To start at part one of this series click here.
Personhood is the status of being a person. According to law, only a natural person or legal personality has rights, protections, privileges, responsibilities, and legal liability.
This is the issue that is being fought for when determining the status of the unborn.
If one can prove that the unborn has “personhood” then it can be protected under law.
This discussion is arguably one of the most important issues people are voting for this election. As Donald Trump said in the video above, we have an open seat for one of these candidates to appoint a Supreme Court Justice. These 9 seats (9 so that there is the always an uneven vote.) make the final decision on what will be and wont be the federal law of the United States. The Supreme Court is the final interpreter of federal constitutional law, although it may only act within the context of a case in which it has jurisdiction. The U.S. Constitution states that the President “shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Judges of the Supreme Court.” Most Presidents will nominate a candidate that share in their ideologies. These Supreme Court seats can be lifelong. Which means if the President elected someone with their ideologies who was at the young age of 35, that Presidents’ ideologies could presumably have influence over United States law for 40-50 years. If ever there were a time to make a movement on making abortions illegal, this election would be it. Which is why the Democratic platform has vowed to appoint a Supreme Court Justice who would protect a woman’s right to choose. It is also why many evangelicals plan to vote for the Republican ticket in November to secure their voice in ending abortions. Three of the current SCJ’s are near the age of 80, which could mean in the next four to eight years one or more of them will either pass or resign. Which would give the sitting President the opportunity to easily appoint several Justices that share their ideologies thus dramatically effecting the political balance of the 9 seats. If you are passionate about pro-choice or pro-life, now would be the time to vote.
-Roe V. Wade-
In 1821, Connecticut passed the first state statute criminalizing abortion. Every state had abortion legislation by 1900. By 1973, most states had their own longstanding laws on abortion. Most deemed abortions were illegal except for special circumstances of rape, incest, or when the mother’s life was at risk. Some were even less lenient like the law seen in the state of Texas where abortions were only permitted in a case of protecting the mother.
This law was challenged and brought before the SCOTUS who were already dealing with a similar case. The two cases Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton decided the state laws were unconstitutional on two bases. In both cases it was determined that a woman’s right to privacy was being violated and that the state should not interfere with the doctors decision. However the law made this clear:
“We repeat, however, that the State does have an important and legitimate interest in preserving and protecting the health of the pregnant woman, whether she be a resident of the State or a non-resident who seeks medical consultation and treatment there, and that it has still another important and legitimate interest in protecting the potentiality of human life.“
The Roe decision defined “viable” as “potentially able to live outside the mother’s womb, albeit with artificial aid.” This was defined as anything before the third trimester. Or anything prior to week 28. Which if we revisit the previous post, at 28 weeks, the baby is already moving in the womb. The heart is beating. The eyes are blinking, the brain is developing its neurons that help inform the senses.
As the sciences developed more information, that regulation would come into constant question.
Justices in one case in 1992 called Planned Parenthood v. Casey, acknowledged that viability may occur at 23 or 24 weeks, or sometimes even earlier, in light of medical advances. In other words if there was a chance that the child could live outside of the womb, abortion is not permitted. Any decision prior to this moment is the private decision of the mother. But what keeps happening is with every new step in science the possibilities of moving life’s viability outside the womb have been moving up and up. In the previous post we shared the miraculous story of an infant born at just 21 weeks. Years prior to this the child WOULD HAVE died. But due to advancements in science people are led to wonder just how early in a pregnancy could a child live with medical assistance.
What the courts keep deciding on is not when “life begins” or “personhood” or “soul” but a term known as “fetal viability” or “the ability for the fetus to survive outside the uterus.”
-The Affordable Care Act-
On March 23, 2010, President Barack Obama signed into law the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare). Without going into all the details of this healthcare legislation, it was decided that people with private insurance providers (whether through their jobs or families) received a host of new benefits and protection. Some of these benefits included women’s visits to wellness clinics (like Planned Parenthood), which included covered access to mammograms, immunizations for children, and birth control. This would ultimately help the United States in many ways.
