Russell and Duenes

Then Blacks Aren’t “Whole” Persons Either!

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Reading the Court’s decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey is an exercise in frustration at many points. But let’s reflect a bit on Justice John Paul Stevens’ opinion. He argues that the unborn should not be granted full status as human persons under the law because “the Court in Roe carefully considered and rejected, the State’s argument ‘that the fetus is a ‘person’ within the language and meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment.” With this I agree, as do most justices, conservative or liberal. Steven’s continues, “After analyzing the usage of “person” in the Constitution, the Court concluded that that word “has application only postnatally.”” OK, but what needs to be pointed out is that the Constitution is silent on the ontological status of the unborn. I think it safe to say that the Founders never envisioned abortion being morally acceptable or legal, and thus were not considering issues of abortion when drawing up the Constitution. Are we really to suppose that what was needed in order to give legal status to the unborn is that the Fourteenth Amendment should have been written, “nor shall any State deprive any person – born or unborn – of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law?” This is patently absurd.

The clincher is when Stevens writes, “In short, the unborn have never been recognized in the law as persons in the whole sense.” Well guess what, for a long time neither were blacks “recognized in the law as persons in the whole sense.” They certainly weren’t when the Constitution was written. But I have a hunch that Stevens thinks they’re persons now. I wonder why? He surely does not find it written in the Constitution. And if we read the 15th Amendment the way Stevens reads the Constitution, it does not make blacks whole persons. It simply grants them voting rights. The truth is, we know why Stevens and the courts now believe – rightly – that blacks should be “recognized in the law as persons,” and it’s not because it’s written anywhere in the Constitution. Rather, on grounds outside the Constitution we came to this conclusion. And as is now perfectly clear to anyone with even a cursory knowledge of science, a distinct human being comes into existence upon conception in the womb, and there are no longer any good, non-arbitrary philosophical arguments for saying that life begins at some other point, such as viability for instance (which is why our president and the Roe Court evaded answering the question of when life begins).

The Constitution was written to “establish justice…and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.” If this is to be fully realized, it is time to acknowledge that its protections and ordinances apply to every member of the American human community.



Written by Michael Duenes

July 7, 2010 at 8:16 pm

Posted in Duenes, Supreme Court

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