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The right to life is a moral principle based on the belief that a human being has the right to live and, in particular, should not to be unjustly killed by another human being. The concept of a right to life is central to debates on the issues of euthanasia, capital punishment, abortion, self defense and the morality of war.
|“||Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.||”|
|“||Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life.||”|
—Article 6.1 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
|“||Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.||”|
—Section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
The entitlement of a person to make the decision to end their own life through euthanasia is commonly called a right to choose, while the opposing side who oppose the legalization of euthanasia are commonly called right-to-lifers.
The term "right to life" is a rhetorical device used in the abortion debate by those who wish to outlaw the intentional termination of a pregnancy. Pro-life advocates argue that prenatal humans are human persons from the moment of conception and have the same fundamental "right to life" before birth as humans have after birth. Generally speaking, those identifying themselves as "right-to-life" believe abortion is morally unacceptable.
The term "right to choose" is a rhetorical device used in the abortion debate by abortion-rights proponents. Abortion rights advocates argue that prenatal humans are not human persons and do not have the same fundamental "right to life" as a mature human. The distinction is that a human becomes a person and is given rights at some point after birth.
Generally speaking, those identifying themselves as "right-to-choose" are advocates for legal elective abortion. At the same time, some advocates for legalized abortion state that they simply do not know for sure where in pregnancy life begins; then-Senator Barack Obama took this view in the 2008 election. Some biologists however, have determined that the properties of life emerge at the cellular level. Other advocates have stated that they hold personal views against abortion but do not support putting those beliefs into law; then-Senator Joe Biden took this view in the 2008 election.
Many utilitarian ethicists argue that the "right to life," where it exists, depends on conditions other than membership of the human species. The philosopher Peter Singer is a notable proponent of this argument. For Singer, the right to life is grounded in the ability to plan and anticipate one's future. This extends the concept to non-human animals, such as other apes, but since the unborn, infants and severely disabled people lack this, he states that abortion, painless infanticide and euthanasia can be "justified" (but are not obligatory) in certain special circumstances, for instance in the case of a disabled infant whose life would be one of suffering, or if its parents didn't wish to raise it and no one desired to adopt it.