THE MAJOR PROBLEM of the nineteenth century in the moral, social, economic and political planes was the undeserved misery of the working class, with which we must link colonial exploitation. The major problem of our time, in the same planes, is much more serious than that of the nineteenth century: it concerns the undeserved contempt for human life unfolding throughout the world.

This problem has been clearly visible since the first half of the twentieth century. However, its extreme gravity results above all from the world campaign seeking to dry up the sources of life by making sterilization commonplace, by legalizing of abortion and very soon, without doubt, euthanasia as well.

This taking of life is presented as the sole satisfactory solution for entire classes of people who have been portrayed as being in pain or trauma. However, as experience shows, this commandeering of life raises more problems than it tries to solve.

Among other instances, the trouble in the region of Chiapas in southern Mexico at the beginning of 1994 should have made even the most opaque blinds fall. These events find their deepest cause in the injustice and inequalities that the Indians of the San Cristobal de las Casas region have experienced. And if the same causes run the risk of producing the same effects, we must hasten to prevent such outbursts by remedying those very injustices and inequalities. The international campaigns for sterilization and abortion reveal, in those who sponsor them, a refusal to remedy these injustices and inequalities. Once the victims become aware of them, the revolt will spread like a trail of gun powder, and nothing will be able to halt the violence.

Here, we propose a series of arguments especially for all those who need a practical instrument to use in debates in which they take part.

We will examine in simple terms some of the arguments which are advanced most often in the discussion about respect for life. These discussions touch on some fundamental questions of bioethics, but they will be examined in the light of actual demographic phenomena. This examination will carry us, therefore, well beyond the ins and outs of liberalizing abortion.