A Question of Strategy for Pro-Lifers

Posted: Oct 07, 2007 12:00 AM
A Question of Strategy for Pro-Lifers

We in the pro-life movement have got a decision to make.

If this were a football game, it would be the fourth quarter with one second on the clock. We, the Lifers, trail the Choicers by three points. We’re on their goal line. It’s fourth down. And, it’s the Superbowl.

Do we go for the field goal and the tie, in hopes of sending the game into overtime?

Or, do we run a play and go for the touchdown and the win?

Welcome to the debate within the pro-life movement between those who support the National

Right to Life and their desire to kick the field goal of keeping abortion “safe, legal, and rare” until a more opportune time to challenge Roe, and those who support the Thomas More Law Center who want to go for the touchdown—and the win—of ending abortion on demand through all three trimesters now.

I’m sure there are good arguments on both sides. As of right now, I’m only familiar with one since there’s nothing on the National Right to Life’s Web site to explain their position. Stay tuned.

Last week, I talked with attorney Robert Muise of the Thomas More Law Center who’s making the case that the pro-life strategy since Roe has not been to win but merely to tie, to only dither at the edges, improving notification procedures, curtailing particular surgical procedures, and so on. For example, he argues that the recent “victory” restricting partial birth abortion has in fact not saved a single life, it’s only changed the type of procedure used to take the lives of those already destined for abortion.

Muise would like to see states adopt a Human Life Amendment that would affirm that every unborn child is a person from the moment of fertilization. He believes this is the heart of the abortion issue.

He sites the Roe v. Wade decision, in which the court said, “We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins. When those trained in … medicine, philosophy and theology are unable to arrive at any consensus, the judiciary, at this point in the development of man's knowledge, is not in a position to speculate as to the answer.”

Today, that “difficult question” has been unequivocally answered: human life begins at fertilization—at least in the biological sense. What remains to be answered is whether the court will be forced to acknowledge that all human life has value in the moral and therefore legal sense.

Furthermore, Muise points to the central passage of the entire Roe decision, in which Justice Harry Blackmun wrote, “(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.”

Thus, Muise argues, according to the author of Roe, if an unborn child is a person, then their right to life trumps their mother’s right to “choose” their death. In his mind, this is what the whole abortion debate comes down to.

So, I asked him why he thinks the National Right to Life is opposed to this strategy, and he said, “They fear losing at the risk of winning. They’re satisfied with the status quo and are waiting for a better time to go after Roe.” In simple terms, they just don’t think it’s worth the risk right now.

Muise disagrees.

Dear National Right to Life, why do you oppose this strategy? Millions of us pro-lifers would love to know.

What Muise and his supporters want is for a state to pass a Human Life Amendment and the litigation eventually be taken up by the Supreme Court. He believes the Supremes wouldn’t rule on the personhood question itself, but would rather remand it back to the states for them to decide the personhood question for themselves. This is the federalism the nation was cheated of when SCOTUS wrongly passed Roe.

Right now, leading the way towards the passage of a Human Life Amendment is the state of Georgia, thanks to the hard work of the Georgia Right to Life. So far, things are looking pretty good.

As far as the whole personhood issue goes, to be logically consistent, pro-choice advocates must hold the view that children in the womb are human non-persons that only later become persons somehow—maybe when they grow enough big body parts, or their heads exit the womb, or maybe when they develop a sense of self-concept—around the age of two.

But how can your size, or having the right body parts, or your spatial location determine your moral value as a person? How big do you have to be to be a person? Why not one millimeter smaller? What are the specific body parts or organs that make you a person? Am I less of a person if I lose some brain cells in an accident? Did I suddenly become a person when the doctor cut the uterine wall during my mother’s C-section or when he lifted me out of the uterus? Was I not a person moments before?

This type of reasoning makes personhood sound something like weight—something you gain and lose through time. But personhood is not a property I have, it is the substance—the essence—of who I am. I am not a human that happens to be a person, I am a human-person—the term is implicitly redundant.

Every argument I’ve ever read for the existence of this pro-choice created category of “human non-persons” fails miserably when challenged.

There’s just no good argument against the traditional view that all humans are persons from the moment of fertilization.

So, getting back to our football game: What will it be, National Right to Life? Do we kick the field goal or go for the win?

I’d like to hear from the kicking team.

How about it National Right to Life?