Although Time Magazine, the Denver Post and the blogs insist on calling it the “fertilized egg rights” law, Colorado’s State Supreme Court has approved the wording for a proposed “Human Life Amendment.” The proponents of the amendment need 76,000 signatures in order to get the initiative on the November, 2008 ballot.
The Chicago Tribune reporter at least understands that after fertilization we are talking about an “embryo.” The Trib even found three ethicists who agree that the human embryo is alive. Which puts them in opposition Justice Blackburn’s opinion ( which medical school did he go to, anyway?) in Roe v. Wade that no one knows when life begins.
Unfortunately all three of those ethicists are much more worried about the definition and description of the qualities and abilities of those living humans they deem worthy of “personhood” than whether or not it is acceptable to discriminate between which humans are persons or not. Their main objection seems to be that protection of the inalienable right not to be killed, enslaved or treated as research material “would cause a lot of problems.”(I’ll bet that they disagree with the Dred Scot opinion, though. Overturning that one sure caused a lot of problems.)
U.S. law, based as it is on “unalienable rights” mentioned in the Declaration of Independence, should absolutely prevent courts, laws and ethicists from infringement of the right not to be killed or enslaved. Ethicists – of all people – shouldn’t need a lawyer to understand that the full exercise of unalienable rights affects infants, children, the mentally disabled and the mentally ill. Parents have special duties to their children and children can’t claim the same expression of liberty (drinking, driving, entering into contracts) that their parents do. There are legal precedents for dealing with the “problems” posed by the varying abilities of the mentally ill and disabled as well as for minors – including very young infants who can legally be restrained against their will (in a crib, playpen or car seat).
The “ethicists” in the Tribune article, as well as readers’ comments in both papers and in blogs all over the internet, bring out every pro-abortion objection except the coat hanger. They warn us that fertile women will be “monitored,” that women who miscarry or who drink a glass of wine will be prosecuted. They insist that if State law recognizes the human being as a person from fertilization, we’ll have to decide whether to try to save every child at miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy or fail to enforce the law. Elective intentional abortions and manipulation that is intended to end the organization of an embryo – are acts which may be prohibited under law and the State Medical regulations. Spontaneous abortions (miscarriages), and stillbirths, like so many natural deaths, are impossible to prevent and cannot be prohibited.
Since US Supreme Court rulings (Roe v. Wade and Casey, among others) all base the “right” to an abortion on the autonomy of the mother and while affirming the right of the State to protect the child in certain cases, the “extracorporeal” embryo should be protected, somehow, even in current law.
It might be worth noting that the law requires determination of the cause of death of everyone who dies, and that Texas requires a special review of children under 6 and those of any age who die within 24 hours of admission to the hospital.Texas also names a “person” as living human individual from fertilization to natural death through our Penal Code. The 2003 Prenatal Protection Act allows criminal charges when a third party causes the death of an unborn child while exempting the actions of the mother or deaths due to legal medical procedures with the consent of the mother.
In fact, 3 men have been convicted of capital murder under our 2003 Prenatal Protection Act. The convicted men were abusive, the father, and intended to kill the child(ren). One killed twins at 5 months gestation but not the mother, the other two each killed mother and child. One man received the death penalty for killing a teenaged girl he’d gotten pregnant. There are charges pending in at least one more case, a drive-by shooting that caused the death of a pregnant woman.
Last month, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled in favor of the conviction of a man who killed one of two women he was sleeping with after the first told him she was pregnant. He told his second girlfriend that he would take care of the pregnancy of the first, and shot the first woman 3 times with a shotgun, once in the face.
As for “monitoring the actions of women:” a couple of county District Attorneys in Texas have tried to turn the law into an excuse to lock up mothers for endangering their unborn children. The outcome was similar to the cases in South Carolina a few years ago, when women were arrested after being tested as part of their pregnancy screening, required by that State’s Medicaid regulations. One lawyer made a speech to a group of lawyers that the Act could be coordinated with our State’s Consent Laws to charge doctors with capital crimes. Texas State Attorney General has given an official statement on the intent of the Legislature that exempts mothers and doctors.
The handling of an ectopic pregnancy is well established under the doctrine of self-defense. With our current medical technology, the child cannot be saved and he or she is a direct danger to his mother’s life.
While we can’t verify the soul, we can verify which embryos are organisms: techs do it all the time in labs. The embryo, unlike the sperm, egg, and transplanted organs, is an organized organism. It’s easy to tell within a day whether the oocyte is fertilized and which are not. It’s also easy to tell the difference between embryonic stem cells and an embryo.
>This debate is never framed correctly! I am constantly annoyed at the common assumption that life is the key. Even you have made this mistake here, by refering to the three ethicists who "agree that the human embryo is alive" as if this settles the matter in your favor. Of course its alive, I have never seen someone say otherwise. So is an amoeba – life, in itsself, is not sufficient grounds to grant any type of rights or protections. If it were, we would be charging antibiotics manufacturers with genocide.The shifting of the issue towards 'is is alive?' is an effective debate tactic – but not an honest one. It is just distorting the question to move it to more easily defended ground.The real debate shouldn't be over life, but over what makes humans so much more valuble than any other organism. Its a much more difficult question to answer, but its also the real key to so many issues in bioethics.
>SR, you're describing discrimination based on characteristics. You do realize that this is an old discussion, don't you? Pick up any book with "Bioethics" in the title. It will give you some variation of the definition of "person" that would exclude every child and the mentally ill or damaged.In the US, our government is based on the Declaration of Independence. That's why the "alive" part is important, at least here. In other nations, it's religion, sex or the ability to wield the most guns that counts.
>Americans United for Life has a new article published on their website on the various definitions of personhood, and the role that these definitions play in the on-going life debate (with some specific attention on Human Life Amendments. I have observed that most people who are engaged in conversations on Human Life Amendments and constitutional personhood are not aware of the various definitions of the word "personhood," and also are not aware that there are ways to give the unborn legal protection other than through a Human Life Amendment ("HLA")(e.g., fetal homicide laws). In addition, many people do not realize that HLA's would apply only to government action, and not to individual abortion providers. Thus, in order for an HLA to be as effective as possible, it is essential that the criminal homicide statutes of a state to be modified. I would recommend reading the full AUL article on constitutional personhood available on AUL's website: http://www.aul.org/personhood