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This weekend, pro-life supporters converge on Washington for their annual march to protest the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision of Jan. 22, 1973, which legalized abortion during all nine months of pregnancy. Pro-life proponents aren’t about to give up efforts to save the lives of as many babies as possible.
Their latest strategy is to attempt to get the U.S. Congress to pass a Life at Conception Act. As supporters of this act say, “Working from what the Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade, pro-life lawmakers can pass a Life at Conception Act and end abortion using the Constitution instead of amending it.”
How is that possible when the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision held that a woman, with her doctor, could choose abortion in earlier months of pregnancy without legal restriction, and with restrictions in later months?
Technically, the Court did not declare abortion to be a constitutional right. It said that a woman could choose abortion based on a right to privacy it argued was in the Constitution.
The National Pro-Life Alliance, which is leading efforts to pass the Life at Conception Act, points out that the majority decision in Roe v. Wade included this passage: “We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins. … The judiciary at this point in the development of man’s knowledge is not in a position to speculate as to the answer.”
However, it continued, “If this suggestion of personhood is established, the appellant’s case, of course, collapses, for the fetus’s right to life is then guaranteed specifically by the [14th] Amendment [to the Constitution].”
What does the 14th Amendment say? It has five sections, but the Court was referring to the second part of the second sentence in Section 1: “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.”
Therefore, the National Pro-Life Alliance believes that, if Congress can be persuaded to pass legislation declaring unborn children “persons,” the constitutional case for abortion-on-demand “collapses.”
Congress has the power to do that, the Alliance says, because the final section of the 14th Amendment says, “Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.”
We suppose that the first question must be, “Is an unborn child, either an embryo or a fetus, really a human person entitled to protection?” That is something that Catholics and many other religions teach, but is it true?
Abortion has been forbidden among Christians since the first century. The Didache, written about the year 60, said, “You shall not kill the embryo by abortion.” However, the idea that the embryo is a human person is not a religious dogma. It is a biological fact.
There was debate among theologians at one point about when human life begins. That was before biologists solved that problem. We know now that human life begins when the male sperm fertilizes the female ovum.
But is there any possibility that our federal lawmakers will actually be brave enough to pass legislation declaring that an unborn child is a person?
Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi), a Baptist deacon, is spearheading the act in the Senate. He has introduced the bill in each session of the Senate in recent years, but it has gotten little support in the Democrat-controlled Senate.
Nevertheless, the Pro-Life Alliance says that, if there is a massive, grassroots campaign in favor of the act, one of two things will happen—politicians from both parties who were elected on pro-life platforms will make good on their promises and win passage of the bill, or public attention will send another crew of pro-abortion legislators down the road to defeat in the next election.
Therefore, the Alliance has started a campaign to try to get a million people to sign a petition in support of a Life at Conception Act to be delivered to the members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate.
To achieve that, it plans a series of TV, radio and newspaper advertisements, extensive personal lobbying, a series of newspaper columns, and an e-mail and telephone campaign. You can learn more about the campaign at www.nationalprolifealliance.com.
—John F. Fink