Jonathan Turley has an editorial in USAToday chiding pro-abortion activists for their opposition to parental involvement in a daughter’s abortion.
Pro-choice advocates would make abortion the only absolute right in our Constitution, even though it was not fully recognized by the Supreme Court until 1973. Conversely, parental rights have been recognized since the founding of our Republic but are routinely dismissed when they collide with the almighty right to an abortion.
Mr. Turley does a great job discussing the nature of “absolute” rights and the all or nothing attitude of pro-abortion activists.
However, I would describe “rights” a bit differently. Rights are better thought of as “negative rights.” It’s not that I have an absolute right to freedom of speech, but that I have the right not to be silences – to expect you not to try to prevent me from speaking and to call on society to aide me if you do force your will on me to be quiet. By the same thinking, I don’t have the right to live forever or take whatever my life needs, but I do have the right not to be killed. And to call on society to aid me if you try or to restrain you if you succeed in killing me. Many of us believe society should punish, too. (I’d rather think of this punishment as prevention of further harm, but I’m still working that one out – I’ll probably have the answer when I’m 80 years old.)
Negative rights do not demand an action, except by legal representatives and those we hire. They are, in fact, limits on the actions of others where those rights would cause harm. To force involuntary action would be to make the other a slave.
In the case of Mr. Turley’s example as to yelling “fire!” in a crowded theater, those of us in the theater have the right not to be placed in harm’s way. If there is a fire, we need to know. But if there is no fire, and we and our neighbors are falsely alarmed, risking panic and trampling, then we are placed in harm’s way.