Eye on the Prize

Across the country, there is a growing effort to place ballot initiatives before the voters that, if successful, would legally establish the personhood of the unborn child. Such citizen-led campaigns are already being carried out in several states and more are in the planning stages.

We have also seen this Personhood Movement challenged by some pro-lifers who insist that we should, instead, concentrate our efforts on overturning Roe v. Wade. In fact, a few days ago I was called by a state pro-life leader who was adamantly pushing this approach. His contention was that such a strategy has a much higher probability of success and would accomplish the same result. The reason for his call was to ask me to join his group in discouraging the Personhood initiative in his state.

I declined.

The unfortunate thing is, his "accomplish the same result" claim is not only wrong, it is widely held within the pro-life movement. A significant number of our people appear to believe that overturning Roe would automatically make abortion illegal and that is simply not the case. In reality, the far more important issue is the legal reasoning that the Supreme Court uses to overturn Roe.

Both the 5th and 14th Amendments create a Constitutional right-to-life for all "persons" as well as a federal duty to protect those lives. Therefore, if the Court were to overturn Roe on the basis that the unborn child is a person, their lives would be protected by the Constitution and this nightmare would be over. However, most legal experts feel that the Court is far more likely to overturn Roe on the basis that the Constitution is silent on abortion and that it is, therefore, a "state's rights" matter.

That would be an unmitigated disaster for the unborn. We would almost immediately end up with a "patchwork quilt" of abortion laws in which a few states would prohibit abortion altogether, others would allow it in any circumstance, and the vast majority would take some sort of middle path. Given that state lines are freely crossed, this would leave every unborn baby in every state exposed to abortion. It could also guarantee that our great-grandchildren will still be fighting this battle a hundred years from now.

Before continuing, let me make it clear that I will always be an unwavering believer in state's rights and am fully aware that the U.S. Constitution was intended to limit the power of the federal government. However, when someone claims to be pro-life, he or she is saying that the unborn are persons. After all, there is no other basis upon which to justify the pro-life position. So in light of the 5th and 14th Amendments, it would be preposterous for the pro-life movement to be working toward a situation where the right-to-life of the unborn is negotiated within the state legislatures.

In the final analysis, what every pro-lifer needs to appreciate is the fact that there are a lot of good people in our movement doing a lot of good work on behalf of the unborn. But we must never lose sight of the fact that our ultimate mission is not to regulate abortion, restrict abortion, reduce the numbers of abortions or hammer out some sort of accommodation with the death lobby. Nor should we ever allow that to become our mission. Instead, we must always be mindful that until America has a constitutional amendment that affirms the personhood of the unborn from the moment of fertilization, this battle cannot end; it can only ebb and flow. And regardless of its success or lack of success, the Personhood Movement is reminding us of that.

Comments (Comment Moderation is enabled. Your comment will not appear until approved.)

Unfortunately, we have seen many pro-life politicians abandon their pro-life position when push comes to shove. In the state where I live, when I look at who is running for U.S. Congress on the pro-life platform I am disheartened because the major contenders have created
entangling alliances and their past and present actions do not match their words. To make matters worse some influential pro-life people come out to rally for them. These politicians are good at touting how pro-life they are, especially in front of a pro-life audience because they know the pro-life vote is important but I will not be surprised when they fail to deliver. I would be very surprised if they do but I am not counting on it. I am very wary of these politicians.

The thought of abortion being decided on the state-level has always made me nervous and yet the five Supreme Court justices who supported Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton pushed abortion on demand on the entire nation without any say from the people. The tragic result has been over 50 million lost lives, many millions wounded by the effects of abortion and the degradation of all of our lives. I personally would like to have the opportunity to vote to
say "I don't want that in my backyard." As Mark points out, however, state lines are freely crossed and there is so much at stake how things get decided. We must keep our eye on the prize. Fortunately there is more than one way in which to amend the Constitution.
Proposals can come through both houses of Congress or through the state legislatures. Either way, amending the constitution is not an easy process and if we want to get there, our first order of business on the political front is to find and support candidates who are sincerely committed to the unborn and stop supporting those whose actions don't match their rhetoric.
# Posted By Mary | 4/14/10 5:04 PM
Absolutely. Personhood was a part of the Republican platform but they don't mention it at all, much less consistently support it. Since unborn children are people, the state has no right to deny them life without due process of law.
# Posted By Brad | 4/17/10 10:34 AM
And...people don't get very excited about fighting for 24-hour waiting periods for abortions. They're supportive, but they simply will not make the same sort of donations or sacrifices for an effort that serves as a mild abortion regulation. Rather, people get excited about fighting for the right to life of every person.
This is not merely a legal exercise...it's also a social and political movement that requires motivation and momentum. Personhood provides both.
# Posted By Joe W. | 4/20/10 12:09 AM

Mark Crutcher of Life Dynamics