Alabama’s Pro-Life Integrity
Lots of people talk about “following the truth wherever it leads.” But Alabama has actually done so with its new abortion ban. The state law starts with the truth of every unborn child’s humanity. It follows that truth to fulfill the state’s duty to protect every human being’s right to life.
Sadly, some “pro-life” politicians have chosen to distance themselves from this law that many are calling “extreme.” While it does allow doctors to take necessary steps to save the mother’s life, it does not contain the well-known exceptions to allow abortion when pregnancy results from rape or incest.
Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised by the flinchers. After all, pro-life politicians pay attention to polling too. And polling says that even most pro-life Americans (57%) think abortion should be legal when a pregnancy results from rape or incest.
Without question, those are the hardest cases. No one likes to think about a woman or girl going through nine long months of pregnancy as the result of a crime.
But if one’s pro-life position is based on the fact that the “product” of conception is a distinct human being — a person with a right to life — then it’s hard to justify rape or incest exceptions on logical or legal grounds. In no other circumstance would we allow one innocent person to be killed because another person committed a crime.
Even liberals who come into the abortion debate in good faith recognize this. For instance, in his May 20th op-ed, columnist E.J. Dionne spoke almost admiringly of the Alabama lawmakers’ integrity. “Of course the Alabama abortion law is outrageously extreme. But you cannot fault the consistency of the Alabama legislators who supported it. If abortion is murder, it’s murder.”
It’s a point not to be missed by anyone seeking to set up a plausible basis for the Supreme Court to finally do away with Roe v. Wade. The Roe Court noted that if the state could prove that a baby in the womb was a “person” for legal purposes, then that baby would have his or her own right to life under the Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment. The Court would be bound to protect that right.
The reason the Court concluded that unborn babies were not persons, for legal purposes, was because it found no source of law consistently treating them as such. In this regard, it specifically noted that even states that outlawed abortions always made exceptions. The Court observed that “if the fetus is a person who is not to be deprived of life without due process of law,” then such exceptions were “out of line with the Amendment’s command.”
The Alabama law does make it clear that doctors can do what is necessary to protect the mother’s life. But a strong case can be made that this does not undermine the case for “personhood” the way other exceptions do. If a doctor cannot save both lives, there is no reason for the law to place the baby’s life above the mother’s.
By taking a logically and legally consistent stand on the humanity of the unborn, Alabama has set up the strongest possible foundation on which today’s Supreme Court can lay Roe v. Wade to rest. In short, Alabama has changed the legal context that formed the foundation for that decision. A changed legal context can produce a different legal result.
The Case for Abandoning Precedent
The Court has been down this road before. Remember Brown v. Board of Education? There the Court reversed the “separate but equal” doctrine it had embraced decades earlier in Plessy v. Ferguson to uphold segregation. Why? Because in 1954, the “facts apparent to the Court” were clearly at odds with the basis for the 1896 Plessy decision.
The same can be said today with regard to abortion. Under the new Alabama law in 2019, the facts are different than they were in Texas in 1973, when the Court handed down Roe v. Wade.
The relevant facts are these: Alabama’s Constitution recognizes the sanctity of unborn life and the rights of unborn children. Medical science fully supports and recognizes the humanity of babies in the womb. By banning abortion, regardless of the circumstances of conception, Alabama is properly recognizing that all people are created equal, and that equal protection of the right to life is the most fundamental duty of government.
We should challenge every self-proclaimed “pro-life” official to follow the truth where it leads by taking a consistently pro-life stand. As Martin Luther King, Jr. once remarked, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”