Statement prepared for South Carolina Senate and House of Representatives
Regarding the Personhood Constitutional Amendment (S.719 / H.4093)
June 2, 2015
Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God He made man (Genesis 9:6).
The above verse from the book of Genesis is the basis for Western society’s condemnation and prosecution of the sin and crime of murder. Scripture makes it clear—as did the laws of our land until 1973—that persons born and preborn are to be protected. The personhood legislation that you are considering would bring a resolution to the moral conundrum we’ve been trying to resolve since the US Supreme Court’s infamous Roe v. Wade opinion denied the wisdom found in God’s Word and the hundreds of years of legal precedents derived from it.
Each time personhood for the preborn is debated in the SC legislative assemblies—as it has been for far too long now—those who speak in opposition mention several “difficult situations” that would arise if such legislation became law. Ectopic pregnancies, modern reproductive technologies (such as in vitro fertilization), accessibility to certain abortifacient contraceptives are mentioned as reasons that personhood should not be granted to the preborn.
On the other side, those who support personhood for the preborn—as I do—speak of the humanity, dignity, and inalienable rights of those children peacefully floating around in the amniotic fluid of the wombs of their mothers.
On the pro-abortion side, you have pragmatic arguments and an assortment of answers to the question of when life begins—or the bold assertion that that question does not matter. With amazing sophistication but astonishing myopia, pro-abortion advocates have dehumanized, devalued, and ultimately advocated for the destruction of the baby in the womb, thinking somehow this whole conversation is about the privacy of the mommy. They even tenaciously avoid calling the child a baby, using terms or phrases such as “fetus” or “clump of cells” or “protoplasm”1—unless, of course, the baby is wanted, then somehow that clump of cells is a baby…
On the anti-abortion side, you have a moral argument with a definite answer to the question when life begins—the moment of fertilization. Again, Scripture says: “For you formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:13-14a). We refuse to turn a blind eye to the life in the womb and the fact that two persons enter into an abortion clinic and one—only the mother—leaves alive. The baby is now dead, sacrificed on the altar of choice with the blessing of the priests of our highest court.
Senators and Representatives, there is a time to put aside the pragmatic concerns and do what is right, do what is right in the sight of God. Answer the moral question first, then work through the consequences. Is it right to deny personhood to a baby in the womb and, thereby, remove any and all protections for that person? It is not right to kill children; it is wrong to deny personhood to persons; it is wrong to take what God has dignified with His image and call it “tissue,” “inconvenience,” or “my choice2.” It is wrong, and it is the epitome of heartlessness.
Even the greatest of the pro-abortion pragmatic arguments falls flat when it comes to the real issue at hand. I suppose the over 57 million babies that have been torn apart in the womb would wish someone would have had the courage to set aside the pragmatic exceptional cases—all of which could be resolved through the legislative process—and had spoken to the primary question of the morality of the killing of preborn children. Those children could not wish, or speak, or plead in any way. They died and more continue to die because our intellectuals and Supreme Court Justices posture themselves as compassionate and concerned. But they concern themselves with the paper-cuts of the pragmatists and heartlessly ignore the gruesome deaths of millions of voiceless children.
In its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, the Supreme Court designated a whole portion of the citizens of this country—those living in the womb of a woman—as non-persons. Roe v. Wade was not the first time a heartless decision made by our Supreme Court Justices led to rights being denied to a whole class of persons (as I said when I was before a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on April 10, 2014). In 1857, men and women of African descent were denied true citizenship and, thereby, full personhood in the Dred Scott v. Sanford decision. Not too long after their opinion—about 11 years later and after the bloodiest war in our short history—the Justices’ wrong was righted by the Fourteenth Amendment to the US Constitution.3
When we read the words of the Dred Scott ruling today, we are scandalized. Here are a few of those words, which begin with a quotation of the Declaration of Independence:
“‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among them is life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights, Governments are instituted, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.’ The general words above quoted would seem to embrace the whole human family… But it is too clear for dispute, that the enslaved African race were not intended to be included, and formed no part of the people who framed and adopted this declaration…”.
“…the men who framed [the Declaration of Independence]…perfectly understood the meaning of the language they used, and how it would be understood by others; and they knew that it would not in any part of the civilized world be supposed to embrace the negro race…”.
Those are shameful words, Senators and Representatives, and yet, when they were written men, women, and children of African descent were regarded as property to be dispensed with as determined by slave-holding American citizens. Yet, those people, created in the image of God and therefore precious to Him, had an advantage that those within the womb do not have: they were seen and heard. They had voices used to define their plight, eloquently arguing, movingly singing, and passionately objecting. Those within the womb today have no such opportunities. Before they are seen or speak a word, before they sing, before they object, they are killed. There will not be a Frederick Douglas or a Harriet Beecher Stowe rising up from among our oppressed.
As those children die, exceptional and resolvable pragmatic arguments keep the killing legal.
When the Fourteenth Amendment and other acts of legislation that preceded and followed it—such as the Emancipation Proclamation, the Civil Rights Acts of 1866, the Thirteenth and Fifteenth Amendments—were being debated, do you think pragmatic arguments were brought up against it? Of course. Were we able to go back in time and hear those debates, we would hear scores of intellectuals, from both the North and the South, defending the heartless Dred Scott decision because, to name one example, to grant citizenship and the full rights of personhood to men and women of African descent would be to devastate an economy. Such suffering, they argued, could not be allowed.
