Ten Miles Square


September 02, 2012 1:07 AM Republicans and Abortion: A Brief History

By Michael Kinsley

“The question of abortion is one of the most difficult and controversial of our time.” That sweet reason is from the 1976 Republican platform, three years after Roe v. Wade, which ruled that a woman’s right to abortion is protected by the Constitution. The platform went on in the same moral-relativist vein. “There are those in our Party who favor complete support for the Supreme Court decision,” and those who want that decision “changed by a constitutional amendment.” Just to leave no one out, it went on to note that “others have yet to take a position” while others still fall somewhere in between.

It called for “public dialogue on abortion,” and then, in a surprising and unexplained reversal, endorsed a “constitutional amendment to restore protection of the right to life for unborn children.”

In 1980, the platform’s abortion plank conceded “the complex nature of its various issues” and “differing views on this question among Americans in general.” Nevertheless, “we affirm our support of a constitutional amendment to restore protection of the right to life for unborn children.

By 1984, “The unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed. We therefore reaffirm our support for a human life amendment to the Constitution, and we endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children.

In addition, the 1984 platform called for “the appointment of judges at all levels of the judiciary who respect traditional family values and the sanctity of innocent human life.

Ever since then, with various rhetorical flourishes, the platform has contained the same four elements: 1) the unborn child has a “fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed”; 2) endorsement of a “human life” constitutional amendment; 3) a call for judges who “respect human life”; and 4) new laws to “make clear” that the fetus is a “person” under the 14th Amendment. Paul Ryan has co-sponsored such legislation, declaring that the fetus is a “person.”

So it’s a bit puzzling why people are so shocked and dismayed that this year’s platform contains no exceptions for rape or incest or to protect the health — or even the life — of a woman who chooses to have one. The anti- abortion plank of the Republican platform has never contained an explicit exception for any of these situations.

The Human Life Amendment could mean anything, because it doesn’t exist yet. It could contain exceptions for rape or to save a woman’s life or anything else. But the 14th Amendment is another matter. It is the constitutional provision that guarantees “equal protection of the laws.” It was enacted after the Civil War for the benefit of the freed black slaves.

Courts have been struggling with it ever since. Almost everything the government (or anybody else, for that matter) does is a discrimination of some kind. What other groups does the Constitution protect? Obviously the laws cannot treat criminals equally with the innocent, and must be able to discriminate between the old who collect Social Security and the young who pay into it. And so on.

If the 14th Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children, this essentially means that the government cannot discriminate between the born and the unborn — that is, between you and a fetus. It certainly cannot allow a fetus to be killed just because it is the result of rape.

In fact, if a fetus is a “person” entitled to “equal protection of the laws,” the state would have to prosecute a woman for obtaining an abortion exactly as it would prosecute a mother who murdered her young children. That’s equal protection of the laws. States that allow capital punishment, in which a woman who procured and paid money to hire a killer to murder her children could be executed, would have to follow the same policy regarding a woman who procured and paid for an abortion.

James Bopp, a Republican activist lawyer who wrote the platform’s anti- abortion language, claims that it doesn’t preclude exceptions for rape, etc. He says there are “numerous exceptions” to the right to life, even for people who have been born. For example, if a woman’s life is in danger, “it’s analytically close to self-defense” and self-defense can be justifiable homicide. Or you can be excused for shooting a fleeing felon, he notes. Of course the fetus, if it is to be considered a person, is an innocent person, and there is no “justifiable” reason to kill an innocent person.

Does the Republican Party actually believe that women who have abortions should be treated like criminals, or at best as committing “justifiable homicide”? Of course not. But that, whether they like it or not, is the necessary implication of the obscure language in the party’s platform.

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  • c u n d gulag on September 03, 2012 2:50 PM:

    Yes, their logic SHOULD have women charged with murder, if they have an abortion.

    And so, Flying Spaghetti Monster, I offer up this prayer to you:
    Oh please, PRETTY PLEASE!, let them start charging women who have abortions with murder!

    Unless they can repeal the 19th Amendment before they do that, there'll only be a handful of Republican Congressman from the reddest of the red districts - if that.

    And maybe then this country can move forward into the 21st Century, without these knuckledragging religious idjits trying to drag it back to the early 20th Century - or, rather, early 19th.

