The right to life and the United States Constitution

Our founding fathers clearly intended for the right to life to extend to unborn human beings from the moment where his or her mother is aware of his or her existence. James Wilson, one of the signers of both the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution, says the following regarding the right to life of unborn children in his Lectures on Law: “With consistency, beautiful and undeviating, human life from its commencement to its close, is protected by the common law. In the contemplation of law, life begins when the infant is first able to stir in the womb. By the law, life is protected not only from immediate destruction, but from every degree of actual violence, and in some cases, from every degree of danger.” Furthermore, the Declaration of Independence says that “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” In essence, the Declaration of Independence is saying that all human beings are of equal worth and have an unalienable right to life which is granted by the Creator. Because living unborn human beings constitute human life and because unborn human beings have already been created by the Creator, unborn human beings are also of equal worth and do have an unalienable right to human life as human persons who have been born do. Jameson Taylor explains the position of our founding fathers on the right to life of unborn human beings in his essay “The Founding Fathers and the Right to Life”.

The main provision of the United States Constitution that was applied in the Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton case to arrive at the final ruling in both of these cases is Section 1 of the 14th Amendment. Section 1 of the 14th Amendment reads as follows: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; 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 primary intentions behind the 14th Amendment was to guarantee the rights to citizenship of persons born or naturalized in the United States, to grant United States citizenship to former slaves, to prevent states from depriving citizens of the Privileges and Immunities granted to citizens under Article IV, Section 2 of the United States Constitution, to prevent states from depriving persons of the rights guaranteed by the 5th Amendment of the United States Constitution, and to ensure that all persons are equally protected under the laws of a state.

Even though the Supreme Court declared Texas’s abortion law unconstitutional in the Roe v. Wade case, the 14th Amendment was not intended to prohibit states from prohibiting abortion, nor was the 14th Amendment intended to give pregnant women a constitutionally guaranteed right to an abortion. In fact, laws which prohibited abortion were on the books in 36 states at the time that the 14th Amendment was ratified, and some of these laws were still in effect at the time of the Roe v. Wade case. The clause of the 14th Amendment that was used to declare Texas’s abortion law unconstitutional is the Due Process Clause, which says “nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” The primary intention of the 14th Amendment was to ensure that a state does not take away a person’s right not to be deprived “of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law,” which had already existed within the 5th Amendment of the United States Constitution. Furthermore, the authors of the 14th Amendment did not intend to deprive human beings of any rights that had existed prior to the ratification of the 14th Amendment, and intended to ensure that persons were not deprived of constitutional rights by states. Our founding fathers did not intend for the 5th Amendment to create a right to an abortion, nor did the authors of the 14th Amendment intend to create a right to an abortion.

In the Roe v. Wade case, Sarah Weddington, who was the attorney who represented Jane Roe, argued that a fetus does not have any constitutional rights. She will back up this argument by referring to the Byrn v. New York and Magee Womens Hospital cases. This argument, along with additional examples where unborn human beings are treated differently from born persons, will be used to show that unborn human beings are not persons under the 14th Amendment. Our founding fathers clearly intended for unborn human children to have the right to life prior to birth, and the 14th Amendment was never intended to deprive unborn children of this right to life. The final ruling of the Roe v. Wade case goes against the intention of the United States Constitution since this decision deprives unborn children of a right that they should never have been deprived of, which is the right to life.

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