Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
On Monday we celebrate the 240th anniversary of the document that declared that God-given freedom and launched the most successful form of government in all of human history.
What Thomas Jefferson first wrote when he created that phrase provides additional insight into its distinctive meaning.
“We hold these truths to be sacred and undeniable; that all men are created equal and independent, that from that equal creation they derive rights inherent and inalienable, among which are the preservation of life, and liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; …”
You can read this exactly as he penned it in the original draft of the Declaration on exhibit in the Library of Congress.
There can be no mistake about what is communicated with such clarity in those profound words.
What I believe history will conclude is the greatest travesty of abandonment of that promise occurred on Jan. 22, 1973, at the hands of the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court when they issued a ruling based on a twisted meaning of the right to privacy.
Somehow, seven of those nine justices determined that the due process clause of the 14th Amendment gave women the right to destroy life growing inside their bodies.
Since that time, almost 60 million developing babies have been denied the liberty and happiness Jefferson championed because their very lives were terminated before or at the moment of their birth.
At the rate of something in the range of 1.2 million abortions every year, that cause of death exceeds the next two highest reasons people die every year combined, heart disease and cancer.
The court did say in that landmark decision that this new right was to be balanced against the state’s two legitimate interests in regulating abortions: protecting women’s health and protecting the potentiality of human life.
Now, look again at Jefferson’s draft and note the words defining inherent and inalienable rights to include the preservation of life.
Also look at the rights of the states to protect women’s health.
That will bring us to what may be the most consequential decision since Roe v. Wade, which took place in the current Supreme Court and announced just days ago.
As you must know, they tossed out the Texas law designed to provide greater protection for women having abortions by concluding it wasn’t convenient for them to seek the kind of medical facility that could offer that safety for them.
Pro-abortion advocates and critics of that legislation had declared the real motive for its adoption to be reducing the number of abortions in Texas or, as easily interpreted, to preserve life in the womb.
So now it will be easier, even though it’s not safer, for women to avail themselves of the inexplicable right they obtained in 1973 to end the life of an unborn child.
Finally, on this Independence Day, realize that before we celebrate another one, our country will have chosen a new president.
That person will most certainly have the opportunity to shape the Supreme Court for at least the next two generations in whatever way he or she wishes and thus control the interpretation of our Constitution that arose from winning our independence.
Will that result in the continuing liberal erosion of those fundamental freedoms our country was designed to ensure for all of us, or will we be able to preserve the founding principles so dear to Jefferson and his colleagues?
The answer, as designed, is in the hands of “We The People.” May God be our guide.
Richard Greene is a former Arlington mayor and served as an appointee of President George W. Bush as regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency.