Amendment Amplification | Letters | Chicago Reader

Amendment Amplification 

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Dear editor:

It is good that you did what critics of the Republican pro-life plank have failed to do--publish, much less read, the actual plank language [Hot Type, August 16]. But you should take the process a step further and print the relevant text of the 14th Amendment it cites and draw the proper conclusions.

The misconceptions concerning the plank language were neatly summed up in a preface to a question NBC's Lisa Myers asked Bob Dole in April 1995: "The Republican platform . . . specifically promises a constitutional amendment to outlaw abortion, even in cases of rape and incest." It does not, even despite the language saying the "unborn child has a fundamental right to life which cannot be infringed."

We all have a right to life which cannot be infringed under the 14th Amendment yet we infringe it frequently under a process called capital punishment. The relevant language in the 14th Amendment says "nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty or property, without due process of law . . . "

The operative phrase here is "due process of law." If the unborn are brought under the protections of the 14th Amendment it does not mean abortions are banned. It does not mean executions are banned. It simply means that a compelling case must be made in a court of law to end that life. In the case of capital punishment, it could be a threat to society. In the case of abortion, it could be to save the life of the mother.

All the plank suggests is the taking of unborn life should not be done willy nilly here since we are talking about ending human life, not the cosmetic removal of a mole. Ending that life should be done for compelling and necessary reasons, not due to inconvenience such as not wanting stretch marks on that Cancun vacation or the need to postpone the purchase of that big screen TV.

Because the 14th Amendment forbids the states to deprive persons of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, a human life amendment that granted unborn children the protections of the 14th Amendment would not ban abortions but would merely forbid the states from discriminating against the unborn by, for example, promoting liberalized abortion-on-demand laws.

The claim that an amendment that calls an unborn child a person entitled to equal protection under the law would "ban abortion" therefore ignores fundamental principles of constitutional law. A constitutional amendment is not a criminal code. It contains no enforcement mechanism. It would affect state action and not individual action.

Constitutional amendments are not self-enforcing and require what is called enabling legislation. When the 14th Amendment prohibited state discrimination against black Americans, it still required the enactment of, for example, federal antilynching laws and other civil rights legislation.

A human life amendment would not ban abortion or criminalize a woman's participation. It would merely say that whatever actions a state took regarding the unborn, they could not violate the same constitutional protections all Americans are entitled to.

Those who doubt that we are talking about human life when we talk about the unborn should talk to Gianna Jessen, who recently testified before Representative Henry Hyde. Nineteen years ago Gianna was aborted by her mother while in her seventh month. As Gianna testified in testimony none covered, "I lived instead of died. Some have said I am a "botched' abortion."

Gianna survived the saline abortion and was diagnosed as having cerebral palsy due to the loss of oxygen from gulping saline and spina bifida. I would suggest to critics of the GOP abortion plank that they try telling Gianna she was a mistake and ought to be dead. Why was Gianna Jessen not considered a person while inside her mother but seconds later as she emerged gasping for breath she inherited the full protection of the law?

Daniel John Sobieski

S. Monitor

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