The North Dakota House of Representatives has passed the first personhood amendment in the United States, 57-35. Read more
Wesley J. Smith writes a misguided critique of a personhood law recently introduced in South Carolina. First, Mr. Smith shows confusion about the purpose of the bill. Personhood isn’t only a philosophical concept but a legal one. And it’s this second context, not the first, the bill addresses. After all, it is a proposed law, not a philosophical treatise. The only reason the word “person” is important legally is because the due process clause of the constitution only applies to persons.
Second, he states that personhood isn’t the issue but “humanhood”; being human is all that it takes to have rights. The writers of the bill agree with him. That’s why the bill makes legal personhood equivalent to humanhood. What else could possibly be meant by “The General Assembly finds a human being is a person at fertilization”?
Third, Mr. Smith suggests that because the bill “acknowledges all persons are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights”, it unconstitutionally establishes a religion in violation of the First Amendment of the US Constitution. He’s wrong on a couple of counts. You can’t establish a religion if that religion has already been established. Consider the first line of the South Carolina constitution:
We, the people of the State of South Carolina, in Convention assembled, grateful to God for our liberties, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the preservation and perpetuation of the same.
It specifically states that liberties come from God. And it’s those God-endowed liberties that the South Carolina constitution is meant to protect. To put it in Mr. Smith’s terms, the South Carolina constitution “declare[s] that [it] is explicitly based on a religious belief, e.g. that ‘[liberties are] God-given’.”
Unlike the proposed bill, the South Carolina constitution doesn’t state that human beings are made in the image of God. Mr. Smith claims that it’s this imago dei claim that is unconstitutional because it isn’t shared by all religions. Consider the Indiana state constitution which states:
WE DECLARE, That all people are created equal; that they are endowed by their CREATOR with certain inalienable rights.
And the North Carolina constitution states:
We hold it to be self-evident that all persons are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights
Not all religions recognize a Creator and that human beings are created by that Creator. In Mr. Smith’s words, this recognition “unquestionably turn[s] the law into the establishment of religion, to be specific, Christian and Jewish, since the concept comes from Genesis 1:27.” I doubt the people living in Indiana or North Carolina realize they have a state religion.
On the contrary, merely professing in a preamble a non-universal religious view doesn’t establish a religion. If it did, professing a belief in God and that rights come from God, which the South Carolina constitution clearly does, would also be unconstitutional. Mr. Smith needs to explain how acknowledging that humans are created in God’s image establishes a religion.
In conclusion, Mr. Smith’s critique of the proposed bill doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. The bill properly recognizes all human beings are persons. It’s recognition that humans are created in the image of God does not establish a religion. It’s a bill all people, including Mr. Smith, should support.
South Carolina Representatives introduced H 3584:
The right to life for each born and preborn human being vests at fertilization.
The rights guaranteed by Section 3, Article 1 of the Constitution of this State, that no person shall be deprived of life without due process of law, nor shall any person be denied the equal protection of the laws, vest at fertilization for each born and preborn human being.
When we go to a church to get signatures for a Personhood initiative, we’re thrilled when the pastor gives a two minute statement on the sanctity of human life. Often, we get merely an announcement. But even that is excellent because sadly, many churches refuse to let us come to collect signatures to recognize unborn babies as persons.
I’d have fallen over if I had been in the sanctuary to hear Pastor Bill Monroe, of Florence Baptist Temple, give his sermon. You gotta hear this (1/20/13 - The Sanctity Of Life; it’s almost an hour but completely worth it). Prior to the sermon is a beautiful video, beginning at 4:12. The sermon begins at about 7:39.
Here are just a few quotes from Pastor Monroe’s sermon:
“It’s not the pastor’s job to make you feel good but to speak the truth.”
“You cannot be a bible-believing Christian, in my opinion, and believe in abortion. It’s impossible.”
“If the church of Jesus Christ won’t stand up [against abortion], I don’t even know if we [the church] have a right to exist.”
South Carolina: Up close and in personhood
GREENVILLE, South Carolina – Mitt didn’t make it. All the other would-be Republican presidential hopefuls turned up, having already signed the Personhood petition.
Well, Ron Paul appeared on a video link from Washington.
