As the presidential election draws near, a particular issue has come to the forefront of the political debate over abortion: when do natural rights vest?

The man-made right to drive a car vests at 16. The right to drink alcohol vests in most states at 21. But what about the God-given rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, which we commit to protect in our Constitution? On what day in a person’s life do those rights vest?

On Oct.3 Cecile Richards, the head of Planned Parenthood, stated on WHO NEWS in Iowa that she doesn’t “know that there’s an exact answer for” when a child gets constitutional rights. On April 4 Hillary Clinton opined on “Meet the Press” that “an unborn person doesn’t have constitutional rights.”

In the Declaration of Independence, which notably served as the backdrop for this year’s first presidential debate, the Founding Fathers unanimously declared that natural rights are endowed by the “Creator” through the “Laws of Nature.” Knowing as a matter of common sense both “who” endows us with natural rights and “how” God does so, determining the answer to “when” becomes a matter of simple biology.

At the moment a sperm fertilizes an egg, cellular division begins immediately and continues uninterrupted until well past the person’s birth. This constant cellular activity beginning at conception – in and of itself – proves the Creator’s endowment of life in a new human person, and not only life, but liberty as well.

That “[t]he God who gave us life, gave us liberty at the same time” is not debatable. We carved that in stone on the Jefferson Memorial.

As the Creator endows at conception both life and liberty, which here would be the right to grow as God intended, those rights “vest.” That the new human person is far too young to self-direct his life, or enjoy his liberty, does not divest him of those rights, as an incident in Jefferson’s own life makes clear.

Jefferson’s father, Peter, died when Thomas was 14. Thomas’ inability to use his inheritance because of his tender age, or otherwise self-direct how to spend it, did not divest him of his right to the inheritance. Rather, a guardian was placed over Thomas’ estate to protect it until Thomas matured.

Like the man-made right to an inheritance, tender age does not divest one of natural rights once vested. Rather, the Creator places guardians over newly conceived persons whom we commonly call Mom and Dad. Their role, like the guardian of young Thomas’ estate above, is to protect the child’s vested rights until the child can use them himself.

On Election Day, let us take our common sense into the voting booth and vote for only those candidates who support our founding principles. Life is a God-given right that vests at conception, not a man-made right bestowed at birth.

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Ellen Giangiordano is a member of St. Margaret Parish, Narberth.