A study in 2009 determined that contraceptive use saves the United States about $19 billion in direct medical costs each year. Nearly half of pregnancies in the U.S. were unintended. Highly effective contraceptives, such as (IUDs), are “underused” in the United States. “Family Planning” is ultimately a way to help families (primarily women) living in poverty make a decision on the financial and lifestyle burden of an unplanned child. Or the lone responsibility that is often given to women when men abandon their partner due to unexpected pregnancies. Other issues include some women with children who cannot afford to miss work.
Access to safe, voluntary family planning is a human right. Family planning is central to the conversation about gender equality and women’s empowerment, and it is a key factor in reducing poverty. Think about this for a moment. Men and women participate in sex. But only one of the individuals has to carry the burden of bringing a child into the world. Of missing work. Of nursing the child. And likely of raising that child. The men have ultimately no required care or financial responsibility to the life of that child. The entire burden is set to fall upon the woman. A man could simply have an orgasm while the life of a woman could change forever. And if left to this burden alone it’s not necessarily a good change. This is why the left argues that it is a woman’s right to choose as well as an issue of woman’s equality. Why should only the man have the choice to be involved in this situation?
The reasons patients gave for having an abortion underscored their understanding of the responsibilities of parenthood and family life. The three most common reasons—each cited by three-fourths of patients—were concern for or responsibility to other individuals; the inability to afford a child; and the belief that having a baby would interfere with work, school or the ability to care for dependents. Half said they did not want to be a single parent or were having problems with their husband or partner.-Guttmatcher
Some 225 million women worldwide who want to avoid pregnancy are not using safe and effective family planning methods, for reasons ranging from lack of access to information or services to lack of support from their partners or communities. Most of these women without the ability to get contraceptives live in 69 of the poorest countries on earth.(UNFPA). If women had affordable access to these kinds of contraceptives, it is highly likely the abortion rate would fall dramatically.
Which actually proved to be true in the United States. In 2011, abortions reached their lowest rate since 1973, the year Roe V. Wade made abortions legal.
Easy access to contraception has dramatically reduced the abortion rate.
And so enters the Christians.
Hobby Lobby argued that they should be void from having to provide contraceptives to their employees because it went against their religious beliefs. The religious belief that life begins at conception. Which as we learned in the previous post is prior to a technical “pregnancy.” Hobby Lobby, as well as several other companies, argued that the Contraception Mandate of the ACA violated their first amendment right to practice their religion.
And they won.
Five (male) SCJ’s ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby’s appeal.
Because it is the belief of a Christian organization that a life begins at conception, the Supreme Court decided that Christian corporations had the right to limit what contraceptives were offered in their employees healthcare plan. They did not believe they (as a Christian company) should be forced to to give “abortion pills” to their employees.
What many called a win for the Religious right was seen as a loss for woman’s right and again brought this discussion to the front of our candidates policy’s. Female Superme Court Justice Ginsburg argued against the ruling asking what about the personal rights of the female employees who don’t share the religious beliefs with their employers and are denied access they would receive under other companies. She also argued the ACA wasn’t “forcing” Hobby Lobby to give contraceptives to their employees rather allowing that to be the personal decision of the employee (much like the outcome of Roe v. Wade). The ruling also opens up the possibility for other religions to implement their religious beliefs on their employees. Things like anti-vaccination or blood transfusions. She believed it was not just wrong, but a slippery slope.
It should be obvious to say this is a very difficult situation to land on. On the one hand you could argue religious beliefs should not dictate the law of the land and on the other you could argue the law of the land should not dictate religious beliefs.
Is there a more challenging issue to place in that tension than human life?
As a Christian it is a foundational principal to be pro-life and yes, many beliefs drive that understanding. But does this have any business in the laws that form the country I reside in? What role does the Empire have to the Christian faith? And what should we render unto our Caesar? Is the typical understanding of “pro-life” comprehensive enough? And are there other ways for Christians to resolve their abortion issue outside the efforts to make it illegal?
What are Christians sacrificing when all of their eggs are in this basket? Because elections are decided on this issue. Candidates are chosen. Many things, arguably pro-life things, are overlooked as long as this issue is part of the platform.
Because let’s understand something very clearly,
lying is bad.
rape is bad.
racism and sexism are bad.
the murder of millions of people is worse.
For many believers the issue is as simple as this: Supporting a pro-choice candidate is supporting murder.
In our final post we will discuss-what do we do about abortion?
For the final part of this series click here.