  • Anonymous on September 03, 2012 4:43 PM:

    It is a point I have been making for years in comment sections: If a fetus is a person, then an abortionist AND his/her client are murderers and should be treated as such. I have yet to hear a response from any "pro-life" person. naturally, if they followed the logic of their own position, they would lose a lot of support. It is still fun to challenge them and the responding silence is, ... um...pregnant?

  • Crissa on September 03, 2012 10:36 PM:

    But wouldn't the law have to apply equally to a fetus as a person? A person can't just take another's blood and labor. You can't be forced to donate blood or organs, even if it wouldn't harm you.

    So we'd need to prosecute all those fetuses for criminal trespass and slavery imposed upon those bearing them. Or for murder if the pregnancy kills the mother. Right?

    And equal protection doesn't apply to dead people - yet some want no exceptions for abortion of dead or doomed fetuses.

  • joanneinDenver on September 03, 2012 11:31 PM:


    I am a pro-life person. I will answer your question as best I can. First, Roe v. Wade is biologically absurd. It presumes as adversarial relationship between the fetus and the mother. In reality, the only way to protect the life of a fetus is to protect the life of the mother. To stress the mother is to harm the fetus. We do not have laws to protect the mother and fetus because we deny the relationship. A pregnant woman is a two hearted creature. So the laws that apply to SEPARATE persons can not be applied to a pregnant woman and her fetus.

    Second, Roe v. Wade imposes a male pattern of reproduction on a female. For the male, fertilization is biologically absolutely separate from the decision to parent. A male ALWAYS has the right to decide to parent or not. A male always has to make a conscious decision to be a parent. A female NEVER has that choice. For a female fertilization and parenting are biologically integrated. A female must choose NOT to be a parent and if that choice is NOT to parent, the the female must medical severe the biological relationship between mother and fetus. We still do not know the full biological impact of what that does to a woman. It is not fair. But, it is the way reproduction works. Women have been granted equality at an awful price - we must be men.

    The answer to the problem of unwanted pregnancy is, of course, a 100% effective and safe male contraceptive, that could be implanted at puberty and removed when the male made the decision to parent and the female concurred.
    Perhaps a legal or religious ceremony could be created to insure mutual consent....

    I was once active in the pro-life movement to pursue a Human Life Amendment.
    Let me tell you a little bit about the politics behind the HLA. The Supreme Court effectively reaffirmed Roe in 1992, in Planned Parenthood of PA v. Casey. The
    Republican victory in the Congress in 1994 relied heavily on pro-life money and support. When the Republicans took over, I waited expectedly for the HLA to be introduced and voted upon. Naively I finally asked a Republican elected official what was the delay. It was carefully explained to me that the Republicans could never vote on the HLA because they would lose elections and it was important to keep power in order to implement their whole agenda. I was shocked. I did not
    support the rest of their "agenda." I am no longer active in the pro-life movement. However, I carefully keep track of the HLA and all its supporters....including the Catholic Bishops, etc. This is what the republicans do when they have control of one or both of the Houses of Congress. They introduce the HLA and then refer it to committee. Sometimes, they hold hearings. What they never do is VOTE on the HLA, not even in committee. Republicans know this. The HLA is as dead as a defrosted embryo.

    What should be of very real concern as the Republicans move to take control of the Federal Government is the part of the platform that refers to the 14th amendment. The Republicans ASSERT that the Congress, not the Supreme Court, has the right to define not only who is a person, but then to whom "equal protection of the law" pertain to. If Congress were to act on this assumption and a conservative Supreme Court were to concur, then the entire ability of the federal government to protect citizens would begin to unravel. That is where your concern should be addressed.

    Finally, the abortion issue has morphed again into a states rights issue. Republicans now talk about wanting the Court to overturn Roe and return the issue to the individual states....where the state legislature would decide who is a person....and it could vary from state to state. This is the very real threat to our Constitution.

    This was the quote to which I am responding.

    "If a fetus is a person, then an abortionist AND his/her client are murderers

  • square1 on September 04, 2012 6:51 AM:


    While your comment was interesting, you dodged the question. Should a mother who has an abortion be treated as a murderer?