The event in a Greenville hotel ballroom was organised by the anti-abortion Personhood USA movement, which call itself the civil rights movement for the 21st Century.
Its members are collecting signatures for a petition to change the law so it defines life as beginning at the moment of conception. They want all abortion outlawed, even in cases of rape and incest.
So when was the moment of conception, Rick Perry was asked by one of the three person panel sitting in high-backed comfy chairs. (He was in a comfy chair of his own.)
“When the sperm and the egg come together” he said. “Unless you have a different idea. I am not a doctor. But I grew up on a farm.”
He added that China was headed for the ash heap of history, because of the number of abortions it carried out.
Newt was more legalistic, but also more general. America was at a turning point, he said. An elite in the media, bureaucracy and judiciary were trying to turn the US in to a secular society and impose alien values. Only an articulate and aggressive leader could reverse this.
Each candidate was quizzed on this single issue for 20 minutes and most of their answers pleased the audience.
Each of them was asked to explain Mitt Romney’s position – at first for a woman’s right to choose, now pro-life. As you can imagine, none of them rushed to his defence.
In this state, this audience matters. Those candidates courting the anti-Mitt conservatives have to bother about social issues.
Right at the beginning of this event there was an introduction by a group called Champion the Vote. Their video stated that American Christians had to decide how to honour both the flag and the cross.
Millions of Christian Americans didn’t vote, they said. If they did, election results would be different, the group said.
“Evangelical Christians elected Obama” said one speaker, “either by voting for him or staying at home.” It is their intention that won’t happen again.
But this weekend it is Romney who is in their sights.
CHARLES BABINGTON Associated Press
GREENVILLE, S.C. — Texas Gov. Rick Perry said Wednesday that Mitt Romney changed his position on legalized abortion out of political convenience, one of the sharpest allegations leveled yet in the South Carolina GOP presidential primary.
Romney, who had supported legalized abortion while Massachusetts governor, says he changed his mind after weighing legislation that “would have created new embryos for the purpose of destroying them.”
Perry, who is struggling to keep his presidential hopes alive, has criticized Romney before, but not always so pointedly. He told an anti-abortion forum in Greenville, S.C., that it’s hard to understand how a public official could change his views on something as fundamental as abortion in his 50s, after decades to think about it.
“This is a decision that Gov. Romney made for political convenience, not an issue of his heart,” Perry said.
Perry has shifted his own views on abortion somewhat. He recently said he no longer supports legal abortions in cases of rape and incest.Texas Gov. Rick Perry said Wednesday that Mitt Romney changed his position on legalized abortion out of political convenience, one of the sharpest allegations leveled yet in the South Carolina GOP presidential primary.
PHOTO: Republican presidential candidate, Texas Gov. Rick Perry speaks at the Personhood USA forum in Greenville, S.C., Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2012. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Republican presidential candidate, Texas Gov. Rick Perry speaks at the Personhood USA forum in Greenville, S.C., Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2012. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
“If you’re going to be pro-life,” he said Wednesday, “then you’ve got to be pro-life all the way.”
Presidential contenders Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum also spoke at the forum, and Ron Paul spoke by video feed from Washington. All three said human life begins at conception.
Romney declined to attend the “Presidential Pro-life Forum.”
Gingrich, the former House speaker, said, “we are fully human upon conception” and that all constitutional rights “should attach at that moment.”
Santorum, a former senator from Pennsylvania, said he doesn’t merely believe human life begins at conception, he knows it. “It’s a biological fact,” he said.
Paul, a Texas congressman, said he delivered thousands of babies during his years in medical practice. The invention of the ultra-sound, he said, made it far easier to show pregnant women the human life growing inside them.
GREENVILLE, S.C. — Mitt Romney was noticeably absent from Wednesday’s pro-life forum here, and event organizers were noticeably miffed.
The Romney campaign told event organizers that the former Massachusetts governor had a scheduling conflict, but they noted that he also had a scheduling conflict during a similar forum in Iowa.
The forum was organized by the national right-to-life group Personhood USA. Its president noted twice before the event started that all the candidates had been invited to attend and sign the group’s pro-life pledge. Romney has declined both.
