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definition of personhood. The truth of history is that the most tragic consequences have directly resulted when we, or another nation, have taken a too restrictive view of personhood and the value of all human life. The institution of slavery, reducing human beings to the level of economic commodities, the ovens at Auschwitz and the slaughter at all the My Lais of Indochina demonstrate what becomes possible, tolerable, and even legal from a philosophy of human life and personhood too narrowly perceived. The nation's definition of personhood, as set forth by its system of law, has potentially profound and crucial consequences on the rights of every citizen. To set a legal precedent for restricting the view of personhood according to certain artificial criteria is to open the way for the abuse of our most fundamental and treasured ideals.
It is difficult to bring to mind an advocate of justice whom history has condemned for a too "liberal” view of the range of human life and personhood.
The point is this: what the lessons of history teach us is that where societies have erred, they have erred on the side of bigotry and narrow-mindedness. They have more often than not erred in the direction of failing to grant rights where those rights were subsequently recognized to be legitimate.
The question, then, is: how broadly shall we apply our system of justice? How liberally shall we interpret the principles spelled out in the United States Constitution, and more specifically in the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, which state that no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law” or “the equal protection of the law”?
This was precisely the issue which Congress sought to settle by the adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment. With the Dred Scott decision, the Supreme Court in effect had recognized another criteria, other than “existence,” for determining personhood. The impulse behind those who framed and urged the adoptiou of the Fourteenth Amendment-men like Congressman John Bingham of Ohio, Congressman Thaddeus Stevens, the Radical Republican leader for Pennsylvania, Senator Jacob M. Howard of Michigan, and others—was to make absolute and unequivocal that when the Constitution declares that “no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law,” every person means every human being. No other criteria or limitation can be applied by the state in defining who is a "person.” In the words of Congressman Bingham after the adoption of the Joint Resolution proposing the Constitutional Amendment:
"By that great law of ours it is not inquired whether a man is 'free' ... it is only to be in inquired is he a man, and therefore free by the law of that creative energy which breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and he became a living soul, endowed with the rights of life and liberty. . . . Before that great law the only question to be asked of the creature claiming its protection is this: Is he a man? Every man is entitled to the protection of American law, because its divine spirit of equality declares that all men are created equal."
The argument for the Fourteenth Amendment rests originally with the concepts of the Declaration of Independence: "We hold these truths to be selfevident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." These rights are not rights conferred on man by the state. It is not for the state to decide what persons shall or shall not have the right to live. These rights are ordained by the Creator. That is why they are universal. Our country was founded on the principle that human rights—the most fundamental of which is the right to life itself--are not given by government, but endowed by God.
Abraham Lincoln understood the full meaning of that document:
"I should like to know-taking this old Declaration of Independence, which declares that all men are equal, upon principle, and making exceptions to itwhere will it stop? If one may says it does not mean a Negro, why not another say it does not mean some other man? If that Declaration is not the truth, let us get the statute book in which we find it, and tear it out! (If it is the truth) Let us stick to it then ; let us stand firmly by it, then.”
It is fascinating to discover that advocates of civil rights during this time, who framed and supported the Fourteenth Amendment, are among the same men who successfully urged the adoption of the Assimilative Crime Statute in 1866, which adopted as law in federal territories anti-abortion laws passed recently before as state statutes. The adoption of such statutes had been prompted, in large part, by the growing scientific knowledge about the process of conception (the human female ovum was not discovered until 1827), and the resultant urgings by physicians and medical associations for more specific statutes outlawing abortion. In 1973, Congress responded even more specifi
cally to these pressures by passing a law prohibiting the sale, lending, or giving away of any drug, medicine, or any article causing unlawful abortion. The record shows those supporting the statute included Congressmen and Senators who were framers and advocates of the Fourteenth Amendment. This was all far more than coincidence. When one becomes convinced that every human being has fundamental, endowed rights, which are rooted in the right to life itself, then it becomes natural to apply that principle consistently, and universally.
What, then, do we discover to be the true legal issues involved with this question? We recognize that life is life from the beginning; it is endowed with personhood from its outset. To make any other legal definition of personhood is to jeopardize and nullify the most basic right guaranteed by our Constitution-the right to be. The purpose of this amendment, the Human Life Amendment to the Constitution is to restore an essential unity to what the law recognizes as a person, and what we know from science, observation, and conviction to constitute a human being.