  • joanneinDenver on September 04, 2012 7:42 AM:

    No, I did not "dodge" the question. The question presumes two separate persons and I said that the situation of a pregnant woman is unique; a pregnant woman is literally a "two hearted creature." There is no law to address the biological reality of pregnancy. The law, as stated in Roe, presumes an adversarial relationship between the fetus and the mother....that is a biological absurdity.

    We do not have laws that correctly encompass the biological reality of a pregnant woman and fetus. So, just like the male Justices imposed a male pattern of reproduction on women in order to come up with the rationale for Roe, you would have me accept a law that would make sense if somehow a male could have an embryo grafted on to his body without his permission and then apply it to a woman who lives with an absolute totally different biological reality. I refuse to do so.

    You are the one dodging the question. Roe was created by men for men.

  • paul on September 04, 2012 8:57 AM:

    square1: you see to be saying, then, that a human life amendment along the republican platform's lines would be wrong, because it once again affirms the two-person model. But we're still not sure whether your one-person model works like one person having a wisdom tooth taking out or like one person attempting suicide.

    Me, I wonder what happens when the personhood-amendment thing collides with stand-your-ground. After all, a pregnant women is (statistically speaking) perfectly reasonable in fearing for her life and safety.

  • JoanneinDenver on September 04, 2012 9:24 AM:


    1) I am not sure that the human life amendment would affirm the two person model.....it doesn't mention the mother. I believe that if such an amendment were to pass (and since the repubs won't even vote on it in committee, it will never pass), the logical question would be: "How to protect life from conception forward?" Biology would dictate that the only way to protect life from conception forward is to protect and support the mother...potentially this would allow a pregnant woman to make demands on the public treasure, for example, for any and all resources she needs to continue the pregnancy safely.

    2) First of all, the mythical personhood amendment would trump the "stand your ground" law, because constitutional amendments trump state laws. So, no conflict. You, again, presume an adversarial relationship between mother and fetus. I challenge that construct. There are times, of course, when there are medically conditions where the pregnancy threatens the life and/or health of the mother, and the response is really better medical solutions to protect both beating hearts in that two hearted creature. Because abortion was a solution to those conditions, modern medicine didn't look for alternatives.

    For example, fetuses with neurological defects were routinely aborted. Then, a study revealed that a lack of folic acid was responsible for such problems and so now women are routinely urged to take a multivitamin prior to getting pregnant.
    The study involved senior citizens and only accidentally indicated how important folic acid was in the early stages of pregnancy.

    But, there are truly situations, I know, where the health of the mother can threaten the health of the fetus and vice versa. Neither the law nor modern medicine have answers to protect both in all cases. My only comment and I mean this sincerely, is "Mother Nature is a Bitch."

  • paul on September 04, 2012 10:08 AM:

    I don't see how a personhood amendment would trump "stand your ground" -- If you're allowed to use deadly force against a person outside your body who you reasonably believe poses a threat to you, then the whole point of the personhood amendment is ostensibly that the person being inside your body doesn't change anything about your legally-permissible options.

    But yeah the personhood amendment doesn't mention the woman. Funny, that.

  • jrosen on September 04, 2012 11:10 AM:

    I am "anonymous". (I don't know why that happened).

    I have to thank you, Joanie, for trying to actually address my question. However, your response raises even more questions.

    Your conception of the mother-fetus relationship is interesting, and new to me (even after all these decades of discussion). But I don't see on what grounds you can base it, other than your opinion and conviction. (Frankly, it is a bit reminiscent of the three-in-one Christian Trinity --- a mystery that 20 centuries have not been able to clarify.) It seems to me that an essential problem and question underlies all of this, that is: at what point in gestation does a clump of cells, or an embryo, become a "person"? (And what after all, is a person? My ex-wife's husband , for some years before he died, was totally overwhelmed with Alzheimer's. His body was there, but nothing that resembled the person remained, and the body's demise was a mercy for all concerned.)

    There is no basis that I can find, say, in Scripture for answering this essential question (unless one strains interpretation to the point where anything is possible). According to Garry Wills ("Under God", with references to the original writing in Greek), even St. Augustine gave up on the matter of "ensoulment". My own opinion, leaving out the conundrum of the nature of a "soul", is that until there is a basic functioning nervous system, there is no person --- certainly a clump of undifferentiated cells can't be one.

