Independence Day and the Unalienable Right to Life


On July 4th, 1776, our Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence! Thomas Jefferson penned the first draft and then a committee made up of Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman and Robert Livingston made revisions. The subsequent draft was edited by the whole Congress and afterward signed by 56 of its members. For his contributions, Jefferson credited Locke, Montesquieu, the Scottish Enlightenment and English efforts for civil liberties.

We would be wise to harken back to those days to rediscover our roots. Our Founders rightfully declared this land to be a sovereign nation, independent from England. The first appeal they made to justify our “separate and equal station” was to reference “the Laws of nature and Nature’s God.” A short list of self-evident truths followed: “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.”

The basic meanings of these unalienable rights are hotly contested by two separate camps today. The stark differences between them were put on display in a brief conversation between President Trump’s nominee to the UN counsel in Geneva, Andrew Bremberg, and Democratic Senator Bob Menendez.

During a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Bremberg’s nomination, he and Menendez had a fiery exchange concerning the topic of abortion in the case of rape. After an increasingly tense back and forth, Menendez fired, “should victims of sexual violence be able to terminate the pregnancy where legal?” Bremberg returned with: “Senator, I don’t believe that abortion is a moral solution to any problem.”

In light of UN Security Council Resolution 2467, Menendez continued, “If in a conflict, a woman gets raped and ultimately as a result of that rape ends up with a child, a pregnancy she did not seek and that was forcibly put on her, you are telling me that it will be your position … that woman cannot ultimately have access to a legal abortion?” Bremberg responded, “I am pro-life, I believe that all human life is sacred and that human life begins at conception.” Menendez then concluded for Bremberg: “so when you’re raped, a woman has no rights?” At this point in the exchange, it is clear that the two sides are separated by a seemingly unbridgeable chasm.

The Founding Fathers knew well that according to the Natural Law and Nature’s God, it is always and everywhere impermissible to willfully take innocent human life. They would be legitimately horrified at the suggestion that a mother has a “right” to willfully terminate the life of her own child. Although it is indeed legal by conventional law today, abortion is a contradiction of the intentions of our Founding Fathers as stated in our Declaration of Independence. The protection of life, and particularly innocent life, ought to be recovered as a central tenet of American ideals.

Our Founding Fathers understood liberty as the freedom to act virtuously in defense of others’ unalienable rights and to live as free men within the constraints of Natural Law. As John Adams famously wrote on October 11th, 1798, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious People. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

Abortion is an intrinsically evil and immoral act violating the liberty and most basic right to life of our most vulnerable citizens, children in the womb. There is no such thing as the “freedom” to murder, much less the more egregious offense of terminating innocent life in the womb.

There is no doubt that to commit crimes against God-given unalienable rights is to incur natural guilt and eventual misery if amends are not made. It is a most unnatural act for a mother to terminate the life of her own child, and it leads to long-term suffering for the woman both physically and psychologically. According to the Natural Law, we can never do an evil that a good may come of it. To convince a woman that she has a “right” to terminate the life of her own child can never lead to happiness, but only misery in the end. This has been demonstrated time and again in the aftermath of abortion.

Our Founding Fathers never claimed to be “pro-life” because questions about willfully terminating innocent human life were unthinkable at that time. They would agree with Bremberg’s position that abortion is never a moral solution to any problem. To promote a false right to abortion is not progress but a regress into barbarism. Real progress would be to return to the values laid down in our Declaration and to protect life liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all our citizens.  

Bremberg’s position on life reflects the Founding Fathers intentions while Sen. Menendez’s position reflects a view contrary to the Natural Law. As we celebrate the commemoration of our Declaration of Independence, let us reflect on the vision our Founding Fathers had for the prosperity of this great country. Let us be grateful that there are still some in the public spotlight who would defend the truths of Natural Law when death and licentiousness encroach upon our lives as dusk upon a golden age.

Steven Jonathan Rummelsburg

Steven Jonathan Rummelsburg is a senior fellow at the American Principles Project, a writer in residence and teacher of philosophy and theology at Holy Spirit Preparatory School in Atlanta. He is also a senior contributor to The Imaginative Conservative and has written for numerous venues on matters of faith, culture and education.

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