Recently, in the Virginia General Assembly, a human personhood bill was debated in the House Subcommittee on Constitutional Law. The members subsequently voted not to advance the bill. House Bill 112 was a clear statement acknowledging the humanity of the individual human being prior to birth. The bill read,
Whereas, the Constitution of Virginia provides in Article I, Section 1 that all men are by nature equally free and independent and have certain inherent rights, of which, when they enter into a state of society, they cannot, by any compact, deprive or divest their posterity; namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety; and
Whereas, the Constitution of Virginia further provides in Article I, Section 11 that no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law; now, therefore,
Be it enacted by the General Assembly of Virginia:
1. § 1. That a human being is any organism, including an embryo, who possesses a genome specific for and consistent with a member of the species Homo sapiens. For the purposes of certain inherent and constitutionally guaranteed rights, every human being is deemed a legal person in the Commonwealth.
§ 2. Unborn children have protectable interests in life, health, and well-being, and the natural parents of unborn children have protectable interests in the life, health, and well-being of their unborn children.
§ 3. Subject to the United States Constitution and the Constitution of Virginia, the laws of the Commonwealth shall be interpreted and construed to acknowledge on behalf of all human beings, including unborn children at every stage of development, the equality and inherent rights guaranteed by Article I, Section 1 of the Constitution of Virginia and the right to due process guaranteed by Article I, Section 11 of the Constitution of Virginia.
§4. Nothing herein shall be construed to expand, limit, or otherwise modify any determination of law regarding what constitutes appropriate medical services for pregnant women.
The Subcommittee vote of 5 to 2 is extremely disappointing on several levels. It is not at all clear why, in the face of excellent testimony by several experts, this committee made this decision … or is it in fact as clear as the nose on your face?
One allegedly pro-life lawmaker on the subcommittee explained the reasons why he voted against advancing the bill. Frankly, I found his comments lacking all common sense. After writing to his constituent in a private e-mail communication that he agreed with the principles contained in the bill, he went on to state, “It is in violation of Roe v. Wade. I think that Roe v. Wade is a flawed Supreme Court opinion because it creates a constitutional ‘right to privacy’ that exists nowhere in the Constitution. But, it is the law of the land until overturned. And HB 112 is in violation of this ruling.”
If this nonsensical comment boggles your mind, please feel free to join me in feeling utterly confused. The fact of the matter is that human personhood proposals are not designed to confront the faulty premise that supports Roe v. Wade and its companion decision, Doe. v. Bolton. On the contrary, the entire reason for pursuing human personhood proposals in legislatures and state ballot initiatives is to focus attention on the humanity of the preborn child and his individual rights as a member of the human race. The goal is not to challenge Roe and Doe, but to address human rights, human dignity and the identity of the preborn human being as an equal member of society. This is why HB 112 makes it clear that the goal of the proposed legislation is the recognition of the preborn [unborn] human as “a legal person in the Commonwealth” of Virginia.
Roe and Doe are not mentioned in HB 112 for this very reason. No matter. The allegedly pro-life subcommittee member ignored that fact. And then he went even further.
The legislator went on to say, “Giving protection at every stage of development makes the birth control pill and in-vitro fertilization illegal. This is because sometimes the pill blocks the implementation of a fertilized egg and in vitro involves the selection of only well-fertilized eggs. I think that the majority of elected representatives are not willing to ban the birth control pill or ban in vitro fertilization.”
This statement provides the “aha” moment behind the truthful reason why he voted no. Clearly, while this politician wants to be acknowledged as a member of the pro-life community who can earn 100 percent pro-life ratings from state political pro-life groups, this same legislator is absolutely unwilling to agree that a human being’s rights should be protected regardless of his age, health or condition of dependency. In other words, when it comes to preborn individuals who are created in a petri dish or are alive and growing before implantation in their mothers’ wombs, he is willing to sanction their killing and ignore the fact that this is actually what is occurring. While admitting that birth control chemicals may kill, and that IVF practitioners routinely kill, he does not wish to buck the status quo by supporting ethical, coherent legislative proposals like HB 112.
It is therefore patently false for him to suggest that he agrees with the principles contained in the bill, which are foundational to the human personhood effort. Not only that, but he is distinctly and unequivocally not pro-life by any honest definition.
Obviously, as Professor Charles Rice wrote when explaining why the "Manhattan Declaration" was itself off the mark:
The failure of MD, in its catalogue of legalized promotions of the “culture of death,” even to mention the entry by government into the business of subsidizing by contraception the rejection of new life, is inexcusable. Once that role of government was conceded, the other evils denounced by MD were predictable. Perhaps the purpose of MD was to put together a coalition of signers that would include proponents of public funding of contraception. If so, MD politicized and trivialized itself.
In other words, if contraception is enshrined as a sacred cow that cannot be opposed, then anything else that manipulates, dehumanizes or otherwise categorizes some human beings as less valuable than others is acceptable. The Virginia legislator who wrote that e-mail should be ashamed!
This same lawmaker closed his message to his constituent with the arrogant statement that human personhood proposals “don’t stop any abortions.” He then proceeds to tell the voter that he would prefer to concentrate on reducing the number of what we are positive he means to be surgical abortions alone. In other words, he is very comfortable with the continuation of child killing as long as he can regulate it given the constraints imposed on him by the unjust Supreme Court decisions of 1973.
To me, this is the unfathomable result of year upon year of politicizing the act of abortion rather than acknowledging that it is, regardless of what courts or legislatures may stipulate, an act of murder. It is a crime against humanity; it is an act of terrorism; it is the pitting of mother against child; it is the cruelest act of child abuse ever recorded in the annals of human history.
I thank God for the leadership of state legislators like the author of H.B 112, Delegate Robert G. Marshall and applaud his principled voice for truth. May those among his peers who deny the truth pay the ultimate price for such cowardice: defeat in the coming election.
The pro-life movement’s constituency, the preborn children whose fundamental personhood we represent, do not need any more gutless wonders but rather more men and women like Marshall who are willing to stand their ground for those who cannot do so themselves.
E-mails of encouragement to Delegate Robert G. Marshall, and the two members of the subcommittee who voted in favor of H.B. 112, Delegates Clifford Athey and Jackson Miller, would be appreciated.
Delegate Robert G. Marshall
Delegate Clifford L. Athey, Jr.
Delegate Jackson H. Miller