Thursday, May 28, 2015

"Personhood," That is, Status as a Person in the Sense that "Person" is Used in the Constitution, Should be Resolved by the Constitution

If, at this point, I turn a critical eye to the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, if I even suggest that it should not be the basket in which we place any of our eggs, let alone all of them, I do it solely because I find that the Act is a poor substitute for the proper response to the growing body of evidence that fetal children are capable of, and do experience, pain.

As an aside, so that you can measure my bona fides as a voice for life and against abortion, let me tell you about me.

  • I first articulated a pro-life opinion in public as a Senior in high school at Lejeune High School, (Class of 1976) in an Advanced Biology class taught by Debra Hansen. The position I held then flowed principally from a moral conclusion regarding the act of abortion. As I moved into my adult years, I read extensively about abortion, its causes, its methods, its impact. My moral judgment became seasoned with other, equally valid, grounds of justification for the conclusion that abortion is always wrong.
  • Soon, my opinion on abortion translated into action. I began speaking out against legalized abortion, including picketing and demonstrating at a local abortion facility here in Jacksonville, North Carolina. Eventually, in 1982, the rhetoric I and my brother, David Henderson, employed, resulted in a lawsuit against us for defamation by the owner of the abortion business. We prevailed. The defense of our constitutional rights of freedom of speech was accomplished by the North Carolina ACLU and by a newly founded organization, the Rutherford Institute. 
  • After we prevailed, my wife and I relocated to St. Louis University so that I could attend the Law School at St. Louis University. In hindsight, no better training ground exists for a pro-life advocate than an urban Catholic University in the process of surrendering its soul in pursuit of economic survival. The law school played welcoming host to a vocal pro-abortion element, embodied by the Women's Law Caucus. How hostile could Catholic law school be to pro-life expression? I once was called to an assistant dean’s office for posting a message on the student bulletin board comparing the Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights to Nazi apologists for the Holocaust. Ass. Dean Smith told me that my posting was "the most unprofessional thing he'd ever seen in the law school." Oddly, that was just days after two of my classmates were caught, in the act of copulation, on a classroom floor, by an adjunct professor arriving to teach an evening class!
  • Upon graduation, for the next twenty-five years, I practiced law with nonprofit organizations that regularly and consistently included as a segment of cases a variety of opportunities for me to represent pro-life activists and antiabortion demonstrators. In the process, I represented teens seeking protection from parents trying to force them to have abortions, protesters threatened with arrest for the messages on their signs, pregnancy resource centers threatened with the imposition of a duty to spread the pro-abortion messages of the government. If you have heard of Operation Rescue, Christian Defense Coalition, Randall Terry, Joseph Foreman, Jayne Bray, Michael Bray, Patrick Mahoney, Keith Tucci, Jeff White, Rob Schenck, Paul Schenck, Jeannie Hill, then you’ve heard of my clients, or some of them.

Because the PCUCPA is so unlikely to become law, I feel at liberty to observe that the Act is little more than window dressing on a macabre set piece: the more than two score years of legalized child killing in the United States. In the face of the horror, the grinding inhumanity, of our abortion culture, can it possibly be that the best that the House of Representatives can muster is a bill doomed to die aborning -- much like the offspring of an abortion bound woman -- before it can ever be born.

As a matter of our national history, the Civil War, a national bloodletting of nearly a half million lost lives and untold lost prosperity, was the method by which the Supreme Court's disregarding of the personhood of Africans was, ultimately, corrected.

The right answer to the ongoing holocaust of legalized abortion in America can be found in the historic response of the Congress, the States and the People to the previous erroneous decision of the Supreme Court in Dred Scott v. Sandford. That historic response consisted of three proposed amendments to the Constitution, which became the Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the US Constitution.

In Dred Scott, the Supreme Court held that blacks were not, and could never be, citizens of the United States. For that reason, courts could not entertain lawsuits by blacks seeking a declaration that, due to their sojourn in Free States, they had acquired status as freedmen and could not, thereafter, again be subject to bondage. A civil war and nearly a half million lost lives later, the Nation repudiated the Supreme Court by ratifying the three amendments, ending slavery, guaranteeing an equal right to vote, and, under the Fourteenth Amendment, granting status as US citizens and State citizens to blacks.

Just over a century later, in Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court likewise concluded that children before birth were not persons in the constitutional sense. For that reason, their own interest in securing their right to life and liberty, and the interests of the States in securing their rights to life and to liberty were completely discounted by the Supreme Court as against the woman's liberty interest in choosing to have an abortion.

In the intervening period, there have been very few shots fired, but so many more lives taken than were lost in the Civil War. Then, in his second inaugural address, Lincoln suggested that the Civil War was a judgment of God on this Nation, in which "every drop of blood drawn by the lash" would have to be answered by "one drawn by the sword." Ultimately, the Confederacy surrendered to the Union, and the three Civil War Amendments were propounded to the States by Congress and ratified by a sufficient number of States. With those amendments, the Constitution expressly read directly contrary to the view of it previously asserted by the Supreme Court in Dred Scott.

Our history regarding the constitutional status of blacks suggests that there are two sound answers to the illicit Roe v. Wade decision and its progeny. One answer could come from the Court. The Supreme Court could revisit and overturn Roe, thereby restoring to the States the power to regulate abortion or to prohibit it entirely. That has not happened, not in the more than forty years since the aberrant Roe decision.

There was a time when I, young and idealistic, thought the possibility of an internal correction by the Court could resolve the wrong of Roe. Nearly three decades have passed since I took up the practice of law in a public interest setting, with the hope that, by doing so, I would help to bring about that internal correction by the Court. In that time, I have made many trips to the Supreme Court. I have served as counsel in hundreds of cases representing those that oppose abortion through peaceful demonstrations. In a handful of instances, I represented younger women seeking protection from abortions being forced on them by parents. I also litigated against State and local criminal laws restricting free speech near abortion facilities, adopted by legislative bodies that treated abortion as though it were a holy sacrament. If the Court ever reverses course in this matter on its own, it will come as a great surprise to this no man who is no longer misguided by dreams.

Or, of course, the other answer could come from Congress, the States and the People. They could amend the Constitution in a manner that effectively overturns Roe. That effect was exactly the one gotten by the Fourteenth Amendment: reversal of a holding of the Supreme Court installing its wrong-headed interpretation of the language in the Constitution as the language of the Constitution. In Dred Scott, the Supreme Court said, "no," blacks are not citizens, and could never be citizens. A half million lost lives and nearly 80 billion dollars (present day value) of treasure later, the Nation bent the Supreme Court over its collective lap and gave it Fourteen spankings. The lesson lasted about as long as it took for the questions of "separate but equal" accommodations for blacks, WWII internment of Japanese Americans, and abortion to come before the Court.

So the certain way, the sure way, to end legalized abortion would be to amend the Constitution to expressly extend legal personhood status to fetal children. Article V of the Constitution sets out two methods of amending the Constitution. The Congress may initiate an amendment and send it to the States for ratification. In the alternative, the States may call on Congress to call a convention for proposing amendments to the Constitution. Congress could propose an amendment to the Constitution in the terms of the proposed Act.

Availability of the amendment process has not produced any change in the Constitution, however, since the decision in Roe v. Wade. How many millions more fetal Americans must be sacrificed on the altar of Supreme arrogance and ignorance before the Court's error is repudiated in a constitutional amendment ending the horror of abortion?