Instead, he spent the evening at a rally in Irmo, S.C.
The four not-Romneys — Rick Perry, Ron Paul, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich — played up their pro-life bona fides, highlighting their past accomplishments on the issue.
A conversational Perry, the governor of Texas, noted how he had pressed the Texas legislature to defund Planned Parenthood and said that Romney’s change of heart on the issue of abortion was one of “political convenience.”
Gingrich, the former House speaker, warned that the greatest sin is making oneself greater than God, which he believes that some scientists are doing with stem cell experimentation.
Santorum, the former senator from Pennsylvania, fresh off a string of appearances with the Duggar family, told the crowd that science is “not a ethics-free zone of life.”
Lastly, Paul, a Republican representative from Texas who participated by satellite feed, talked about his his experience as a doctor that led him to be pro-life and advocated a states-rights solution to banning abortion.
By Seema Mehta
January 18, 2012, 6:11 p.m.
Reporting from Greenville, S.C.—
GOP presidential front-runner Mitt Romney was the only candidate who did not take part in a “personhood” forum put on by antiabortion activists, but he was an undeniable presence at the gathering taking place just days before South Carolina holds the first primary in the South.
The former Massachusetts governor’s main rivals, who are seeking to consolidate the support of religious voters so they can pose a serious challenge to him, bashed his past positions on abortion. (Romney was once pro-choice, but declared in 2005 that he had changed his mind except in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother.)
Texas Gov. Rick Perry mocked the switch, saying that he could understand such a reversal in a young adult who had matured and gained wisdom, but not in Romney’s case.
“In your 50s?” he said, speaking to several hundred socially conservative voters gathered in a hotel ballroom. “It is clear to most of us that this was a choice for convenience. This was a decision that Gov. Romney made for a political convenience, not an issue of his heart.”
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich noted that Romney’s healthcare reform in Massachusetts included taxpayer-funded abortions and he appointed pro-choice judges while governor.
Texas Rep. Ron Paul and former Penn. Sen. Rick Santorum also participated in the discussion, with Paul taking part by video because he returned to Washington, D.C., on Wednesday to vote against an effort to raise the nation’s debt ceiling.
The forum took place as the race in the Palmetto State has tightened. Romney still leads, but Gingrich is surging, though it’s unclear whether has enough time to mount a comeback before voters head to the polls on Saturday.
The four men who took part in the forum have all signed a pledge that they would work to advance federal and state laws that recognize that life begins at conception and that they would only appoint judges and other officials that agree with that statement. They largely agree on everything – opposition to abortion, taxpayer funding of abortion, Planned Parenthood and what they characterize as an overly active judiciary.
But they were pushed by moderators about the past positions on the issue of life.
Santorum acknowledged that as a senator, he voted for appropriations bills that contained provisions funding Planned Parenthood, but said he did so because, “we had no ability to defeat [it].” He pledged that as president, he would veto any bill that funds organizations that provide abortions.
“We need to make sure that we have someone who is unabashedly not just pro-life, but unabashedly a fighter for life,” he said.
He also reaffirmed his opposition to embryonic stem cell research, “an area where we cannot and should not go.”
“We are what we allow our society to do,” he said. “And if we allow our society to prey upon innocent human life, we are complicit with it.”
Perry once supported allowing abortion in the case of rape or incest and explained that he changed his view after meeting a woman who was the child of a rape victim.
“She said, ‘Are you telling me that my life is not just as important?’ and I didn’t have an answer for her. And she touched my heart,” he said. “At that particular point in time, I realized, if you’re going to be pro-life, you’ve got to be pro-life. You can’t be partly pro-life.”
Perry pointed to his record in Texas, where under his 11-year tenure as governor, laws were put in place requiring parental consent when minors seek abortion, defunding Planned Parenthood and mandating that women seeking abortion see a sonogram of the fetus.
“It’s not just a lump of tissue,” he said. “it’s a living human being.”
Gingrich was also questioned about his support of measures that allowed abortion in the case of rape and incest, and replied that while he believes life begins at conception, he defended his support of the Hyde amendment , which bars federal funds from being used to pay for abortion in most cases though not for rape and incest.
