Across the country, there is a growing effort to place ballot initiatives before the voters that, if successful, would legally establish the personhood of the unborn child. Such citizen-led campaigns are already being carried out in several states, and more are in the planning stages.
We have also seen this Personhood Movement challenged by some pro-lifers who insist that we should, instead, concentrate our efforts on overturning Roe v. Wade. In fact, a few days ago I was called by a state pro-life leader who was adamantly pushing this approach. His contention was that such a strategy has a much higher probability of success and would accomplish the same result. The reason for his call was to ask me to join his group in discouraging the personhood initiative in his state.
The unfortunate thing is, his “accomplish the same result” claim is not only wrong, it is widely held within the pro-life movement. A significant number of our people appear to believe that overturning Roe would automatically make abortion illegal and that is simply not the case. In reality, the far more important issue is the legal reasoning that the Supreme Court uses to overturn Roe.
Both the fifth and 14th Amendments create a constitutional right to life for all “persons” as well as a federal duty to protect those lives. Therefore, if the Court were to overturn Roe on the basis that the unborn child is a person, their lives would be protected by the Constitution and this nightmare would be over. However, most legal experts feel that the Court is far more likely to overturn Roe on the basis that the Constitution is silent on abortion and that it is, therefore, a “states’ rights” matter.
That would be an unmitigated disaster for the unborn. We would almost immediately end up with a “patchwork quilt” of abortion laws in which a few states would prohibit abortion altogether, others would allow it in any circumstance, and the vast majority would take some sort of middle path. Given that state lines are freely crossed, this would leave every unborn baby in every state exposed to abortion. It could also guarantee that our great-grandchildren will still be fighting this battle a hundred years from now.
Before continuing, let me make it clear that I will always be an unwavering believer in states’ rights and am fully aware that the U.S. Constitution was intended to limit the power of the federal government. However, when someone claims to be pro-life, he or she is saying that the unborn are persons. After all, there is no other basis upon which to justify the pro-life position. So in light of the Fifth and 14th Amendments, it would be preposterous for the pro-life movement to be working toward a situation where the right-to-life of the unborn is negotiated within the state legislatures.
In the final analysis, what every pro-lifer needs to appreciate is the fact that there are a lot of good people in our movement doing a lot of good work on behalf of the unborn. But we must never lose sight of the fact that our ultimate mission is not to regulate abortion, restrict abortion, reduce the numbers of abortions or hammer out some sort of accommodation with the death lobby. Nor should we ever allow that to become our mission. Instead, we must always be mindful that until America has a constitutional amendment that affirms the personhood of the unborn from the moment of fertilization, this battle cannot end; it can only ebb and flow. And regardless of its success or lack of success, the Personhood Movement is reminding us of that.
Mark Crutcher is president of Life Dynamics Incorporated of Denton, Texas.