Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Roe v. Kerry

I love when things are spelled out in black and white. It really appeals to the (poor) mathematician in me.

The other day I was searching the 'net and found some interesting views on abortion from Sen. Kerry. He believes that "life does begin at conception. But I can't take my Catholic belief, my article of faith, and legislate it on a Protestant or a Jew or an atheist . . . who doesn't share it. We have separation of church and state in the United States of America."

Legislation with regards to the issue of abortion--a.k.a. the Supreme Court decision in the case of Roe v. Wade.

You know the background by now: young Miss Roe, an unmarried woman from Texas, wanted to get an abortion to terminate her unwanted pregnancy. Abortion without the presence of life-threatening conditions to the pregnant woman was illegal in Texas, and she felt that the requirement to leave the state to have the procedure done safely and legally was too burdensome. She initiated federal action against the District Attorney of Dallas County, TX, seeking to declare the anti-abortion statutes in Texas unconstitutional because they were unconstitutionally vague and that they abridged her right of personal privacy.

Everyone knows the overall outcome of the court's decision: the Supreme Court found that the Texas statutes and their "type" were violative of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and therefore unconstitutional. Thus began the era of legalized abortions in this great country of ours.

But what about the great question brought on by Sen. Kerry's remarks last week: did the Supreme Court address the issue of "when life begins"?

Researching my query by reading Justice Blackmun's majority opinion, two key areas jump out at me:

a) The arguments put forth by the State in support of the anti-abortion laws consistently returned to the theme that life begins at conception. Funny. . .isn't that the same opinion expressed by Kerry last week? Who'd have ever thought that Sen. Right-to-Choose would agree with the State's foremost argument for defending the constitutionality of its anti-abortion laws?

b) The Supreme Court's handling of the "life begins at conception" issue is summarized as follows: "We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins. When those trained in the respective disciplines of medicine, philosophy, and theology are unable to arrive at any consensus, the judiciary, at this point in the development of man's knowledge, is not in a position to speculate as to the answer." In other words, they sidestep addressing the issue directly. Instead, the Court places the weight of their decision around the issue of "personhood". How important is that issue? "The appellee. . .argue(s) that the fetus is a "person". . .If this suggestion of personhood is established, the appellant's (Roe) case, of course, collapses, for the fetus' right to life would then be guaranteed specifically by the (Fourteenth) Amendment. The appellant conceded as much on reargument." The final opinion of the Court, however, is "that the word "person," as used in the Fourteenth Amendment, does not include the unborn."

What does Kerry believe about personhood? Well, assuming he follows Catholic teachings (this interview was about his faith, after all), then he believes that "human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person - among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life." Definitely NOT the position of the Court in the Roe decision. How can a person agree with a decision based on observations that are 100% counter to personal beliefs?

(And by the way, that whole "freedom of conscience" thing--Kerry used it pretty much 180 degrees opposite of it's intention. Freedom of conscience, as described by Pope John Paul II, allows that a person may, for reasons of conscience, choose not to participate in certain activities that others in the same field/position/employment participate in.  The idea of freedom of conscience does NOT exempt a person from acting on religious beliefs because of the law of the land.  What Kerry was talking about was a freedom FROM conscience--and I assure you that such a position does not exist in Vatican II or any other Church document.)

Sen. Kerry's strong support of the pro-choice lobby is highly contradictory of his supposed "beliefs"--beliefs that place him like-minded with the State's arguments in support of anti-abortion statutes and beliefs that are at odds with the Court's observation on "personhood" that was central to the decision in the case. So either he is a man who doesn't listen to his conscience when it comes to issues of legislation or he is a man who freely states convictions that he certainly doesn't hold. Are either one of those guys somebody that you want to be the leading representative of this country in the years to come?


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