Our task is to insure that rights endowed by God are not denied by the state.
If we are to insure and protect the rights of each person to be—the right of each person to life we must commit ourselves to fulfilling those rights at every point, and guarding them wherever they may be jeopardized.
This means we must be unequivically committed to nurturing the life of each person after he or she is born as well as before. We must never compromise our commitment to the sanctity of life. This is a commitment which we make when life begins, and which we hold to with all our strength through all life's duration, and for every life. It would be the height of hypocrisy for any of us to be more committed to the sacredness of life before its birth than after.
Let us explore what such a commitment to life truly entails for us at all.
First we must recognize the needs of the poor and oppressed citizens in our land.
It is often maintained by those who favor legalizing and liberalizing abortion that this is a service to the poor. But let us recognize the truth. The poor or the dispossessed are not those who have been asking for the right to abortion. Quite to the contrary, many of them see abortion as another form of oppression against them.
The stark, dreadful reality is that our society is more willing to provide assistance for the poor to have abortions than for the poor to have children and to maintain them by an adequate standard of living. This is why the Reverend Jesse Jackson regards abortion as a form of genocide practiced against blacks. He condemned “the moral emptiness and aloofness that comes when protecting human life is not considered sacred,” and he is right.
It is inhumane to suggest that the way to alleviate poverty is to control, through abortion, the number of children born to the poor. That only further entrenches society's oppression, paternalism, and racism toward the dispossessed.
If we are to be for life, then we will be in the vanguard of those working to insure that no human life which comes into being ever need be threatened with abortion because of society's negligence to provide for the needs of all its citizens. We are the ones who work to guarantee that the critical minimums of life_for food, shelter, health and education—are available for every person in our society of affluence and abundance.
We all know of the deplorable circumstances and conditions in our society which frequently make abortion seem to be the easiest and most convenient solution to a tragic situation. If we are to be for life, then we must commit ourselves resolutely to eliminating each condition, and every situation, that seems in the minds of some to justify denying life rather than nurturing it.
Let me suggest ten concrete examples of actions which must be taken as part of a commitment to the protection and nurturing of all life:
(1) Programs of sex education for our children.—Much of the abuse of sex, and the occurrence of unwanted pregnancies, comes through ignorance. Respect for life is rooted in understanding the miraculous process that gives life to a man and woman. If a child's introduction to sex comes from the street corner or from innuendo or other children, he is likely to view sex as something dirty, exploitative, and indecent. He or she is likely to become irresponsible and uninformed in sexual activity. There are programs and proposals for aiding our children, from very early ages, in understanding the meaning and awesome wonder of how life is created. If we are to be for life, and encourage those atti: tudes which recognize that human life is to be valued from the outset of its creation, then let us lead in encouraging these programs of sex education,
(2) Birth Control Information and Availability.-A plurality of sexual mores exists in our society, and will continue. If we are blind to this fact, that only encourages more unwanted pregnancies. We can hold different personal views about contraception. But if our primary commitment is to nurture and protect all life, then we must do everything to insure that those who do not wish to bear life will have every protection against conception. To deny this necessity will undermine the values we stand for. Therefore, I firmly believe that information about birth control, and contraception options, should be made freely available. Our belief that all human life, from the outset, is sacred should lead us naturally to enhance the conditions that insure life will come into creation when it is desired and intended, by the love of a family.
(3) Support for Family Planning Clinics.-Many of the poor and unfortunate citizens in our land lack the essential knowledge concerning care during times of pregnancy, and other information concerning the beginning of a family. Instead of society advising the poor how to take unborn life, we must provide every fact and service essential to nourishing such life, and building the family.
(4) Reforms in Adoption Law 8.—One of the greatest tragedies we face is that a child without a home and parents desiring to adopt a child face so many obstacles to being united. There are substantial revisions that should and must be made in laws affecting adoption, particularly at the state level. Further, the crux of this problem centers especially with handicapped children, mixed blood children, and adoption across racial lines. There are direct tax incentives that can be enacted in some cases. Beyond this, we must ease the laws and frequently senseless restrictions which impede an unwanted child from being accepted into a loving home.
(5) Improved Foster-Parent Plans.-Short of adoption, the foster parent or foster home can bring the love of a family into the life of a neglected child. Here again, however, far greater private support, as well as means for public assistance, is required.
