Tuesday, July 21, 2015

DEAR AL

Dear Al:

First, let me tell you how delighted I am to receive your detailed and expansive response to my email. Your email invites the kind of intellectual exchange that is not only invigorating, but also profoundly important to the success of our mutual efforts to improve our nation.

My first observation stems from the fact that the pro-life people would read the personhood amendment differently than you first did.

Important point here. Words have meaning. Constitutions are especially required to say what they mean and mean what they say. So if you were willing to agree with the amendment before you realized its implications for abortions, what words would you change? Which would you omit? What would you add?

You want to say that the word “person” as used in the Constitution does not include corporations. OK. So we agree that a “person” is a human being. Not a gathering of human beings. Not a group or a family, not an assumed name, or a fictional character, but an actual, living member of the species ‘homo sapiens.”

What makes something a person? Nose, eyes, ears? A mouth? Manikins have all of these. So do many animals. Two arms and two legs? Monkeys have these.

You say that there is a range of opinion and belief about pre born humans. I agree. Opinion and belief are often affected by perceived self interest. They are essentially subjective measurements. In the public square, mere subjective opinion or belief is unpersuasive until backed by objective knowledge.

The science of obstetrics has blossomed in our age of electronic communication. The medical profession, in cooperation with vastly sophisticated technology, has given us a stunningly clear understanding of the development of human life in a mother’s womb.

We know that pre born humans move independently of their mothers. We know that they experience pain. We know that they respond to various forms of treatment and stimulus.

You will notice that I have not mentioned religion. I did not mention it because it has no place in the debate about abortion. The criminal abortion laws of the fifty states were not expressions of religious belief. They were adopted by legislatures consisting of people of many faiths. They echoed the Hippocratic oaths traditionally taken by members of the medical profession.

From time immemorial human beings have known where babies come from. Women have known when they are pregnant. Their bodies go into a protective mode. They are emotionally affected by the prospect of childbirth. It’s physical, hormonal. These are all simple, biological facts, and while they are reflected in various forms of religious belief, they are not merely ecclesiastical constructs.

Human beings have a strong survival instinct. Always have had. As long as history has been recorded, there is proof that childbirth is a happy event. New life, continued life, has always been perceived as an occasion of joy.

In the old days at common law, the destruction of an unborn baby after quickening was criminal. They didn’t have ex-rays or ultra sounds. Quickening was the only way people had to know that there was a baby living inside of a woman.

Abortion is a matter of civic concern. Since 1973 more than 60 million Americans have been denied the most basic human right: the right to be born alive. For many it’s a religious issue, but for all it is a civil rights issue.

We live in a day and an age when the science of eugenics is reviving. Family planning has morphed into human engineering. The children of the poor are dismembered and sold for body parts. The intelligentsia can avail themselves of certified paternity from sperm banks to propagate the ‘brightest and the best.’

You have eloquently described the inhumanity that has stained the pages of history, whether racial, religious, ethnic or crassly commercial. There will always be evil in the world, and we must always oppose it mightily.  

In the meantime, can we not agree on a constitutional definition of a person that will satisfy both sides of the table?


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