Recently I have read on Crystal Clear Conservative, Bearing Drift, and other blogs, the debate over abortion between two of the Republican Attorney General choices, John Brownlee and Ken Cuccinelli. Rather than focus on the two candidates, (which many others have done), I’d instead like to examine the issue of abortion itself.
As many of you know, prior to the dual Supreme Court decisions of 1973, Roe v. Wade and the less well known Doe v. Bolton, abortion was considered a state issue rather than in the federal jurisdiction. The reasoning for this outcome was based upon an interpretation of the 14th Amendment. For the record, the 14th Amendment reads,
Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
Section 2. Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed. But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the Executive and Judicial officers of a State, or the members of the Legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State.
Section 3. No one shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.
Section 4. The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned. But neither the United States nor any State shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.
Section 5. The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
Now I have a number of complaints against the 14th Amendment both in its ramifications and in its manner of ratification, but as those issues are not the focus of this piece, I shall save them for another time. In the decision of Roe v. Wade, as many activists of either side of the abortion debate know, the justices found that state abortion laws violated a right to privacy as established in the due process clause in Section 1 of the 14th Amendment. Personally I cannot understand how the phrase “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws” grants a person the right to an abortion, but I guess the justices to the Supreme Court knew something that I do not. Frankly (and I’m sure that you wouldn’t be surprised if you have read my earlier posts) I think that these cases were yet another example of the Supreme Court violating the 10th Amendment by overruling the laws of the states. Yet, it is strangely ironic I think for the court to uphold abortion through the 14th Amendment by denying life and liberty to another. And that very point brings us to another issue.
Typically those who define themselves as social liberals ardently defend a “woman’s right to choose” while those who are socially conservative believe “abortion is murder”. Despite what some weak-kneed politicians might say, there is and can be no common ground between these two camps. The reason for this divide is due largely to a difference in terminology and understanding. For liberals (and if any liberal who is reading this post wishes to correct or improve my generalization, please do so), they believe that the government has no right or authority to regulate what goes on between consenting adults or what a person can or cannot choose to do with his or her own body. The right to privacy trumps the rights of the government. To some extent, I can appreciate this stance, as I do not want the government to mandate what religious beliefs I hold, what weapons I may or may not own, what doctors I must visit, illegally monitor my activities, or search my possessions without a warrant. However, abortion is a different kettle of fish. For most, if not all conservatives, it is an issue first and foremost about life. They view an unborn child as a person and abortion as means to kill that person. Therefore, the government (both state and federal) has an obligation and duty to defend that person against all who seek to do it harm, even if the person in question is the victim’s mother. How can it be illegal for a person to kill a child the day it is born, but be legal the day before? As long as one side views the issue as privacy and the other views the issue as life, there is no middle ground.
The nation, of course, is not simply clustered into these two camps where either abortion should always be legal or illegal. For example, you have the viability crowd who say that abortion should be legal up to the point where a child has reached viability such that he or she could live on his or her own outside the womb (20 to 27 weeks depending). Or the people who favor banning partial-birth abortion in which the child is partially delivered early before its termination. Others favor banning or permitting some abortions based on the establishment of some sort of other timetable. Then you have the myriad of abortion exceptions. Except when the life of the mother is in danger, except in the case of rape or incest, except in the case of known, likely, or probable birth defects, except in case of socioeconomic status, except when the woman’s health is at risk. Many citizens who declare themselves to be pro-life hold to these exceptions, the most common being like John Brownlee who has the life of the mother and rape and incest exceptions. Some pro-lifers condemn those who hold to such exception clauses as impure and not truly pro-life. I, on the other hand do not vilify my brothers, but do pose this simple question. How does the awful crime of rape or incest justify the additional crime of abortion? Committing an additional wrong does not somehow mitigate the first. Now some might argue, you’re not a woman and can never really understand, and they are right. I can never have a child nor have an abortion performed on my body. However, during my work in the state of Tennessee I had the honor of meeting a brave person who was raped and decided to have the child rather than seeking an abortion. That is indeed a tough situation, but, in the end, it allows good to come from an otherwise horrible situation.
Lastly, I encourage all people on both sides of this terrible conflict to discuss the issue calmly and rationally. Sure, as a pro-lifer, you can shout names like “murderer” and “baby killer”, but I expect that doing so would have little impact on a vast majority of those who have abortions and those who commit them. Until and unless you can convince a person that an unborn child is a person too, success will be exceedingly difficult. You must prove that it is an issue of life over privacy. This is a conflict not only to be fought in the courts, Congress, and state legislatures, but in the hearts and minds of Mr. and Mrs. John Q. Public.