[NOTE: This is an extension of my post on the origins of morality. If you have not already read Rights Bubbles: the Origin of Universal Morality, I strongly suggest that you do so before reading this post, as this post is meant to help explain the former in greater detail. ]
When it comes to matters of right and wrong, if you are seeing gray, it is a sure indication that you’re on the wrong side of right.
This is what I like to tell people who accuse me of having a black and white understanding of right and wrong, and I stand by it. Where an issue of right and wrong is concerned, there is never any gray. There is always a right and everything else is a wrong. It’s just that our Creator’s law is impossibly difficult for humans to accept. But this doesn’t change the fact that there is always a right in every moral question, and that gray is the justification of wrong. I wrote this post to help explain why I say this.
As I have already stated, our individual Natural Rights are derived from our Natural Right to our free will as granted to us by our Creator. Because the Creator is the source of our free will, we have a duty to protect and preserve the Natural Rights of other individuals. Natural Law, the universal moral law that governs this universe, is derived from the intersection of our Natural Rights and the needs of others. How we act toward one and other in relation to this conflict determines whether or not we are in accord with Natural Law.
So let’s apply this to a real world example relevant to our modern society. Let’s discuss how this applies to the issue of abortion. Yes, this is an emotionally charged issue, but I chose it for that reason. I would ask that you read through this to see how I use my argument to resolve the moral questions connected to it.
Our society has decided that it will allow a mother to decide whether her unborn child is human. If she does, then, in some States, the same law that would allow her to kill her child will also put another person in jail should they kill that same child – intentional or accidentally. At the same time, should the mother choose to abort the child but it is born alive, then, in some States, that same law suddenly defines the killing of that same child as murder. These are all contradictions created by violating the universal morality of Natural Law to justify our desires rather than honoring our duty to our Creator. A mother does have a right to her free will, so she has a right to her body – up to the point that she creates another life as a result of exercising her free will. Once a mother has conceived, she no longer has the right to abort because she will be placing a claim against the free will of her unborn child.*
Now, there are some exceptions that can be easily handled by the parameters of my argument for universal morality. In the case of a real medical threat to the mother, she has the right to preserve her will, so this would justify an abortion. In this case, there would be little difference – in principle – than the case of my not having to share my pineapple with another castaway. Both are examples of justified self-preservation. We can also justify an abortion in the case of rape. If a woman becomes pregnant as the result of a rape, which is a violation of her free will, then the pregnancy is a continued violation of her free will. This would be justification for an abortion. However, should a mother risk death or sacrifice her free will to preserve the child within her, this would be an act from which we define the notion of virtue and nobility because she willingly places her duty to our Creator and thus, to others, above herself. In this case, the mother would be worthy of higher regard than one who chose to save herself or rid herself of the burden of a child that was not the result of her free will. Both choices would be justified, but only one would command reverence from other people.
Other than this, there is no justification for abortion as it ends the free will of another human. This same principle can be applied to other issues in our society today:
You do not have a Natural Right to a job; you have a Natural Right to seek employment, or to start your own business. Demanding that someone give you a job is demanding you be allowed to control their free will for your purposes.
You do not have a Natural Right to food, clothing and shelter; you have a Natural Right to use your labor to seek them. Demanding that others provide for your care is placing an unjust demand on their free will which – in principle — is little different from slavery.
Same thing: you do not have a Natural Right to health care; you have a Natural Right to seek it and to freely contract with someone who is willing to provide their labor in return for whatever you agree to give them. Demanding that others provide your care is placing a demand on their free will.
Most moral issues where people claim to see gray can be handled in a similar fashion. All you have to do is start tracing the claims placed against people back to their free will. When you find the point where one person is trying to control the free will of another, then you have found wrong, not gray. The real issue here is accepting and living with what is right. As humans, we are self-centered and seldom want to place others before ourselves – even when we are dealing with their right to their own free will. But then, I never said doing the right thing would be easy, only that you can always determine what it is by following the principles of Natural Law.
*NOTE: our founders followed a religious doctrine that held the unborn did not have free will until the quickening. This is connected to the belief that free will is connected to the soul, and that the quickening is the point when the soul enters the body. Our founders sometimes allowed abortion before the quickening, but seldom after it. This position is totally in keeping with the argument I am presenting.