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Bill's moral imperative obscured by strategy considerations

HB 645 by state Rep. John LaBruzzo raises interesting questions about how Louisiana pro-life advocates should pursue doing the morally right thing, precisely because of the unimpeachable and absolute morality inherent to the position of protecting the unborn.

Abortion must be allowed in the U.S. because of one of the worst and least logical pieces of jurisprudence in U.S. Supreme Court history, Roe v. Wade (1973). Essentially, it discovers a “right” nowhere written in the Constitution, instead concatenating it through disparate, unrelated parts of the document that only through the fevered swamps of liberalism could it be imagined, of “privacy” that said government could not interfere with decisions about abortion – but only so long as the unborn had not established “personhood.” The decision actually defined when that began so then states may begin restricting at that point.

Traditionally, pro-life supporters have wanted the case overturned to give back to the states the ability to restrict abortion to any degree they like.
But HB 645 takes a different approach by not challenging the notion that personhood defines whether abortion may occur legally, only that states rather than a rogue Supreme Court interpretive claim should define it. It bans abortion in the state by defining “personhood” as starting at conception and thereby invites the country’s highest court to uphold that part of the decision while striking down the part that establishes federal power as the sole arbiter of “personhood.”

Some sympathizers hesitate on this rationale because, from a political perspective, they see the Court as unwilling to relinquish that power on behalf of the federal government. If so, a decision could validate more strongly the notion of “personhood” and the idea that the federal government, through the interpretation of the Constitution or as an explicit part of it, defines it.

That outcome could lead to a time when, one way or the other, the Constitution reads or says what all people who feel they have an obligation for the well-being of others understand – affirming the clear logic that a being whose DNA makes it human and has the capacity through unmolested physical and mental development to live as a human being is a human being. You are not more or less human regardless of whether you are “wanted,” you were “unintended,” you have some imperfection, your family can’t “afford” you, etc. – you simply are a human being.  For the path down which we go when we get to use such contingencies to define an absolute such as who gets to be a person ineluctably leads us to gas chambers run by the state.

However, politically speaking, since politics involves decisions made by humans, human institutions for legal purposes decide this very issue even if, philosophically and morally, it is clear cut. The philosophy enunciated by HB 645 essentially writes off the possibility that all life everywhere in the U.S. will be protected, for probably some states would choose to define “personhood” in ways permitting abortion. And in a sense that approach violates to notion of the absoluteness of the concept of human life on which the pro-life position is based – allowing “human beings” defined differently in different parts of the country. Yet it also could end up as the surer approach to save more of the unborn – what if the Constitution never is amended nor interpreted in any way to restrict abortion more than now?

Political processes inescapably will define “human life” when it comes to rights, even as it is and will continue to be regardless of how it gets defined in any legal sense. Therefore, do pro-life civil libertarians accept the inconsistency of backing something that promises to define life contingently and likely would save some lives, or do they hope for legislation that may protect all but that may never come or in the meantime actually may suffer legal changes that increase the killings? Such are the ponderings that the community concerned with the fate of the unborn faces in their deliberations on HB 645.

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