Created Equal: The Double Standard of Abortion and Capital Punishment

Created Equal: The Double Standard of Abortion and Capital Punishment

When it comes to life and its value, there’s a double standard for liberals and conservatives alike.  What that standard is, however, depends on your abortion position.  The way it works is that if you’re liberal/pro-abortion, then life is all valuable and should be spared, unless you’re a pre-born baby.  The death penalty is cruel and unusual, but sticking scissors into the back of a baby’s head…that’s just “women’s health.”  If you’re conservative, it’s the other way around.  Babies, born or unborn, are sacred lives.  A lot of us are okay with capital punishment, however; some of us are even quite adamant about its use. It’s a point of contention for liberals, who see it as contradictory that conservatives can hold an “Abortion is Murder” sign in one hand while holding a “LET THE KILLER FRY” sign in the other.

So why the difference?  If conservatives claim that all life is valuable, then why are we pro-death penalty?  If liberals are so convinced that life means nothing and can be ended at will, then why are they so willing to foot the bills for convicted violent offenders rather than see them get the needle?  The answer is the same for both sides, and it’s a cold, hard truth.

All life is created equal, but not all life holds the same value to society—and which group holds the most value is dependent on who you ask.
This is not denying the tenets of Christianity, which believes that all people have intrinsic value to God.  This is not claiming that certain lives are worthless and therefore should be eliminated.  This is simply the idea that in terms of societal value, some lives are worth more than others.  Jonas Salk’s life was more valuable to society than Jack the Ripper.  Mother Teresa’s life contributed more to society than Saddam Hussein.

…if you’re conservative, that is.

If you’re a liberal, then guerilla leader and mass murderer Che Guevara is to be lauded.  Gang founder Tookie Williams  and cop killer Mumia Abu-Jamal are to be lobbied for.  Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsaernev is to be put on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine as a misunderstood teen heartthrob who just lost his way.  The problem is, all of these men were not people who contributed to society.  They offered nothing.  They were predators, seeing the world and its inhabitants as potential victims.  Their victims were worth more than they are.

Look at this example.  An 87-year-old man was attacked and beaten to death in the driveway of his own home by four teenagers who apparently were in the process of robbing him.  The victim was a World War II veteran who had served as a fireman on a minesweeper ship.  He was someone who had held own a civilian job after the military for 37 years.  He was a widower who had loved his wife and mourned her passing.  He was a person who the town called “Shine” because he was just that kind of guy.  He brought joy to those around him.  The world is a sadder place—at least in his town—since his death.  His life had value.

Contrast that with the four teenagers who killed him.  Their contribution to society was beating an old man and veteran to death in his driveway.  How much are their lives worth to the society they live in?  What will they contribute if allowed to live?  What about child rapists with multiple offenses?  What about kidnappers? Drug kingpins? Murderers?

On the other side of the coin, what about a cancer researcher?  What about someone who spends their spare time with terminally ill patients so they don’t have to die alone?  What about the women who sew adaptive clothing so troops who have lost limbs or suffered other massive injuries can still dress themselves?  What about the mentally disabled child whose innocent, guileless smile lights up a whole room? For some of us, this is why we can support capital punishment from a logical standpoint while staunchly defending the rights of the unborn.  Rapists and murderers are not innocent, and they are not valuable.  In fact, they constitute a threat to society, and as such must be eliminated to protect others.

This is not a defense of euthanasia for those who “stop contributing.”  This is not a treatise espousing the virtues of genocide, or fratricide, or any other kind of -cide.  This line of thinking even agrees that all men are, absolutely, created equal.  Every single citizen, regardless of color or nationality, born in this country is born equal.  But do we stay that way? Or do we ultimately have control over our own value to society?

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  • GWB says:

    Kit, the real issue isn’t *worth* but justice. This is why a conservative can cringe at the idea of a vigilante running about and killing those “who deserve it” and yet feel satisfaction at the serial killer finally receiving his just reward. The criminal who has raped and murdered (or been turncoat to his country) has not given up their worth as a human being, but their actions have placed them in opposition to that worth – and the society has the right (and the need) to weigh that and decide if they should forfeit whatever worth they have.