    For the reason that these matters are at present, and possibly forever, beyond agreement or definite solution, it seems that a woman (her husband, if there is one) and her physician should make the decision to abort or not, according to conscience and circumstances. It is not an easy decision, and I imagine (as I can only do) that is difficult and traumatic even if it is thought necessary, as so many of life's hard decisions are. All the more reason for the state, the law, and a bunch of ignorant and cynical politicians, churched or otherwise, not to intervene for their own aggrandizement.

  • JoanneinDenver on September 04, 2012 12:42 PM:

    Hi jrosen;

    First of all, "person" is a legal construct, there is absolutely noting in biology or the natural world that identifies what a person is. The struggle to somehow link the definition of person with some kind of biological reality that would allow for the definition of a person is absurd. Legally, we do choose what biological fact will determine when we decide what a person is, but that is an arbitrary choice. The Supreme Court ruled that when fetus takes its first independent breathe, and is thus no longer dependent on the mother for oxygen, then the law bestows the full rights of citizenship or personhood on that individual. But, we could also say that when the biological event of fertilization occurs, then a person exists. Or, we could choose any biological event from fertilization to death as the marker for the legal definition of a person. There are some scientists who would like to wait to some time certain after birth to confer personhood, for example. The law decides who is a person and we decide either through Constitutional amendment or Supreme Court decision what the law will say. There is no "magic moment."

    Now, as to my defining a pregnant woman as a "two hearted creature." That is not a religious construct, that is a biological reality. The embryo implants in the uterus some 14 days or so after fertilization. In order for the embryo to grow, it must have food and oxygen and a way for the carbon dioxide and waste products from nutrition to be carried away. Until birth, this is accomplished by the placenta via the umbilical cord. The mother's blood carries oxygen and nourishment to the embryo via the cord and then the oxygen and nourishment circulates within the embryo/fetus via the developing circulation using the embryo/fetus' own blood. The waste products travel the same route, only in reverse. In order for the blood to circulate within the embryo, the heart has to be developed early on to pump the blood. So within 18 to 21 days of fertilization, the embryo has a beating heart. That is the biological basis for my saying that a pregnant woman is a "two hearted" creature. I am not totally comfortable with the use of the word "creature." Would you be comfortable with "two hearted person."

    Soul is a philosophical or, if you will, a religious construct. It has no meaning in biological reality. NONE. Nor does the idea of "quickening." Both are ancient concepts that the Supreme Court Justices tossed in the mix, in my opinion, in an attempt to come up with a legal rational for Roe. I don't believe in a soul.

    I am pro-life because I am a woman. I think that biologically a pregnant woman is a "two hearted person" and that the biologically relationship between the zygote/embryo/fetus and the mother is so intimate and integrated that the relationship can not be severed without death to the younger and harm to the older. I think that there are better ways to protect the woman from unintended pregnancy or the potential harm of a problem during the pregnancy than abortion. I believe, because this is now a matter of choice, that we should define personhood as beginning at conception.

    You realize, of course, that this "philosophical wondering"
    "For the reason that these matters are at present, and possibly forever, beyond agreement or definite solution," could be applied to our decision to grant or not grant personhood and its civil rights to any human creature. So, we could terminate human creatures with Alzheimers or the violently mentally ill or the hopeless handicapped. I am certainly not advocating that. I am merely saying that once we acknowledge that personhood is up to us to decide and we do not decide to begin at the beginning of human life, then all bets could be off.

  • jrosen on September 04, 2012 1:57 PM:

    Points well taken. But once again, more questions than answers. If "we" are to decide, who is "we"? Who is to decide what the legal construct called a "person" shall be? The Supreme Court? The Vatican? Todd Akin? Your fiat is that a person exists "at the beginning of human life" is just that: your decision.

    Technically, since you want to rely on biology that would be sometime in the dim past (perhaps 100,000 or more years ago) when humans emerged from a precursor through evolution species For me, the question is indeed what is the beginning of INDIVIDUAL HUMAN life (sorry for the caps, but I don't know how to do emphasis on this site). You have also to deal with the matter of when does your 2-hearted being become two beings...at viability? after weaning?

