Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Personhood -- Back on the Table in SC

On Thursday morning, a S.C. House subcommittee is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the personhood legislation in our state, the Right to Life Act of South Carolina, H.3526. It states that legal personhood vests at fertilization.

We know that medically and scientifically, human life begins at fertilization. From that moment, this brand new life is genetically 100% human. It is time that our state and nation declared that we will protect all human life from fertilization on.

This legislation does not repeal the abortion laws of our state. It will not prevent a single abortion by itself. It does not put that principle in the context of abortion or any other specific area of law. It is more a statement of principle than policy. But as such it does lay the groundwork for an abortion ban at some later date that could stand up to scrutiny from the Supreme Court.

With this statement of principle in place, if enough state legislators get the courage to ban abortion outright, without exceptions based on the circumstances of conception, the ban could be upheld under portions of the reasoning of Roe vs. Wade.

While the Roe vs. Wade decision made up a right to privacy that included the right to abortion out of whole cloth, the justices made a valid point when they criticized the Texas abortion ban currently in place. You can't logically say that all human life is sacred and deserves protection--unless that life began with the crime of rape. Either human life is sacred or it isn't.

The Roe decision includes this statement: "If this suggestion of personhood is established, the appellant's case, of course, collapses, for the fetus' right to life would then be guaranteed specifically by the [Fourteenth] Amendment."

Of course the court decided that there was no clear definition of a child in the womb as a person under the law. The Right to Life Act currently under consideration provides just such a definition.

Recognizing the personhood of the unborn does not automatically satisfy Roe vs. Wade, however, as some believe. The decision went on to say: "[W]e do not agree that, by adopting one theory of life, Texas may override the rights of the pregnant woman that are at stake."

They then make it a balancing act between the right to have an abortion, the state's interest in protecting the mother's health, and the state's interest in protecting what they call "potential life," which in our day is of course recognized scientifically as very real and existing human life. The Planned Parenthood vs. Casey decision further affirmed a right to an abortion prior to "viability."

Roe vs. Wade is an evil and poorly reasoned decision, especially when it extends the right to privacy from government intrusion to include a right to kill a child in the womb.

The S.C. attorney general issued an opinion on this personhood bill indicating that it would probably be upheld as constitutional by the courts, however, it would be held to not apply to abortion, because (1) it doesn't specifically mention abortion, and (2) the courts would interpret it so as to make it conformable to the Roe vs. Wade and Casey decisions.

The personhood of the unborn should be declared, and it provides an important step in supporting a case to prohibit abortion, but it too is subject to judicial interpretation.

So after enacting personhood legislation, we can ban abortion and either wait for the courts to decide whether they will allow it, or we as a state stand up for our laws and assert that the state has the power to ban abortion reserved under the 10th Amendment (as a power not specifically given to the federal government).

The latter course would take courage on the part of our legislators--and probably our governor as well. And courage seems to be lacking among most politicians these days. It might also require some sacrifice on the part of the state's citizens, as federal funding for roads and education might be held back, but that sacrifice would be a very small price to pay in order to stop the killing of over 7,000 babies in South Carolina.

Personhood is a logical and necessary statement that flows from under the Declaration of Independence (“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness”). This declaration of personhood also follows from the medical knowledge we have today of life before birth. It follows from the biblical statements about life in the womb. And it follows the constitutional guarantee against depriving anyone of life without due process of law.

This is only the first step down a road that our legislators must commit to with courage--or get out of the way and let real statesmen take their place.


Wesley Wilson is the President of Let Her Live, a nonprofit dedicated to saving babies by showing the beauty and value of life to women considering abortion. Please learn more about the Let Her Live pro-life billboard campaign. Donations are tax deductible.

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