    Even the dullest, most (metaphorically) brain-dead human has the same worth as Jonas Salk or a precious infant. But, if even the most brilliant, important, wonderful human being on the face of this Earth murders their fellow in cold blood, then they have forfeited not their worth, but their life. It’s simple justice, hopefully unadulterated by hatred or vengeance. This is why governments exist – to keep justice from being transmuted into vengeance, and to maintain the worth of the human, regardless of their actions. Justice should be cold and dispassionate, blind to the ‘worth’ of the individual and to the ‘worht’ of their victim.

    It’s why I am continually galled by discussions of the upbringing of a criminal – as much as I am by how cute or smart or wonderful or whatnot the victim was. It is irrelevant to justice.

    • Kit Lange says:


      I love your comments. I really do. But in this particular case, even though I see your point, I have to fisk you. 😉

      “a conservative can cringe at the idea of a vigilante running about and killing those “who deserve it” and yet feel satisfaction at the serial killer finally receiving his just reward.”

      I actually do not cringe at the idea of vigilante justice. I wouldn’t say that I openly condone it, but I would never vote to convict a parent who got five minutes alone with the murderer or rapist of their child. Especially in light of how twisted our justice system is. That’s my personal foible, though, and I certainly don’t expect that other conservatives would fall in line with that.

      “The criminal who has raped and murdered (or been turncoat to his country) has not given up their worth as a human being, but their actions have placed them in opposition to that worth – and the society has the right (and the need) to weigh that and decide if they should forfeit whatever worth they have.”

      Here you contradict yourself. In one breath you say that the criminal has not given up his worth, yet in the next you say that society has the right to decide if they did forfeit whatever worth they have. Either their worth is affected by their actions, or it is not. I posit that it is, absolutely, based on their actions.

      “Even the dullest, most (metaphorically) brain-dead human has the same worth as Jonas Salk or a precious infant.” Agreed, because being ‘brain-dead’ doesn’t mean that you’re preying upon society. (Wait, are we talking liberals now? LOL) Personally, I find welfare moms popping out babies for cash to be abhorrent and also a negative value on society, but I’m not advocating the death penalty for them, just a cessation to any and all benefits.

      “Justice should be cold and dispassionate, blind to the ‘worth’ of the individual and to the ‘worth’ of their victim.”

      No one is saying that justice should be based on victim worth. Justice is a concept that stands alone. It is a standard of integrity and conduct applied to the masses. If the reverse in that case were true (the veteran suddenly shot and killed four young men), then he should be punished for that regardless of his previous record. Worth is partially intrinsic, but above that bare minimum, it fluctuates. You can be worth a great deal in your 20s and yet be worth hardly anything in your 40s, or vice versa. I know people who were worth a lot at one time, and now I wouldn’t spit on them if they were on fire because of the choices that they make, harming everyone around them.

      If one subscribes to rational choice theory as applied to criminology, then one believes that criminals are actors making choices that are rational to themselves at that time. These choices will, almost always, be made to benefit themselves. These choices result in an increase or decrease to that person’s societal value. Not their religious value, not their value in the grand scheme of humanity, but their particular, individual value to the society immediately affected by their existence and their actions.

      • GWB says:

        “Here you contradict yourself.”
        Yep. 🙂 It’s difficult to talk about this without sitting down and making sure terms are adequately established. And I did a poor job of that.

        “I know people who were worth a lot at one time, and now I wouldn’t spit on them if they were on fire because of the choices that they make, harming everyone around them.”
        Yes, I know some of them, too. And in some people’s eyes, I fall into that category, as well. But I am partly trying to make two distinctions. One between personal feeling and societal justice (why I riffed on the vigilante bit), and one between worth and … that term I can’t articulate at the moment.

        They tie together. The human has worth that is intrinsic. And, to society, that worth is absolute and must be protected – the same for the bum or the embezzler or the baby or the banker. There is no fluctuation. Each and every human *must* have that intrinsic, unalterable worth, or justice becomes twisted*. What the condemned criminal gives up – to society, not to *you* as an individual – is not that intrinsic worth, but the right to assert the protection of that worth over against the need for society to condemn them and execute them. It’s why we do (and should) bury the executed, and we don’t simply toss them on the trash heap (despite my snark to the contrary about looters on the other post). Because they still retain that intrinsic value as a human – even then. To totally destroy them (“give them over” in Biblical language) and deny their worth as a human being would be to stand in the place of God – we don’t want to do that individually, and we sure as heck don’t want the government viewing themselves that way.