    I have watched my son (now 40) and my grand-daughter (now 5) emerge as people from a creature who is speechless, sightless, immobile, capable only of sucking, sleeping and shitting. A newborn is every bit as helpless as a fetus...are they still a two-hearted creature?

    But all of this is really beside my point. As others have noted, you have not dealt with my very simple question, which I will make two-part: is abortion murder, and if it is why should not those who perform and permit it criminals under present law who should be punished as the law provides? If the answer is no to part 1, then part 2 is moot. But if not...

    BTW, I appreciate the seriousness of your answers. But I can't deal with your arguments directly because I dispute your basic premise. You claim that it is rooted in biology, but I see it as an interpretation (and a somewhat strained one) of biology. I also appreciate that you see that life continues after birth, something that many abortion warriors do not.

  • JoanneinDenver on September 04, 2012 3:30 PM:

    Let me answer your questions: Is abortion murder? No, of course not. Abortion is the absolute right of every woman during her first trimester. In the second and third trimester, the state has an interest in "developing life" and may intervene in a woman's decision to abort by regulating the procedure in the second trimester
    and prohibiting it in the third, as long as provisions are made for the life and health of the mother. I have just defined for you the law, as established by the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade.

    What this thread is about is the Human Life Amendment in the Republican platform. The question is really: Should we, citizens of the United States change the decision in Roe by passing a Human Life Amendment? I support it for all the reasons I mentioned. 1) Roe imposes a male pattern of reproduction on the female. 2) The biological relationship is so involved and integrated between mother and fetus, that I think it is harmful to both to sever it in abortion.

    I never, by fiat, said that a person exists from conception. I stated that I think we should adopt the HLA amendment. There is a big difference. You are looking for absolutes were none exist.

    "We" are the people of the United States and "we" elect representatives to legislatures who make laws. Those laws are reviewed by the Supreme Court, whose members are appointed by the President and approved by the Senate.
    This is Civics 101.

    "For me, the question is indeed what is the beginning of INDIVIDUAL HUMAN life (sorry for the caps, but I don't know how to do emphasis on this site). You have also to deal with the matter of when does your 2-hearted being become two beings...at viability? after weaning?" Let me answer the questions in the above quote.

    Individual Human life begins at conception.
    That is biological fact. My two-hearted being" becomes two persons at birth, when the fetus is no longer dependent on the biological support of the mother's body, the placenta is gone. There is no speculation or confusion about these facts. There is absolutely nothing "strained" about the biology I described. That is fact. You can read about it in any basic text. If you disagree with what I have stated, then tell me why. Cite your source. Don't patronize me. I am a woman and I know my stuff.

    We are about the same age. You are male and I am female. I do not think that men were well educated about the biology of pregnancy. I don't blame you. I just think you come from a time when men were not expected to be knowledgeable about reproductive biology; nor were women, for that matter.

    I also remember the sixties when all the men I knew were afraid of being drafted and all the women were afraid of getting pregnant. But, now, we need to talk factually about these matters. I have attempted to do,

  • jrosen on September 04, 2012 8:19 PM:

    Let's not get testy. I did not read you as closely as I should have and I do not mean to patronize. Nor am I trained in biology (I am a musician, but I have some scientific training and a close brother who has been a physician for decades), but I have a fairly wide general knowledge from a lifetime habit of reading, and I find your grounding of HUMAN LIFE at conception (implantation or fertilization?) on biology entirely novel. From where do you derive this certainty? Please give me a source that I can check (I have a habit of doing that when possible).

    I am glad that you answered my question about abortion and the fact that you understand a need for it; the question was however directed at someone who really does consider it murder. I only want to see if such a person has the courage and integrity to follow the logic of their position...and you do not fit into that picture; I am still waiting (and have for years) for a real response to that question.

    But furthermore, I would hope that you have thoroughly explored the implications of a "Human Life Amendment". I can see a whole raft of laws and legal decisions arising from such an act that would criminalize abortion in all sorts of circumstances, cause even more litigation, and even more anguish for women who must decide whether or not to have one...adding to the natural trauma of such a serious decision anxiety about externals like criminality.

