Today, there is a paradigm shift underway in the pro-life movement. This shift can absolutely end Roe v. Wade. Let me explain why.
In 2006, when we set out to make the film Bella, the film industry was in dire need of a new paradigm. Hollywood seemed to only be interested in producing movies that glorified vice, violence, and self-loathing. Bella proposed a new paradigm; let’s make films with a conscience, with heart; films that are uplifting but don’t shy away from standing up for our values. The result of our leap of faith was astounding. Bella won numerous prestigious awards, but more importantly, it won a place in people’s hearts, and it saved lives!
The new pro-life paradigm is about going on the offensive to have our society recognize that every human being, from the moment of his or her biological beginning, should be protected as a person. In the last two years, Mexico has enacted State Personhood Amendments in more than half of its states. Personhood Amendments are wielding the state’s sovereign power to protect the most defenseless of its citizens equally as full persons under the law. This strategy has been tried and tested, and is already saving thousands of innocent babies from abortion in Mexico. Now we have the opportunity to make it a reality in the United States.
– Eduardo Verastegui
Shift to the Personhood Paradigm!
By Jay Rogers
I was recently asked by several of my pro-life activist friends how pro-life advocates, such as Phyllis Schlafly of Eagle Forum, National Right to Life, Focus on the Family and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, can actually oppose the state Personhood Amendments and then claim to be pro-life.
There are mainly two reasons for this.
First, some fear that challenging Roe v. Wade could backfire for the pro-life cause. They claim that if Roe is upheld or revised, then it could create a stronger precedent and thus make it more difficult to reverse in the future. They take this stance on the advice of conservative legal experts, who may or may not be regenerate believers in Jesus Christ. My response is that Roe could not possibly be stronger. Abortion is legal in all 50 states through all nine months of pregnancy whenever the woman and her doctor make a “private decision.” Further, Supreme Court justices violate precedent all the time. Roe is one of the most egregious examples of this. Even conservative “constructionist” judges, such as Antonin Scalia, will violate precedent when their purpose is to undo the judicial activism of liberals.
Second, some are frankly not on board because it was not their idea. Earlier this year, we had the Florida for Life Act, a sweeping piece of legislation that would have returned Florida to a ban on all abortion except for a highly nuanced allowance for the doctor to operate with the intent to save both lives of mother and child. It is a brilliant piece of legislation on many levels. According to the legislator I talked to who sponsored the bill, it is designed to challenge Roe. Although Florida for Life failed to get a companion Senate qualifying bill in 2010, several organizations continue to endorse its passage in the future. Yet some of the same people oppose the Florida Personhood Amendment on the grounds that it would directly challenge Roe.
There is a third reason that most people, even those who support Personhood, can easily miss. Personhood represents a paradigm shift in the pro-life movement. One of my friends recently expressed a popular misconception in stating that the supposedly pro-life opponents of Personhood “won’t have the opportunity to come around because legal abortion will be stopped and people who work in the pro-life industry will have to get a job.”
At first glance, I thought it was a cynical comment. However, I admit that I feel this same frustration with such people at times. Finally, I decided that he misses the point entirely. Our struggle will not end with abortion. To explain why the Personhood paradigm is much larger than just a plan to end legal abortion, we first need to understand a bit of history.
A Brief History of the Recent Pro-Life Movement
Paradigm Shift #1 – The Bishops Plan
At the time Roe v. Wade was passed, the only large Christian body that had an active plan to oppose abortion was the Roman Catholic Church. Most Protestant denominations were either silent on the issue or even issued statements of agreement with Roe. Much to our shame, some evangelicals joined the chorus of briefs that were written in favor of Roe.
Even the conservative Southern Baptist Convention prior to Roe, called on all Baptists to work for abortion rights. This complicity in the abortion holocaust is a dark stain on the evangelical movement. It ought to give us cause to pause and consider that evangelicals were in large part responsible for legal abortion.
