So What the Heck Are "Basic Human Rights"?


This post is part of Billy Hallowell and Stephen Nichols' Static News project.  For more information, please visit

"At its core, abortion is a human tragedy. To effect meaningful change, we must engage the debate at a human level." - John McCain

For our first week we've decided to cover a really difficult topic: Human rights.  While it seems like such a simple issue on the surface, it's actually quite complex.  To start, how does one even define human rights?  Is it the basics -- food, shelter, clothing -- or does it go beyond those simple attributes?  Furthermore, who is entitled to these "basic rights?"  During the Saddleback forum with Rick Warren last Saturday, John McCain and Barack Obama answered the following question quite interestingly: " what point does a baby get human rights, in your view?"  The disparities in their answers are mind boggling:

Obama: Well, you know, I think that whether you’re looking at it from a theological perspective or a scientific perspective, answering that question with specificity, you know, is above my pay grade.

McCain: At the moment of conception. (APPLAUSE). I have a 25-year pro-life record in the Congress, in the Senate. And as president of the United States, I will be a pro-life president. And this presidency will have pro-life policies. That’s my commitment. That’s my commitment to you.

Startling differences, no?  Without too much partisan rhetoric let me just say that Obama's answer is unacceptable for someone who is running for the American presidency.  Either you're pro-life or you're pro-choice (and we all know that Obama is pro-choice).  To his credit, Obama did publicly admit being pro-choice following the above statement.  But, attempting to candy-coat the answer didn't give anything of value to the American people.  Anyway, let me get back to addressing "basic human rights."  While I believe wholeheartedly that human beings are entitled to suitable living conditions, food, clothing and all of the other amenities that we often under-appreciate when we have them here in America, I also believe that there are a plethora of other issues that fall under the "basic human rights" genre.

Civil rights.  Abortion.  Embryonic stem cell research.  Access to healthcare.  The breakdown of the American family unit.  Education.  Sure, these issues aren't the most exciting conversational pieces, but as young Americans who are going to inherit a very broken world, it's important that we're prepared to confront each with open hearts and minds.  In some way, each issue encompasses the notion of "basic human rights."  Dealing with these issues isn't going to be easy, but trying to explain where the candidates stand is what Stephen and I are here to do (while inserting our own opinions along the way, of course).

On Abortion

John McCain -- by his own words -- believes that human life deserves basic rights at the moment of conception.  There are plenty of pro-choicers out there who would (and have) vocally denounced statement like this.  Agree with him or not, McCain was clear on his stance at the Saddleback forum and I couldn't agree more.  One of McCain's campaign issues is "human dignity and the sanctity of life."  Allow me to better illustrate these ideals in his own (campaign's) words:

"John McCain believes Roe v. Wade is a flawed decision that must be overturned, and as president he will nominate judges who understand that courts should not be in the business of legislating from the bench...Constitutional balance would be restored by the reversal of Roe v. Wade, returning the abortion question to the individual states."

He is absolutely right in his notion that the power should be returned to the states.  Why is our federal government legislating what has often been slated as infanticide (when a baby's life is terminated at five or six months, murder is the only descriptive that comes to mind)?  Also:

"Once the question is returned to the states, the fight for life will be one of courage and compassion - the courage of a pregnant mother to bring her child into the world and the compassion of civil society to meet her needs and those of her newborn baby."

These issues aren't easy.  No one is saying that we should judge women who decide to have an abortion (although I am opposed to abortion, itself), but there needs to be greater consideration for the child's life -- the baby's basic human rights.  At what point does a baby gain his or her individual rights?  Weigh in and comment highlighting where you stand on the issue at hand.

Embryonic Stem Cell Research

(If you're confused or thinking "what the heck is a stem cell," be sure to read up on it (clue: it's not plant-related).  Check out Wikipedia's easy-to-read description).

And then there is embryonic stem cells.  Listen, this is a debate that can go on for hours.  We'll be discussing it on our radio show today at 6 p.m. EST.  In the meantime, let me show you John McCain's stance:

"...John McCain opposes the intentional creation of human embryos for research purposes. To that end, Senator McCain voted to ban the practice of "fetal farming," making it a federal crime for researchers to use cells or fetal tissue from an embryo created for research purposes."

It's pretty clear that McCain is open to stem cells (as we all should be), but relatively closed to embryonic stem cells (as we all should be).  First off, one must recognize the differences between stem cell research and embryonic stem cell research.  Conservatives don't stand against the former, but we do take issue with the latter.  Embryonic stems cells are being slated as the end all, cure-all but in reality, they are less viable than other types of stem cells.  Creating life for spare parts is counterproductive and lacks respect for human life.  Listen to our show for more in this, as we interview Carol Peterson -- someone who knows firsthand about stem cells!

For the sake of brevity, I'm going to cut the conversation off there.  Trust me, we'll have plenty more to talk about in terms of education, healthcare and other human rights issues.  Let's take it one step at a time people!