Victory or defeat? State the case for personhood

Commentary by Judie Brown

On any given day in the world of media headlines, one can find at least one erroneous statement that absolutely must be refuted. In fact, one might venture to say that if a studious person were to examine the statements uttered by media personalities, he or she could become a recluse consumed with the full-time task of refuting mainstream media. That is precisely how egregious the situation is, especially for those working to communicate the simple point that a human being is a person whose life begins at the beginning.

Sounds simple enough, I know. Yet, in fact, the agenda of the most influential talking heads, newspaper editors, academic whiz kids and even many of our friends is to avoid admitting the fundamental fact that life begins at fertilization. A glaring example of the problem became evident with the Associated Press’ November 13 headline: “Court Clears Way for Egg Rights Showdown.”

Search that headline on the internet and you will see what I mean. It was repeated everywhere from Alaska to Maine and, as if the denigration of the embryonic child’s identity were not enough, the AP story further fans the culture of death’s flames to ignore what abortion truly does to a human being.

All the brouhaha came about when a single state Supreme Court ruling allowed Coloradans to propose a ballot initiative that would protect the innocent as persons under the state constitution.

The language is simple enough: “Section 31. Person defined. As used in sections 3, 6 and 25 of Article II of the state constitution, the terms ‘person’ or ‘persons’ shall include any human being from the moment of fertilization.”

So, why all the fuss? Clearly, we are facing the same onslaught of rhetoric that defeated a 2006 Michigan initiative and took the wind out of the sails of those struggling for the same goal in Ohio. It will be tried in Georgia where a similar measure is being pursued, though pro-life leaders like Dan Becker of Georgia Right to Life and Robert Muise of the Thomas More Law Center are fully prepared to make their case in the court of public opinion. In addition, Montana state representative Rick Jore has introduced a personhood amendment to the state constitution.

Clearly, pro-life activists will not be deterred, including the people of Colorado for Equal Rights. Lies never succeed in dampening authentic pro-life spirit.

I am not so sure about all of our friends. Perhaps they are the ones who bear watching with scrutiny. It’s easy to defend truth when dealing with opponents like the Associated Press writer who thinks about a female’s egg and somehow conjures up a vision of eggs in a gunfight at the OK Corral. That verbal tactic is simple to expose: If a reporter does not use the words “embryonic child” or “preborn person,” the public will never think about who dies as the result of abortion. That is, after all, the goal of the culture of death: dehumanize, disregard, dismiss and deny. The four Ds are the stock-in-trade of those who pander to the culture of abortionists.

But it’s not so simple when fellow pro-lifers get into the fray and oppose an initiative like the one in Colorado.

The contrast is remarkable. Kathryn Wittneben of NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado accused the proponents of the ballot initiative of making every abortion illegal. This disturbs her because the word “abortion” is not in the proposed constitutional amendment.

Why should it be, one would have to ask? After all, if the legal definition of “person” actually includes all living human beings from fertilization to death, abortion would simply be against the law! The word does not have to be in the constitution; in fact, it should not be. After all, none other than Justice Harry Blackmun said in the Roe v. Wade decision, “[If the] suggestion of personhood [of the preborn] is established, the [abortion rights] case, of course, collapses, for the fetus’ right to life is then guaranteed specifically by the [14th] Amendment.”

Personhood has always been the goal of many in the pro-life movement. So, when someone from NARAL is honest enough to tell the media that, indeed, if the Colorado proposal is adopted, practices like in vitro fertilization and chemicals like the birth control pill will be illegal, she is making our case for us. After all, any method that kills a preborn person would have to be ruled a crime. Otherwise, the amendment would be meaningless.

I love the enthusiasm of the leaders of Colorado for Equal Rights. One of them, the lovely Kristi Burton, who is but 20 years old, told the media that her group’s effort is all about the principle, not about abortion. Clearly, she pointed out, every person should have equal rights under the law and all they are trying to do is make that guarantee all-inclusive ?  preborn children and, yes, even embryonic children who some like to describe as “eggs.”

Compare NARAL’s words with those of the most deceptive rhetorical gymnasts ? the pro-lifers who do not want to support proposals like the Colorado ballot measure or similar measures at state or federal levels. Their words are a bit more difficult to see through, but equally ? if not more ? deadly for preborn children.

James Bopp, a veteran pro-life attorney and political strategist, has opined that pro-lifers who pursue personhood are similar to Don Quixote tilting at windmills. In one legal memo, Bopp suggested that “astute pro-life leaders have countered this by rallying pro-lifers around passing what restrictions were permissible.” He further opined that “the pro-life movement must at present avoid fighting on the more difficult terrain of its own position, namely arguing that abortion should not be available in cases of rape, incest, fetal deformity, and harm to the mother. While restricting abortion in these situations is morally defensible, public opinion polls show that popular support for the pro-life side drops off dramatically when these ‘hard’ cases are the topic.”

Obviously, the Bopp strategy, which is the National Right to Life and Focus on the Family strategy too, is based on a pragmatic political agenda. Bopp contends that hard-case abortions represent numbers so small that even ardent pro-lifers could accept those abortions as a political reality. Yet this argument denies personhood and contradicts principle.

But remember, like every other proposal before it, the Colorado initiative does not mention “abortion.” Rather, it acknowledges the principle that each and every innocent human person deserves equal protection. The Colorado initiative does not require arguing about which abortions will be condoned, accepted or otherwise never opposed. It simply tells the truth that every person, from his beginning, deserves equal protection.

If I sound like a broken record, good! Perhaps the message is finally getting through. For 29 years now, American Life League has been educating the public and calling for legally established personhood. Therefore, we are not about to cave in to the preferred rhetoric of the political side of the pro-life movement. Such skewed political theory has not worked in 34 years and it will never work. Why? Because when a movement is fighting for equal protection for an entire class of persons, it cannot win by consciously choosing not to protect every single one of them. Such a position is not only illogical; it is a recipe for defeat.

Colorado for Equal Rights deserves the unqualified support of every single organization or person that is self-described as pro-life. Nothing less will win the day for truth, principle and the babies.

Release issued: 27 Nov 07