(6) Other Care for Orphans and Unwanted Children. Our goal must be to provide all children who are deprived of a family with the love of a home. Until this is possible, care for some of these children will have to be provided by private and state-supported institutions. Regrettably, they frequently suffer from inattention, insufficient funding, and impersonalization. We who are for the right to life can never tolerate any child being subjected to such loveless conditions. Both by personal involvement and public support, there are countless opportunities for us to demonstrate in such situations our belief in life through works of love.
(7) Support for Day Care Centers.—Mothers and children to support-expecially if they are the sole provider for them-need desperately the assistance provided by day care centers if they are to be responsible and loving to them. Bearing a child brings with it the obligations to love and support that child. For many, this can be fulfilled only with the help given by the day care centers. We have a responsibility to urge State, Federal and local development of such centers; and to encourage single parents, welfare mothers and others to take advantage of their services so they can break out of the welfare cycle and give their lives dignity and hope.
(8) Care for Unwed Mothers.—One of society's greatest tragedies is the way the unwed mother frequently is ostracized from society as she bears her child. A woman in such a situation needs sympathetic care, love, and counseling. Her health and well-being is intimately related to her baby's. We must provide all the means possible for nurturing and supporting the life of the mother, and easing this most difficult period in her life.
(9) Research into Birth Defects.-Much remains to be known about the causes and correction of birth defects. The government should not only increase its research in this field, but also provide funds to support both the mother and the child in prenatal and postnatal care. This is a clear part of our commitment to the value and gift of all human life.
(10) Rape Treatment Centers. A woman who has been raped may stand in deep need of psychiaric and medical care. Some centers have been established specifically to provide care for such victimized women. They can provide private, anonymous assistance which will encourage the woman to seek such immediate care. Then, the pain and trauma of her life can be eased, and the chance of pregnancy can be prevented. Hospitals and clinics perhaps in cooperation with the police departments, should establish such centers in every city. Again, this is a clear part of our mandate, and an expression of our commitment to be for all life.
All these concrete steps are simple evidences of compassion, and expressions of our convictions. The costs, the burdens, and the demands of commiting ourselves to life are high. The obstacles to overcome may seem enormous. To affirm life, and hold out the option of life in the midst of tragedy can be arduous. Solutions on the side of life always will demand far more care, for more concern, and far more endurance than those on the side of death. We must deepen the resources in our own lives that allow us to make this choice, and to extend it to others.
In confronting the whole issue of abortion before us, society faces a deeply troublesome, complex question, ladden with deep human tragedy. But what do many want to do? Resort to violence once again. Much of the impulse is to degrade life, to take life once more, thinking that is some kind of a solution.
But violence gives us no solution. Whether it is on the battlefield, in our streets, in our prisons, or in a doctor's office, we must stop the temptation of resorting to violence and blood. We can believe that there is a better way; that there are more ideal, more compassionate, and more humane ways to respond.
We believe in life's sanctity. That belief is rooted, it seems to me, in a recognition of the Transcendent. Life is sacred because it is created and given by the Creator.
We must restore a recogniation of the spiritual reality that upholds all life. It is the vision of life, and of the Love which fills the universe, that must capture our hearts and give us faith. Then we can believe in life, nourish life, and commit ourselves to life.
Then we discover that the greatest love is a universal, Divine love-a lore which binds us to all life, and affirms God's Presence in the world.
(From the Congressional Record, May 31, 1973]
WHEN DOES LIFE BEGIN?
Mr. HATFIELD. Few issues prompt the depth and intensity of feeling as does abortion. On either side of the question, the ardent protagonists seems more frequently compelled by thoughtless passion and even vindictiveness than by sensitive reason. Such fervor and fury are understandable, for this issue touches on the most personal beliefs, and affects in the most intimate way the lives of women.
An issue marked by such intensity and divisiveness invites public neutrality on the part of the politician. Quite candidly, it usually seems pragmatically imprudent to become strongly and unapologetically committed on either side of this controversy.
In truth, I have chosen to identify myself unambiguously with a constitutional amendment safeguarding the existence of human life in all forms because I am utterly convinced that issues of the most profound moral consequence for our society, and for all humanity, are at stake.
I have wrestled with my beliefs about abortion-morally, legally, biologically, sociologically, and theologically. In doing so, convictions that I find totally compelling have been deeply affirmed. Moreover, I am persuaded that how society regards this question directly relates to whether we can choose to nourish and enhance all life for the developement of its full humanity, or whether we shall make quiet compromises about the sacredness of human life, until the fundamental worth of any life becomes subject to society's discretion, rather than guaranteed by that life's being.
