I think Timothy Keller said something similar in his book The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism, but it didn't sink in. It did yesterday when I was listening to a lecture by Richard John Neuhaus on Youtube.
Neuhaus tells us he was very much the liberal back in the 1960's and wrote for liberal publications. He said there were two forms of liberalism which surfaced in that time: a liberalism which sought the absolute freedom of the individual, and a liberalism which concerned itself with expanding the definition of who should be included when it came to who was welcome in the public square.
Neuhaus said that when the issue of abortion arose, it was the first group that seized upon the issue making it an issue of individual freedom: the "right" of a woman to choose what happens within her womb. Neuhaus argues the second phase of liberalism made a mistake in allowing this to happen. Why?
Going back to the title of this post, he argues it is because the dignity and sacredness of human life. Neuhaus argues that there is no biologist in the world who argues to the contrary that once a sperm and egg join, the process begins in the formation of a human being. As adults, we can trace our very selves to the moment when that one in 6 million sperm found an egg, fertilized it, and began the process of cell division. All of us arose out of that biological state. You cannot argue that simple fact. Anti-abortion folks extend the sacredness of life all the way back to this starting point. They have a very deeply rooted conviction that God holds the beginnings of this human being as sacred.
In many ways, so do those who support universal health care. Again, you have a group of people who believe that each human being deserves medical attention when in need, and they believe quite strongly that a person should not go broke to extend one's life--particularly if there is the ability to treat a disease. I strongly feel this is rooted and grounded in the care and concern for fellow human beings because life is, again, sacred.
Fundamentally, these two groups view life as sacred, but how often do you see them actually joining together to work for both of these things?
Usually, not so much.
In fact, despite sharing this common ground, usually pro-lifers (as they are often called) are found in more "conservative" camps. Those who support universal health care are usually found in the more liberal camps. Why is this the case?
A failure to carry one's logic all the way through. At least, this is what I think. Why do I think in this fashion?
Let's start with a particular premise: human life is sacred or for those who are more uncomfortable with religious language: valuable.
If human life is sacred/valuable, then what are the consequences of having such a premise?
Well, it would seem as if the common good would want to protect life and extend it to the best of our ability--at least this seems to be a logical consequence. Therefore, one would think that extending that protection would go to the potential for human life as well as human life which has been struck by disease and illness. It should be a both/and, at least logically.
However, oftentimes, pro-life folks are against universal health care, and universal health care folks support a woman's right to choose to abort a baby. The common good seems to travel only so far.
For instance, for many pro-life folks, protecting a potential human is more important than providing food, shelter, an education, and health care for a living human.
For many who support universal health care, providing food, shelter, a education, and health care for a living human being is more important than protecting the life of a potential human being.
What changes the equation?
Those who support a woman's right to have an abortion have a particular understanding of individual freedom for that woman. It is the woman's choice and no one else has a say. In a very real way, it's radically individualistic.
Those who do not wish to support universal health care have a radically individualistic view as well--pertaining to wealth. They believe individual freedom to earn and spend money as they choose is paramount.
Interestingly enough, each group has an idea of the sacredness of life; however, they also are (is the right word) infected by a radical individualism. Each group is not willing to carry either one of these positions (sacredness of life/individual freedom) to it's logical consequences, and so fodder is provided for anyone who wishes to exploit this and continue what some call a culture war.
Pope John Paul II repeatedly spoke out against a culture of death--a culture which allows the potential for human life to be prematurely ended AND which devalues the lives of living human beings as it fails to provide basic care to those in need.
It seems to me that if the Universal Church believes that all human beings are created in the image of God, then it will be very protective of those which bear that image--before birth and after birth.