        *This is where the perversion of justice that you rightly decry comes from: the viewing of some as of more worth than others. In our current predicament, it stems from some needing “social justice” because of supposed prior wrongs (making some more equal than others), and from the idea that the state should be interested in “redeeming” the lost, rather than simply punishing them for their crimes. Hmmm, that last one sounds a lot like government standing in place of God, too, doesn’t it?

        I am with you on attempting to do something to “correct” the perversions of justice that we see so regularly. But, that path (vigilantism) leads to the destruction of justice just as surely – except possibly in our own eyes.

        I enjoy the engagement with you, Kit. Iron sharpens iron.

        • Kit Lange says:

          I do agree that humans have an intrinsic minimum value, which is why we give murderers actual graves (although I would argue that many people do NOT believe in intrinsic value, and that’s why we have unborn children in pieces in trash bins all over the country). My premise is concerned with the value that comes on top of that. If you can honestly tell me that Jonas Salk contributed the same amount to society as Jeffrey Dahmer, then I will be forced to question your sanity. 😉 Sure, both are intrinsically valuable as human beings, especially if you believe in a God who loves the world. I’m simply talking about their worth to the society that they are members of.

          As for justice being meted out differently to those who people deem more or less worthy, I also agree that this is unfair. As someone who’s studying criminology, though, I don’t see victim statements as JUST that, however. I think they are also meant to give the victims and/or their families some closure by allowing them to basically vent to the perpetrator. You’ll notice that one of two reactions always, ALWAYS happens: they are overwhelmed with either grief or anger. Sure they’re saying “he took this person from us and that was a big deal,” but they’re also saying what they will never again get the chance to say. So I don’t necessarily agree with removing those from the process. I would, however, agree with making the jury leave the room for that part of it. Sentencing should strictly be based on the facts of the case (such as cruelty of the crime, suffering endured, etc.).

      • GWB says:

        “No one is saying that justice should be based on victim worth. Justice is a concept that stands alone.”
        *You* weren’t asserting that, but many on the progressive side do, if you pay attention. And, the perfectly normal cry of your own heart would be for the same if one of yours is the victim. (Though you might resist that call.) It’s perfectly human. But it isn’t how justice should be permitted to function. And, reading victim statements and such during the sentencing phase is exactly that perversion of justice.

  • LGD says:

    GWB, that is a wonderful response! I agree 100% that it isn’t about the worth of a being (everyone is important), but the justice. Excellent.

    And author, I applaud you for being one of the few to speak up and defend your position! I agree with you.

  • BikerDad says:

    As a conservative, it doesn’t hinge on the person’s “value to society.” It hinges on their innocence or lack thereof.

    “This is why a conservative can cringe at the idea of a vigilante running about and killing those “who deserve it” and yet feel satisfaction at the serial killer finally receiving his just reward.” – GWB

    This conservative, i.e., me, doesn’t cringe. To understand why, I encourage you to research the actual origin of the word “vigilante.” As a conservative, I start with the proposition that “all men are created equal…”, and that we DELEGATE our authority to pursue justice to the State, not that we SURRENDER it. I may look askance at the vigilante because he (or she) is operating with few of the institutional safeguards, but I will never cringe.

    • GWB says:

      Good point. I meant vigilante in the most common meaning. I *will* cringe – if the “justice” being meted out is based on their own definition of what’s right and wrong and without safeguard for the rights of those being hunted. That is a prime reason we delegate that authority to the government – to safeguard the accused’s rights (which ends up safeguarding our own, as well).

      On this subject, I would encourage you to research Sanctuary Cities in the Old Testament (Numbers 35, to start), as the first establishment of government to protect the rights of the accused. 🙂

      The two things go hand-in-hand. You cannot have justice if you don’t protect the rights of everyone*, and you can’t protect the rights of everyone without meting out justice impartially.

      * Including the unborn.

  • GWB says:

    Oh, and to Kevin (who might find his way here eventually): what frickin’ echo chamber?!? :p

  • Kate says:

    snicker. ^^^

  • Dana says:

    The Catholic Church has the right of it: life is to be honored and respected and treated as an inalienable right from conception to natural death.

