It is our opinion, and that of the legal experts with whom we have consulted, that passage of this amendment would not achieve the goal of overturning Roe v. Wade.
If such an amendment were to pass, a feat more difficult in our state due to the requirement to achieve support by 60% of voters, we are convinced that a federal district court would strike it down based on Roe. This decision would undoubtedly be affirmed by an appellate court, and the case would either not be granted further review by today’s U.S. Supreme Court, or worse, lead to a reaffirmation of Roe. The unintended effect would very likely jeopardize current protections in state law and cause a loss of momentum in the ultimate goal of establishing full legal protection of the unborn from the moment of conception.
- The Catholic Bishops of Florida
In a nutshell: Based on the idea that the Personhood Amendment would cause the Supreme Court to rule on Roe v. Wade, no one should support this. Instead we should focus on incremental measures.
This is wrong for several reasons.
Yes, it is the culture that changes the law, but it is meaningless to talk about changing the culture unless we are actively involved in changing the beliefs, values and laws that govern us as individuals. We must do this through constant discussion, debate and education. Advocating for a Personhood Amendment is an excellent way to do this.
Furthermore, incremental measures may be seen to be counterproductive in our attempt. Every law that places a restriction on abortion is in fact a legal precedent that affirms Roe v. Wade. Even if Roe were struck down tomorrow, these incremental measures would stand even in states that had a ban or restriction on abortion prior to Roe.
“You must have parental consent, a five day waiting period, and an ultra-sound, then you have the legal right to kill your baby!”
That is the standard presented by the Catholic bishops of Florida at this time. This is no way to build a culture of life. We cannot affirm the right to life by sanctioning legal child murder only in some circumstances. The way to affirm a culture of life is to legally define the personhood of a human being from the beginning of biological development.
It is an incremental step in that regard.
We can legally define “the beginning of biological development” as constituting a human life, a legal “person” and a “natural person.” That will change the culture.
To get 60 percent of the voters to agree to this, first we must ask eight percent to think about it and agree with their signatures that such an amendment is needed. Even if we fail to get the signatures needed, we are actively engaging in evangelism, getting the hearts and minds of people lined up with truth. People who have never evangelized before will lead people to Christ through their petitioning. That will change the culture.
When we get the amendment on the ballot, there will be a huge fight. A debate over abortion and when life begins has never occurred in our culture at large. Legalized abortion for any reason through all nine months of pregnancy was enforced from the top down in most states by a Supreme Court decision. Even in states that had legal abortion, there were restrictions that were knocked down by Roe and Doe v. Bolton. For the first time in 37 years, we will be calling on the free will of the people to decide for themselves. That will change the culture.
If the measure fails in Florida, we will keep trying in other states until one passes. Within 24 hours there will be a legal injunction by a higher court that calls on the state to not enforce laws regulating or banning abortion. At that point, the Supreme Court will decide whether to hear the case. Even if we lose, we win. It will establish a clear cut division between the will of the courts and the will of the people. That will change the culture.
Then we will seek to pass such amendments and resolutions in other states. That will change the culture.
We will eventually get such an intitiative passed in 34 of the so-called “red states” — enough for a United States Constitutional Amendment that will protect the life of a person from the beginning of biological development. Roe will be moot. Now longer will it be the fiat “law of the land” enforced by judicial tyranny. It will only apply to Roe and Wade. And I hear Jane Roe is now pro-life.
We can change the culture, but it must come from the will of the people, not through the courts. It must come through the states.
1. Through 2008, there were 24 voter petition initiatives on the Florida ballot since the process began in 1978 (in addition to legislative initiatives).
2. Of those 24, 20 were approved by voters.
3. Florida voters have approved a higher percentage of their statewide ballot measures than voters in any other state.
This position paper is not copyrighted and may be forwarded and distributed to anyone without prior permission.
- Jay Rogers
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