It would be simpler if one concluded that convictions about abortion, however deeply felt, were “personal” beliefs that should be followed individually, but not applied to society. But the belief in life's fundamental right to be has inevitable corporate consequences. I do not, after all, believe merely in my right to be; I believe in the right of all life to be. It would be hypocritical cowardice to hold such a conviction, but not to propose, as a legislator, that society embrace this view.
In opposing our intervention in Indochina, for example, I did not merely be. lieve it would be wrong for me, as an individual, to fight there. I believe that no American should fight there, which compelled me to propose legislation expressing that conviction.
Certainly, abortion, like the war, is an issue requiring moral judgments by each of us as individuals. But it is also an issue which society should and must continually face, making its corporate moral determinations.
The vitality of our corporate conscience is the fundamental issue.
Let me elaborate on the issues that invariably present themselves, in my view, when considering abortion.
At the heart of all else, we must decide upon our definition of human life and determine what value we shall give to that life. In doing so, it only makes sense, in my judgment, to start with the knowledge of biology.
The evolution of a human life, seen through the eyes of scientific inquiry, unfolds as a miraculous, awe-inspiring occurence. It is a profoundly beautiful, incredulous mystery that prompts praise and wonder.
At the moment of fertilization, new life has its beginning. A totally unique and novel genetic code, expressing a multitude of inherited characteristics, is established as this life springs forth at this instant of creation.
After 5 to 7 days, this re-creative growing organism of life—the blastocystjourneys into the uterus to seek implantation. Already it has developed the complexity to communicate hormonal information to its material host.
If successful in its urge for implantation, and accepted by the body of the mother, this evolving life then establishes a life-giving relationship with its mother. Either before, during, or immediately after implantation segmentation may occur, causing at least twins.
An awesome dynamism reveals itself in this new expression of life. Each present form is transcended by a far more complex mode of life, yet one creating a greater unity. This surging course of growth is guided by an inborn principle.
After the second week of pregnancy-when the woman first can become aware that she is pregnant—the embryo begins differentiating its distinct vital organsthe brain, the heart, the liver, and so on, with unfathomable precision. The basic structure of the human cerebral cortex, the center of consciousness, is outlined between the 15th and 25th day after fertilization, constituting an astounding leap in the growth of the life.
By 4 to 5 weeks a heart beat is detectable. By 5 to 6 weeks the signs of brain waves are present. By 6 weeks every major organ of the fully developed human can be identified. By the 8th week, all the basic structures of the grown human are present, including eyes, fingers, and toes. From this point on, its growth will consist of perfecting and maturing all its structures and organs, rather than adding anything new.
This whole intricate, stupendous chain of occurrences describes biologically the miracle of life's genesis.
Acknowledging the reality of this process, we must ask: Where does the existence of a human being begin? When is it that the individual-personhood—or true human life comes into being?
The facts of embryology seem compellingly clear to me. Human life-the existence of the person—begins when life begins.
When that life commences its development, it is human life not any other form of life, or not just general life, but human life. And since it is there, it is obviously being. It is a human being. That seems to be the evidence of science.
It may be sensible to point to implantation, and the time after potential segmentation, as the more precise moment when truly individual and personal life is present. At that point, the life has individualized itself, and transcended its own existence by putting itself in relationship to another person. Also, due to this urge, we come to know life exists only at this point.
In any case, the thrust seems absolutely vivid to me. The life of a human being begins at life's beginning.
In my judgment, one cannot begin by dismissing what is biologically selfevident. The appropriate question we must ask is not, “When does life begin?” but rather, “How shall we value the life that exists, in relation to the life of the mother, and other values and considerations ?"
There is a tendency to approach the essential questions about life from purely sociological, or legal framework, without reference to biological realities. Sociologically, we discover that unwanted children can often face severe and debilitating burdens. We find that mothers with an unwanted pregnancy may not properly nourish themselves, and thus, the life of their developing child. Retardation of that child may be the consequence.
Further, we see that society leaves a man who is the cause of an unwed mother with no responsibility, and barely even any guilt. Yet the mother faces the emotional and physical demands of a 9-month pregnancy, plus the psychological pain that can result, and then the guilt from a judgmental society. Also, we know that our planet, as well as a poverty-stricken family, have limits to the