Maryland Considers Equal Rights For Persons

March 11, 2009 09:00 AM

The state of Maryland has an interesting motto, written in Italian, which reads, Fatti maschii parole femine translated as Strong deeds, gentle words. That sounds so right, considering what the state legislature is about to address.

The Maryland Personhood Amendment (HB 925) reads as follows:

Proposing an amendment to the Maryland Declaration of Rights to establish that the right not to be deprived of life is vested in all human beings, irrespective of age, health, function, physical dependency, or method of reproduction, from the beginning of their biological development; making technical changes; and submitting the amendment to the qualified voters of the State of Maryland for their adoption or rejection.

Once the state legislature approves this proposal, it will be scheduled for the 2010 ballot, at which point Maryland residents will have a historic opportunity to use these gentle words acknowledging truth to enshrine in law the strong deed of recognizing that every person, from his or her beginning, is deserving of equal protection under the law. In other words, equal rights for all, which will be a giant step forward for the personhood movement in these United States.

The passage of this proposal would be an enormous step toward reclaiming the civil rights, equal rights and human rights of every innocent person, including those not yet born. I said in my statement addressing this proposal,

American Life League commends the Maryland legislature for assuming the critical task of addressing the grave injustice that has been created by the negation of these rights for an entire class of human beings. Until we establish civil rights and personhood for all human beings, we cannot have justice in this country.

Personhood was called for during the hearings held prior to the United States Supreme Court’s egregious Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton decisions. Roe’s attorneys admitted that if personhood were to be established for the preborn, they would not have a case. In writing the Roe v. Wade decision Justice Blackmun made the same point, commenting, “If this suggestion of personhood is established, the appellant’s case [the case for abortion], of course, collapses, for the fetus’ right to life would then be guaranteed specifically by the [14th] Amendment.”

The passage of this proposal by the Maryland state legislature is pivotal not only for the state of Maryland, but also for the entire nation. Such an action puts into place clear language that, when adopted by the legislature and voted into law by the people of Maryland, will undo the injustices created by the Blackmun Court. Providing clarity in our laws is of paramount importance. Roe v. Wade ignored the primary question of who is entitled to equal protection and instead deferred to addressing the case as a matter of due process.

Over the intervening 36 years, it has been argued that personhood is a religious question. This claim could not be farther from the truth. While it is clear that the Blackmun Court divorced personhood from the medical and scientific evidence available by simply setting it aside and failing to address it, the facts have not changed. The chasm between medical and scientific knowledge, and the law – when considering the development of human beings – is inexcusable. The objective, empirical, medical and scientific facts, known for over 100 years, are clear and cannot be refuted by anyone possessing logic. Any organism, including the single-cell human embryo, irrespective of the method of reproduction, that possesses a genome specific for and consistent with an individual member of the human species, is a human being.

Historically, Americans have not been in the business of denying fundamental rights to human beings. In fact, we have been the champions of human rights around the world. The most notable instance of this was our involvement in ending the Nazi Holocaust. At that time, America condemned the denial of the obvious fact that Jews are persons – human beings – deserving the respect and protection afforded to all other human beings. We should condemn a denial of personhood now.

Whether a human being is a person is not a religious question; it is a scientific matter. The concept of delayed personhood, which is the basis of current Maryland law, is not rooted in scientific fact.

As Professor Dianne Irving has written,

Ideas do have concrete consequences–not only in one's personal life, but also in the formulation of public policies. And once a definition is accepted in one public policy, the logical extensions of it can then be applied, invalidly, in many other policies, even if they are not dealing with the same exact issue–as happens frequently in bioethics. Thus, the definitions of "human being" and of "person" that have been concretized in the abortion debates have been transferred to several other areas, e.g., human embryo research, cloning, stem cell research, the formation of chimeras, the use of abortifacients–even to the issues of brain death, brain birth, organ transplantation, the removal of food and hydration, and research with the mentally ill or the disabled. But both private choices and public policies should incorporate sound and accurate science whenever possible. What I have tried to indicate is that in these current discussions, individual choices and public policies have been based on "scientific" myth, rather than on objective scientific facts.

The Maryland legislature is now working to correct the problems that have been created by using bad science and deconstructed language that denies personhood, based on false attitudes and beliefs. The Maryland legislature’s consideration and passage of the language contained in the Maryland Personhood Amendment can correct the egregious denial of human rights that has brought so much suffering and death to the most vulnerable human beings.

Maryland lawmakers are acknowledging the objective, empirical fact that a human being's life begins, when reproduced sexually, when the spermatozoon penetrates the oocyte. Further, these lawmakers are acknowledging that it is a physical, observable reality that a human being's life begins, when reproduced asexually, with a process of events using various methods, involving or not involving the use of sperm and/or oocytes or their components, the result of which is a single-cell human being. Such scientific facts are not beliefs. Rather, these are internationally recognized, objective, empirical facts. The Carnegie stages of human development, among other reference points, attest to this fact beyond the shadow of a doubt.

American Life League implores the Maryland legislature to recognize that all human beings are persons from their biological beginning by voting "yes" on HB 925. ALL also beseeches the Maryland legislature to end the discrimination against an entire class of human beings by restoring individual equal rights and human rights through the passage of HB 925.

Nothing less is acceptable under a democratic form of government, based on the virtue of equal justice for one and all. A hearing is scheduled for Friday, March 13. More information is available now at

To get involved now, e-mail or contact the office of the bill’s sponsor, Delegate Don H. Dwyer, Jr., at 410-841-3047.

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