Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Where is the support of human rights?

By MSGR. HUGH MARREN, Commentary | Published February 28, 2018

Did you know?

The Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution states in part, “nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” The fact that the law does not protect children in the womb from abortion is rooted in the words of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, “the word person as used in the Fourteenth Amendment does not include the unborn.”

But did you know that in a decision handed down eight months before Roe v. Wade, personhood was also discussed in relation to protecting the environment? In that decision, Sierra Club v. Morton (1972), Justice William O. Douglas argued in the following words,

“The ordinary corporation is a ‘person’ for purposes of the adjudicatory process … So it should be as respects valleys, alpine meadows, rivers, lakes, estuaries, beaches, ridges, groves of trees, swampland, or even air that feels the destructive pressures of modern technology and modern life … With all respect, the problem is to make certain that the inanimate objects, which are the very core of America’s beauty, have spokesmen before they are destroyed …

“The voice of the inanimate object, therefore, should not be stilled … That is why these environmental issues should be tendered by the inanimate object itself. Then there will be assurances that all of the forms of life which it represents will stand before the court – the pileated woodpecker as well as the coyote and bear, the lemmings as well as the trout in the streams. Those inarticulate members of the ecological group cannot speak … But those people who have so frequented the place as to know its values and wonders will be able to speak for the ecological community. …

“That, as I see it, is the issue of ‘standing’ in the present case and controversy.”

Now how about the child in the womb who cannot speak? DNA shows the child to be a human being—the child has human DNA, not potential human DNA. Who sees the value of the unborn human being child? Where is the support of human rights? I mention this simply to say that if the inanimate, the bear, the woodpecker and so on deserves protection under the word person, why not the child in the womb?

Eight months later Justice Douglas later ruled with the majority in Roe v. Wade that “the word person … does not include the unborn.” The arbitrariness of this decision carries with it frightening and horrific implications about the power of government.

The support of Roe v. Wade is not just what the media would have us believe: a pro-choice issue. Rather to support Roe v. Wade is to acknowledge that the government has the power to say who is a person and who is not. Giving a government that power, I ask, who is to limit the power of government as to who it declares a person or otherwise?

Supporters of Roe v. Wade, just by their support, acknowledge that government has the power to declare who is a person and who is not. Could the government ever declare your teenager a non-person? Could the government ever declare me a non-person? The answer is yes, and those who say no do not understand the full implications of Roe v. Wade.

There are those who say government should not be involved in this issue. But the fact is government is involved (and involved in over their heads, may I add). I agree government should back off and acknowledge that it does not have the power or qualification to determine who is a person and who is not. However, it should also recognize that it has both the duty and obligation to protect all innocent human life; within its jurisdiction and the life in the womb, call it by any name you wish, there is no denying that it is human and as such it not only deserves but has the right to the full protection of our government.

Msgr. Marren is the pastor of All Saints Church, Dunwoody. This commentary was published as a letter to the editor in the Feb. 22 print edition of The Georgia Bulletin.