The Catholic Bishop’s plan was a comprehensive, state-by-state plan to pass a Human Life Amendment at the national US Constitutional level, but it also included a grassroots strategy of passing state laws and amendments and using the “states rights” clause of the tenth amendment to resist federal tyranny in the form of legalized child killing.
The Bishop’s Plan failed in part because the Bishops of the Roman Catholic Church, to their great credit, refused to compromise with the “exception clauses” of Roe for rape, incest and the health of the mother. Many state and federal legislators would have been willing to support a plan that had the “exceptions.” This was the first split in the pro-life movement.
Paradigm Shift #2 – The Hyde Amendment
In 1976, Representative Henry J. Hyde (R-Ill.) sponsored an amendment to the Federal Budget appropriations bill for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). His amendment denied Medicaid funding for abortion unless the woman’s life is in danger or she is pregnant as a result of rape or incest, but only if the woman reports the incident at the time of its occurrence. Despite opposition from pro-abortion groups, Hyde attached this amendment every year to the same appropriations bill. The Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of the Hyde amendment (Harris v. McRae, 448 U.S. 297, 100 S. Ct. 2671, 65 L. Ed. 2d 784 ; McGowan v. Maryland, 366 U.S. 420, 81 S. Ct. 1101, 6 L. Ed. 2d 393 ).
See: After Roe v. Wade
The Hyde Amendment was opposed by pro-life groups such as the Catholic Bishops, since it included the “exceptions,” but supported by several evangelical groups who had by now joined the pro-life movement. Although there is evidence that some lives have been saved due to the Hyde Amendment, Personhood advocates worry that any law that allows child murder in certain cases actually strengthens the pro-abortion agenda. It undermines our argument that abortion is child murder. Other life advocates argue that the “exceptions” become a necessity to save some lives even while they “chip away” at Roe and try to eliminate abortion incrementally and gradually.
Paradigm Shift #3 – Personhood
The Personhood movement was begun in the state of Georgia over ten years ago by Georgia Right to Life president Dan Becker. Personhood came about when Becker sought to revive the strategy of the Bishops Plan focusing on passing a Human Life Amendment to the state constitution of Georgia. Ironically, the evangelicals now lined up behind Becker’s agenda, while National Right to Life and the Catholic Bishops now opposed it. Their reasoning as outlined above was that any state law or amendment that did not have the exceptions was unacceptable as a sound strategy.
Personhood USA was then established by Cal Zastrow and Keith Mason, who are now working toward legislative and voter initiatives in over 30 states. In every state where it has been tried, several “pro-life” organizations, including Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum, National Right to Life and the Catholic Bishops have opposed Personhood.
It’s ironic that now several conservative “pro-life” commentators, such as Sean Hannity, hold the view that the exceptions are necessary in order to pass restrictive legislation – even though the Roe decision was framed around these very exceptions! They want to reverse Roe and at the same time keep it in place through legislation.
In terms of paradigm shifts, compared to where we were at in 1973, the pro-life movement now stands on its head.
Why Personhood Now?
Most people who support the state Personhood Amendments do so because they are anti-abortion. The paradigm shift in the pro-life movement is to go back to square one and define that a human being is a Person from biological beginnings with no exceptions for the circumstances of conception. Already the nation of Mexico, where the capital city recently made abortion legal, about half of the state legislatures have passed Personhood Amendments that would keep the federal government from imposing abortion on the states from above as occurred with Roe v. Wade in the United States. In our country, we now have to work backward and pass Personhood even while trying various ways to undo Roe. The reality is that we cannot do one without the other. Overturning Roe won’t make abortion illegal in each state. Passing Personhood won’t supersede Roe. Now we have two Herculean tasks to accomplish at one time.
Pro-life advocates support Personhood philosophically almost without exception – even those who have missed the paradigm shift. The only difference between us and them is a disagreement over timing. They want to wait to stack the Supreme Court bench with conservatives and overturn Roe. We want a grassroots movement that will vote on Personhood amendments now. I often tell people that if we work toward Personhood now, we will eventually get there. If we delay our obedience, then we will be counted among those who opposed Personhood when our support was needed the most.
