human life at all stages, argued Murphy.
Murphy closed with a call to action, urging her audience to hold to a consistent life ethic and to do away with the outdated, exclusionary arguments which sometimes accompany pro-life movements. She concluded, “Compassion is the key to dialogue and inclusion.”
— Michelle Ridgeway is a sophomore studying English
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