Monday, February 25, 2013

Abortion: It's When Rights, not Life, Begin

In a letter-to-the-editor of the NJ Star-Ledger--Roe vs. Wade: The Start of Life--Marie Tasy, executive director of New Jersey Right to Life, wrote, quoting from Justice Harry Blackmun's Roe v. Wade majority opinion:

“We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins.... [But], If this suggestion of personhood is [scientifically] established, the appellant’s case, of course, collapses, for the fetus’s right to life would then be guaranteed specifically by the (14th) Amendment.” That decision was written on Jan. 22, 1973.

Not surprisingly, Tasy cites "great strides in Medicine and science" to prove that "Roe vs. Wade is outdated and must be overturned." 

I left the following comments:

"These facts provide compelling evidence that Roe vs. Wade is outdated and must be overturned."

Not so fast, Marie Tasy. The 14th Amendment refers to "all persons the United States."  Clearly, the rights of the mother are protected, while no rights of the unborn are recognized. Despite Blackmun's flawed interpretation, the issue clearly is: When do rights, not life, begin?

Life, in fact, does not begin at conception. Life precedes conception. Both the sperm and egg are alive. Rights, properly understood, begin at birth, not in the womb. Rights are moral principles derived from observation and logic pertaining to the objective requirements of man's life and survival; specifically, the sanction to freedom of action in a social context. The unborn do not exist in a social context.

The right to life implies the right to determine the functions of one's own body. Since rights are inalienable, they logically cannot conflict. Only the woman has that right. A fetus cannot have it. A "right" that disappears at birth is a logical contradiction. A right (the fetus's alleged "right to life") that negates the rights of another (the woman's right to choose) is not a right. There is no "right" to alienate--to violate--the rights of another.

One may argue about certain restrictions on late-term abortion, such as outlawing the execution of a viable infant during the course of terminating such a pregnancy. But, a woman's right to her own life, and the equal protection thereof, means she has a right to terminate her pregnancy at any time.

Section 1. of the 14th Amendment reads, in full:

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.

As I read it, a declaration of fetal personhood, in and of itself, violates the 14th Amendment. Despite its muddled language ("privileges and immunities"), the Amendment clearly refers to rights in its reference to "life, liberty, and property." As I've said before, the constitution cannot be understood outside of the context of the Declaration of Independence, the philosophical blueprint for the constitution, which establishes unalienable individual rights as the foundational principle of the United States of America. 

Furthermore, Blackmun noted that the word person appears numerous times in the constitution. "But in nearly all these instances, the use of the word is such that it has application only post-natally. None indicates, with any assurance, that it has any possible pre-natal application." This contradicts what he said earlier, and quoted by Tasy: "If this suggestion of personhood is [scientifically] established, the appellant’s case, of course, collapses, for the fetus’s right to life would then be guaranteed specifically by the (14th) Amendment.” For reasons best known to him, Blackmun needlessly muddled the constitutional issue.

Related Reading:

Karen Cherins’s Confused Understanding of Reproductive Rights Threatens Reproductive Freedom

Abortion and Individual Rights, Parts 12, and 3

The Assault on Abortion Rights Undermines All Our Liberties, by Diana Hsieh and Ari Armstrong

Abortion Rights are Pro-Life, by Leonard Piekoff

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