    There are times when killing is an unfortunate necessity — war and self-defense being the obvious points — but the execution of a criminal simply is not. If we have a criminal in custody, to the point at which we can execute him and he cannot stop it, then he is, by definition, helpless; execution at that point does not meet any reasonable definition of self-defense or necessity, because we do have the power to keep him incarcerated for the rest of his life.

    The idea that we must mete out death as a requirement of justice means, inter alia, that any murderer who is not executed has escaped justice, even though he may be imprisoned for the rest of his life, and that is the fate of the vast majority of murderers in this country.

    Even those few who are executed don’t really meet any definition of justice. When we execute a condemned man, we try to do it as quietly as possible, to put him to sleep like an unwanted puppy, when his crime may have been to torture someone to death over the course of hours or days, or to have killed dozens of people; what he did will never be meted out to him.

    To me, to be pro-life means to be pro-life. If conservatives can somehow justify taking the life of a helpless person, then they are behaving indistinguishably from our friends on the left who can justify the taking of the life of a helpless person. At that point, we are not arguing about life, but simply differing about justification. Is it somehow a different argument to say that we should execute a murderer rather than having to support him for the rest of his life in prison, from the pregnant woman arguing that she cannot have a child because she cannot support a child?

    • GWB says:

      The current Catholic position (at least, as understood by many lay persons) comes from the application of social theory, rather than from Scripture. Scripture is incredibly clear – justice involves taking a murderer’s life. And the government should be committed to justice. And it’s not just an Old Testament charge:
      Romans 13 has this to say in verse 4:

      But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.

      You shouldn’t support the murderer for the rest of his life not because of a budgetary concern, but because it is UNJUST. It is patently unjust to require the victims of a crime (the specific victims, since they likely pay taxes, and society in general) to pay for the ongoing life of the criminal. It is NOT unjust for the woman who committed the conjugal act to bear its consequences (since that is its prime function – to reproduce).

  • The mistake is buying into the idea that there is a double standard. Anyone who reads the decision in Roe understands this, as Justice Brennan engaged in the delicate and refined legal skill of “because I said so” when stating that the 14th Amendment doesn’t apply because it doesn’t.

    The key is “Due Process”. People on death row get it. They are there because of choices that they made. An unborn child does not, and yet the state sanctions a private right of murder, with no input from anyone else at all. This is actually extraordinary, as legally speaking, we wouldn’t dream of someone with a direct conflict of interest with a child make a decision for that has a negative effect on a child without the involvement of a court and a guardian ad litem, but this….

    As an attorney, I am repulsed when people try to persuade me that these people should be spared because of bad upbringings, they never beat their girlfriend, they wrote a children’s book, etc. The person is facing that fate because of a finding of guilt by their peers. The child, on the other hand has on committed the unspeakable crime of being conceived.

    And when a convict is claiming “redemption” based on repentance, as a basis for not paying the price prescribed by society, and the media starts whining about how “unchristian” it would be to carry out the sentence, showing how much they fail to understand EITHER concept.

    • Kit Lange says:

      I’m hoping that you picked up on the fact that I was being a bit sarcastic and tongue-in-cheek with my double standard assertion but re-reading it I can see where I may have been a bit too subtle (which is not something that I do often, I can assure you. LOL).

      I agree with your entire comment, however. It IS frustrating when people claim that in order to be pro-life you must be against the death penalty. Their choices and predation make them a threat to be removed from society. And to really believe that violent offenders “go away forever” may be the most naive thing I’ve ever heard. They don’t. They get out, and they do it again….and then we make more laws that say things like “If you’ve already been convicted once and then you do it AGAIN? Man, we’re gonna REALLY punish you that time.” Give me a stinking break. Let’s enforce the laws we have.

      If you murder someone, you pay for that with your own life. It’s that simple. If you commit a crime that affects the rest of someone’s life (such as rape, molestation, or a physical assault that leaves permanent damage) then you pay for that with your own. No chance to “rehabilitate” (since we already know the recidivism rates of sex offenders), no chance to write children’s books, etc. You forfeit your right to breathe when you pray upon the innocent.

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