    And let's be realistic: abortion has been ever with us and will probably always be, unless and until contraception becomes universal, available to all (pace Rush Limbaugh) and infallible. Women I know have had abortions when it was illegal...in one case I helped a friend to pay for one. This will continue, but only be available to those with means and the right connections. For others, not so much. And since we know what the alternatives are, that is of great concern to me. And, I assume, to you.

  • joanneinDenver on September 05, 2012 11:22 AM:

    "and I find your grounding of HUMAN LIFE at conception (implantation or fertilization?) on biology entirely novel. From where do you derive this certainty? Please give me a source that I can check (I have a habit of doing that when possible)."

    I am not your secretary. The facts i cited are readily available on google or you could just ask your brother, the physician. You should not present arguments when you are not knowledgeable about the facts. You wear your ignorance as if it were something to be proud of. It is sad. Perhaps you are afraid to learn about prenatal life because you may discover the characteristics of the life ended due to your financial contribution.

  • jrosen on September 05, 2012 12:28 PM:

    It is customary, in serious discussions (which I thought we were having, but now doubt) to cite sources. The author of a history, a science book, or anyone making a claim is not my secretary either, but withal they provide sources so that a reader may check both accuracy and context. Most often, this is not really necessary, if the writer has a reputation for integrity and honesty --- but sometimes, if the claim is novel or controversial, I do that.

    You say " You should not present arguments when you are not knowledgeable about the facts." I agree, but I am questioning your facts, and think that if you are so passionate about your position, it wouldn't be too much of a bother to provide a link or two. Who knows?...it might change my thinking entirely (this has happened before). Your defensiveness makes me suspect that there might be a bit of a problem there. I am ignorant of your sources, indeed, but in a good deal of reading and conversation (including with my brother) I have gathered that your position is by no means universally held, and I suggest that in the light of that uncertainty, we refrain from calling anyone "ignorant" as if that settled the matter.

    That said, I would still like to see one passage from, say, a biologist, a philosopher, a medical doctor supporting your claim that human life begins at conception, along with the reasoning that stands behind it, and I will try to address it honestly. (As an aside, may I say that Googling is not a good way to get reliable information about anything, but most emphatically not in an area so fraught and contentious.) Defining what is a "human being" has been a thorny problem for at least 2500 years and shows no signs of being solved any time soon. I certainly acknowledge my ignorance in that area, but since I seem to share it with most of the human race over most of recorded time, I find no shame (or pride) in it. Since it is the crux of the matter, I think that it is best to leave the terribly difficult matter to the individuals involved, to wrestle with it as best they might.

    PS To call someone ignorant because they do not agree with you is not an effective way to persuade them to do so (if that is what you want...again, I'm not so sure about that.)

  • JoanneinDenver on September 05, 2012 1:35 PM:

    You, sir, are playing word games. I refuse to play. You have one of three positions, which is it?

    1) You don't care what "it" is between conception and birth, it is okay to destroy it, if the woman chooses.

    2) There is some "magic moment" between conception and birth when "it" becomes a human being. It is okay to kill "it" before the magic moment, but not afterwards.

    3) What "it" is not a function of biology, but what the woman "believes" it to be, therefore, she may kill it.

  • Tiago Silva on September 05, 2012 9:09 PM:

    Until viability (22-24 weeks) the baby has no real possibility of existence without the mother. It is alive, but it is not independent life. It is part of the woman's body. It should not be a person. It only represents potential.

    Now, this potential should be protected, but not at the expense of the EXISTING life, which is the mother, who can have another baby in due time and may have other children already.

    So, I see no problem with the compromise of liberalization of abortion in the first 12 weeks, which is half of 24 (viability). It gives the mother one or two months to reflect if the child is wanted and can be provided for - and believe me when I say an unwanted child lives a very diminished life that leaves most of the potential unfulfilled - and protects the potential life afterwards.

    But I'm a dirty rotten European commie, what do I know?

  • JoanneinDenver on September 06, 2012 7:21 AM:

    @Tiago Silva
    Well, as a "dirty rotten European commie," you describe very well the restrictions that most European countries have imposed. Most countries in the EU restrict
    abortion after 12 weeks to circumstances that involve the health of the mother.
    There restrictions may also include medical consultation as to the need for the abortion; counseling for the woman, and a waiting period. This is far more restrictive than in the United States.

