By Mike Leman
Diocese of Cheyenne 

Why life must be an inalienable right


February 13, 2019

My dad started teaching me hunter safety at our ranch outside of Douglas when I was 8 years old. One of the most important lessons was this: “Never pull the trigger unless you’re ready to accept the consequences.” Of course, this means you must understand what the consequences will be. If there is the slightest doubt, you never shoot.

I’ve been thinking about that lesson as I have listened to testimony on two life-related bills at the Wyoming Legislature, HB145 Death Penalty Repeal and HB140 Abortion- 48 Hour Waiting Period. The debates have reminded me that ideas have consequences too.

Regarding HB145, former inmate Randy Steidl testified how he spent 12 years on death row in Illinois before a law enforcement official decided to reopen his case. That investigator discovered that Randy’s case had been mishandled and eventually found evidence that exonerated him. Randy shared how his father died while he was in prison. His mom bought a plot for his grave when he was down to his last appeal. Were it not for that investigator and a lengthy appeal process, the state of Illinois would have unknowingly executed an innocent man.

Wyoming is not Illinois, but as long as humans are involved in any process, we can be sure that mistakes will happen.

Regarding HB140, the best of the testimony opposing a waiting period has focused on the plight of poor women who find themselves facing uncertainty without support. We know that many women choose abortion because they feel they have no other choice. Both sides of the debate can work to find ways to ensure that all women are given the support they need.

A lesser argument claims that a woman who makes an appointment with an abortion provider has already made her decision and that she doesn’t need time to think about it.

Current Wyoming law requires an abortion provider to inform a woman that she has the right to see an ultrasound of her fetus, and listen to its heartbeat, if audible. If she decides an ultrasound will help inform her decision, she may see something that one side of the debate avoids mentioning. Without any note of developmental stage, opposing legislators, lobbyists, doctors and journalists have described the human fetus as “just tissue.” They have compared the image she will see to “an appendix,” and a “bad knee” needing replacement. They have compared the procedure itself to a “vasectomy.”

If these were reasonable comparisons, we might agree that an informed person would not need time to think after seeing the image. But these comparisons aren’t about science, they’re about ideology.

Describing other humans using subhuman terms is not a new phenomenon. But, throughout history, whenever it has been done it is for one purpose; to attempt to justify the injustices being perpetrated against that particular group.

The ultrasound mom sees is not an image of a fetus downloaded from the internet. It’s her fetus. It’s not the abstract idea of abortion. This could be her abortion.

Laws enshrine the truest values of a given society. We will continue to teach our children that the intentional destruction of other humans is unacceptable and that it is important to learn to see the inherent worth of every individual. But as long as our laws hold that the right to life is not really inalienable, our words will be hollow. A violent society is the fruit of our inconsistency. If we continue to enshrine violence in our laws, violence will be the consequence, whether we are ready to accept it or not.


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