Senators and Representatives, which side would you have been on in those debates? By your vote on this Personhood Constitutional Amendment, I can tell you which side you will be imitating. We like to think that we will not commit the same sins as our fathers but that is not always the case.
But, to the question of the personhood of persons within the womb, what does this bill have going for it? First, this bill does not rely on the intellectual or philosophical impressions of another person to define when personhood begins. It does not rely on unstable points of reference, such as viability. Stating that personhood begins at fertilization adheres to the observations of scientists—and, unsurprisingly, the revelation of God’s Word—that a genetically-unique, single, whole organism is getting to work being human. In Embryo: A Defense of Human Life, Robert P. George and Christopher Tollefsen speak of this work:
“The evidence suggests…that at the end of the first week, the same organism that came into being at fertilization has continued to grow and pursue its important biological goals. It does this by means of an increasingly differentiated division of labor among the cells, but a division whose original plan dates back to the very act of fertilization. And it pursues its goals, and adjusts for difficulties, by means of communication from cell to cell. It is, it would seem, a single organism, just like a toddler,
adolescent, or adult.”4
And I would add, that when that genetically-unique zygote gets to that immediate work it is proving his humanity and personhood and, thereby, is intrinsically endowed by his Creator with certain unalienable rights.
Does the State of South Carolina not have a compelling interest to protect that life? Does the State of South Carolina, over which God has given you authority, not have a compelling interest to protect that human being with the defined boundaries of personhood? The purpose of the Fourteenth Amendment of the US Constitution was to protect persons—whether they be old or very young, black or white, female or male. You have the opportunity, just as our forefathers did with that amendment, to right a horrible wrong.
Put aside exceptional and tragic pragmatic arguments and do what is logical, compassionate, and right. Do what is right in the sight of God, Who says, “Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world” (James 1:27). And, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap” (Galatians 6:7).
Senators and Representatives, remember the orphans who are in their mothers’ wombs today and sow legislation that will defend them.
Vote yes for The Personhood Constitutional Amendment (S.719 / H.4093). Give the people of South Carolina the opportunity to stand for what is right in the sight of God.
A servant of Christ,
Pastor, Trinity Presbyterian Church
1 This use of doctrinaire rhetoric is a favorite tactic of oppressors. Charles Brennan, Professor at the School of Social Service at St. Louis University, writes, “‘This war will never end until far more people become aware of how closely today’s corruption of language and thought resembles the legacy and name-calling that dominated the public mind-set in past atrocities. Today’s proponents of abortion, euthanasia, and physician-assisted suicide, embryonic and fetal research, and research cloning must become aware that the language and rhetoric they are using to justify these destructive practices are the very same words and rationalizations constructed to defend the annihilation and experimental exploitation of people throughout history. Only when we become aware of the atrocities of the past and challenge their continuation into the present can there be hope for the future’” [Quoted in Roger Resler, Compelling Interest: The Real Story Behind Roe v. Wade (Escondido, CA: eChristianBooks, 2012), 343].
2 Randy Alcorn shows the tragic nature of framing the abortion debate in terms of choice: “…the pro-choice position always emphasizes one person’s right to choose instead of the other’s. But what about the victim’s right to choose? After all, the women don’t choose rape. The blacks didn’t choose slavery. The Jews didn’t choose the ovens. And the babies don’t choose abortion.” Randy Alcorn, From ProChoice to ProLife by Hearing the Truth about Abortion, Eternal Perspective Ministries, http://www.epm.org/resources/2009/Dec/18/1996-high-school-model-republican-convention/ (April 23, 2014).
3 Ironically, the fourteenth amendment was used by Justice Blackmun as a justification for allowing women to abort their preborn
children. In the following quotation, pro-life author Roger Resler states Justice Blackmun’s position and then refutes it, arguing that
the historical context of the 14th amendment demonstrates that the personhood of the preborn child was implicitly assumed by the
legislators of the day, who wrote both the 14th amendment and anti-abortion laws: “The privacy right brought about in Griswold and carried over to Roe, though not specifically addressed in the Constitution, emanated from its Amendments and, according to Justice Blackmun, especially from the Fourteenth Amendment which states:
All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
“The Fourteenth Amendment was created in 1866 and adopted in 1868, which places it directly in the time frame which the most
important burst of anti-abortion legislation in American history was occurring.
“It is noteworthy that the same congressmen who voted for the Fourteenth Amendment had also created, voted for, and enacted laws in the Federal Territories of Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, and Nevada that made the performance of abortion on ‘a woman then being with child’ a crime. To argue that the creators of the Fourteenth Amendment would have approved of their amendment as the basis of a fundamental right of privacy that included a woman’s decision to have an abortion, is to argue in blatant contradiction to historical facts. These were the same legislators who had created tough anti-abortion laws.
“It is reasonable to conclude that the concept of a ‘person’ was so basic to the framers of the Fourteenth Amendment that it was simply taken for granted to include a person in the womb. There is no indication that legislators in the latter half of the nineteenth century viewed the concept of a ‘person’ to be separable from the concept of living human being. And yet such a distinction is imperative if we are to accept Weddington’s and ultimately the Court’s logic” (Resler, Compelling Interest, 40-41). See also, Resler, Compelling Interest, 62-64.
4 George, Robert P. and Christopher Tollefsen, Embryo: A Defense of Human Life (New York: Doubleday, 2008), 156.