And believe me, many people are taking good notes.
The Biological Time Bomb
If you think that we won’t need Personhood advocacy once abortion is stopped legally in all 50 states, then think again. There is a biological time bomb ticking. The advances we saw in physics and chemistry in the early 20th century resulted in major paradigm shifts in those sciences. Biology is lagging behind, but huge advances are around the corner. Philosophers and religious leaders have thought about the issues surrounding life, death and immortality for thousands of years, but the structure of the DNA molecule has been known for less than 60 years.
What does that mean? It usually takes a generation or more for a major discovery to percolate through an entire scientific field. The major battles Personhood advocates that will be fought in the next 50 years will have nothing to do with abortion. In fact, abortion may all but disappear due to advances in science. In a couple of years, a woman will be able to walk into Walgreens and buy an over-the-counter fertility monitor that may be worn as a watch. In fact, many women’s watches will have the function of telling within a 99.9 percent certainty when the wearer is fertile.
Technology can be used for both good and evil. We should welcome these advances and prepare to use them to save lives. We certainly won’t be able to stop the bio-technological tidal wave that is coming. We’ll also have scanning devices within the next ten years that will be able to “see” in real time the baby as it develops in the womb – not just during a trip to a doctor – but through an “ultrasound baby monitor” that may be worn at all times just like today’s heart monitors. The beginning of this technology is available now, but it will be developed and will eventually become economically accessible to everyone.
What this means is that the only abortion-minded women in the near future will be those who became pregnant with “sufficient means of knowledge,” who easily could have prevented pregnancy, but nevertheless would still want to kill their baby. When such technology becomes available, abortion will either become “legal and rare” (as the pro-choice advocates like to tell us) or it will become so obvious that this is child killing that most states will relegate abortion to all but the most egregious circumstances – especially danger to the life of the mother. And even then, medical technology will be used to save lives in a greater capacity than ever before. Abortion will become increasingly intolerable as a “choice” for women.
However, with this biological time bomb, there is a Pandora’s Box of new possibilities that bring serious moral, legal and ethical questions. There is on the horizon the possibility of cloning, genetic engineering, eugenics, embryonic experimentation, organ harvesting, human-animal hybrids, euthanasia, nano-technology, advanced artificial intelligence, “cyborgism,” “post-humanism,” “trans-humanism,” and so on. This might seem like science fiction to you, but if you are part of Generation-Y, you will live to deal with the social conflict these developments in bio-technology will cause.
Personhood.net has a “must-see” presentation on these emerging bio-technologies.
The coming paradigm shift is based on the fact that most pro-choice advocates are actually pro-Personhood once we take the concepts of “anti-abortion” and “pro-life” out of the argument. Recently, the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform has been incorporating the Personhood Paradigm into their presentations. While there is a 50-50 split over the topic of abortion, with many in the “mushy middle” advocating some type of compromise, over 90 percent of college students interviewed agree that such horrors as eugenics and experimentation on living fetuses ought to be illegal. When they are asked to provide the rationale for their stance, they will often invariably say that this is a developing human being and ought to have the right to dignity.
It is imperative that we seize the opportunity to create cognitive dissonance in the minds of young people who may otherwise think of themselves as pro-choice, perhaps due to the pressure to be politically correct, but are otherwise in favor of Personhood as the only alternative to what they see as Nazi eugenics and other dehumanizing abominations. From there the mental paradigm shift to recognizing the full Personhood of the unborn child without exception is just a short step away.
I hope to work with Dan Becker and Personhood USA in the near future to help develop this strategy as part of our supplemental materials to the Abortion Matrix video seminar.
If you haven’t supported the Personhood Amendment yet in your state, there is still time to get involved. In fact, it is a battle we will be fighting for the long term.