Gingrich said he believes in a Catholic doctrine that says, “if you can save a majority, than you do it, even though it’s not perfect.”
Paul is anti-abortion but his commitment to the issue is questioned by some activists because of his belief that states ought to enforce laws about such matters as they do with other violent crimes. He did not back down from that stance.
Paul said he supported passing legislation that would take the issue out of the hands of the federal courts, which would overturn Roe v. Wade, but not end abortion in all 50 states.
“It is not monolithic,” he said. “You do what you can in the meantime, but at the same time don’t give up on the other efforts.”
Paul said it was important to try to change people’s minds about abortion, noting that as an obstetrician he was able to do that when he showed ultrasounds to pregnant women. “We cannot change the people’s morality by writing more laws,” he said.
Personhood USA’s Live Presidential Prolife Forum, featuring Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, Congressman Ron Paul, and Texas Governor Rick Perry, nearly sold out within hours of open registration.
The Presidential Prolife Forum will be held at the Hilton Hotel in Greenville, South Carolina this Wednesday, January 18th. The event was announced late Saturday afternoon, and seats were nearly completely booked by Sunday.
“We have among the largest grassroots bases in the nation, and our volunteers are eager to ask serious questions of these candidates,” explained Keith Mason, President of Personhood USA. “The popularity of the event is indicative of the importance of the issue. It is critical that we know how each Presidential Candidate would defend life if elected as President of the United States.”
The first-ever Presidential Prolife Tele-Town Hall on December 27, which attracted over 200,000 listeners, resulted in a flood of comments and requests for a longer, more thorough Presidential Forum dedicated solely to life issues. Personhood USA and Champion the Vote responded to the demand with a live and in-person Presidential Prolife Forum on January 18th.
The event will be held on January 18, 2012, at 6:45pm, at the Hilton Hotel in Greenville, South Carolina. The Prolife Forum will be organized as a town hall meeting, with questions for the candidates posed by South Carolina voters.
“The popularity of this event is indicative of the importance of the issue,” continued Mason.“There is no issue more important than the lives of innocent children, and the Presidential Prolife Forum will reflect that. Abortion is an epidemic in the U.S., and we are looking for a President who will protect and defend every innocent human life with no exceptions.”
All candidates were invited, but Former Governor Mitt Romney did not respond to invitations to participate in the Presidential Prolife Forum. Former Governor Romney is now the only Republican Presidential Candidate who is not participating in the Presidential Prolife Forum, and the only candidate who has not signed Personhood USA’s Prolife Presidential Pledge.
Top Republican Presidential Candidates have confirmed participation in the nation’s first-ever live Presidential Prolife Forum hosted by Personhood USA.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, Congressman Ron Paul, and Texas Governor Rick Perry are scheduled to participate in the Presidential Prolife Forum at the Hilton Hotel in Greenville, South Carolina this Wednesday, January 18th.
Following the success of the first-ever Presidential Prolife Tele-Town Hall on December 27th, which attracted over 200,000 people, Personhood USA has answered the public demand for a longer forum with more questions to the candidates, live and in-person on January 18th.
“In the past, abortion has been relegated as a side-issue, but no longer,” explained Keith Mason, President of Personhood USA. “Voters are dissatisfied with liberal Republican candidates who are prolife in word, but not in deed. We have already seen a tremendous outspokenness on the Sanctity of Life from these four candidates. Now voters are eager to ask serious questions about each candidate’s prolife position. Over 50 million innocent children have been killed by abortion since 1973, and we want a President who will not sit by and watch the death toll climb.”
The event will be held on January 18, 2012, at 6:45pm, at the Hilton Hotel in Greenville, South Carolina. The Prolife Forum will be organized as a town hall meeting, with questions for the candidates posed by South Carolina voters. Personhood USA is currently accepting registrations at www.personhoodusa.com.
“Personhood is raising the standard for politicians who claim to be prolife,” added Mason. “All of the candidates participating in this Forum have signed our Personhood Prolife Pledge. Our grassroots base in South Carolina was energized by the December Tele-Town Hall, and eager to participate in the Presidential Prolife Forum this Wednesday.”
Former Governor Mitt Romney did not respond to invitations to participate in the Presidential Prolife Forum.