    Most of the problems discussing abortion in the United States come from a failure to define terms and then be consistent in the use of those terms. I blame the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade for this confusion. The Justices were nine old men who didn't know what they were talking about, scientifically.

    You have changed the meaning of terms in your comments. Let me define what we are talking about,

    1) At conception, a new human life begins. The entity is alive and it is a life.

    2) At birth, with the first independent breath, a person is legally created, in the UNited States according to the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade.

    Your first paragraph is almost consistent with these definitions, except you use potential as noun, and it should be used as an adjective so as not to confuse.Your sentence would better read, this way: "It only represents a potential person."

    Your next sentence should read: "Now, this potential person should be protected, but not at the expense of the EXISTING person."

    I do not agree with you. However, when it is stated in the way, it is consistent and we avoid rambling discussions of what is life, etc. etc.

    I also disagree with your last statement. I do not believe that it is necessary to
    destroy a fetus in order to save a potential person from a life of limited potential.

    If a woman does not want to keep the embryo/fetus, I think it is wise to understand why and to see if the underlying problem can be addressed.
    Many times, in my experience, it is the father, not the mother, that does not want the pregnancy to continue. Sometimes, there are very real health issues.
    One of the saddest circumstances is when the mother has other children, must work to support them and ensure that they have health insurance and she cannot continue the job if pregnant. The tragedy is that she may very much want to keep the embryo/fetus.

    In your "rotten European commie" countries, you have wisely provided for social safety nets that allow for universal health care independent of the job, maternity leave and support for families. So European women do not face the tragic Hobson choices that the United States imposes on its female citizens. We are trying to change the law, but the Republicans are opposed. We may even lost the little that we have, such as the limited Medical Family Leave provisions.

    Thank you.

  • Bostonian in Brooklyn o on September 11, 2012 12:01 PM:

    But the "personhood" of the zygote does not make for an absolute case. Every day plenty of unquestionably human persons die that might have lived if I had donated blood or a kidney or even just given them food and shelter. I do not get charged with murdering them because I do not have an obligation to them.

    The question is not whether the zygote, embryo, fetus is human but what is the legal obligation of the the woman to it. If you believe that it is absolute you have to argue for that. If you believe it is zero, you have to argue for that.

  • JoanneinDenver on September 15, 2012 7:06 PM:


    I don't have to argue for anything. The point I made many posts ago was that
    the lives of the woman and child are biologically intertwined and we have no laws that begin with that fact. The examples you use reflect the stupidity of the law. The examples you use only make sense if a zygote/embryo/fetus were somehow grafted on to a man....and then what would his legal obligation be???

    The question has never been is a zygote/embryo/fetus human...of course, it is.
    The question has never been is the zygote/embryo/fetus legally a person?
    Of course not. The question is should we has a country pass an amendment to the constitution conferring all civil rights on a zygote/embryo/fetus at conception. I argue yes. But, I also believe passionately in the Constitution of the United States and I believe that as a debate and vote on such a HLA would pass through both houses of Congress and then through 3/4s of the state legislature, then we would address all the issues surrounding the legal status of this "two hearted creature."

  • JoanneinDenver on September 17, 2012 11:28 AM:

    To conclude: This thread began with a blog showing the history of the Human LIfe Amendment in the Republican Platform. I argued, initially, from a pro-life position that:

    1) The HLA was a political ploy on the part of the Republicans. It did not represent any meaningful intent to pass a HLA. To prove this, I cited the fact that the Republicans, since 1982, have NEVER even voted on the HLA. They consistently refer it to committee where it dies.

    2) The republicans have changed the emphasis of their political strategy from passing a HLA, that would outlaw abortions to overturning Roe. Overturning Roe would not outlaw abortion, it would return the issue to the individual states. This is the real constitutional threat because it would be the first time a civil right, the
    right that women currently have to unrestricted access to a first trimester abortion, would be abolished. That has terrible implications for other civil rights....voting rights, public accommodation rights, rights of the handicapped.
    Those who are currently championing states rights, are not interested in preserving human life, they are interested in states' rights, not human ones.

    3) Both parties use the abortion issues to rally the bases and raise money.
    The real constitutional questions are never addressed. Instead, the discussion deteriorates into a stupid discussion, as happened here, about when does life begin and what is life etc. etc. etc.