The Judiciary sub-committee of Georgia’s General Assembly considered a bill this week that would have given legal definition to what a person is. This bill, titled HR 536, Human Life Amendment, basically stated there is a paramount right to life for every person. The bill was a proposed amendment to the Georgia constitution that went on to define a person to include unborn children at every state of their biological development including fertilization.
When I read this amendment, it seemed a pretty common sense definition that I think most Georgians believe is the case. After all doesn’t everyone know the baby in the womb is indeed a person? Most of us address the baby as such from the moment we confirm we are expecting. I have never met an expectant mom or dad that declared the baby in the womb to be anything other than a person and usually we have given that person a name. For example, from the moment I became pregnant with my daughter on September 1 in 1987, I called her Mary Catherine. Had she been a boy I would have named her Michael John and usually as an afterthought apologized to him in case I was having a boy. While there was a question regarding the gender of my baby, there was never a question regarding whether he or she was a person.
So as I began attending the hearings held on the 18th and 20th of this month, I thought the question was pretty black and white and I believed the Legislators would focus on allowing the citizens of Georgia to vote on whether they believed this legal definition of a person to be true. Instead of hearing arguments for or against this definition, we heard over seven hours of testimony mostly about whether a mother has a right to choose to abort the baby or whether there would be “unintended consequences” on other laws such as the death penalty or use of contraceptives . There were a host of witnesses testifying, sometimes with heart wrenching stories, concerning the right to abort or not abort the baby. There was very little testimony about the disabled or older population. I guess that was because it was recognized that the disabled and elderly are persons.
There were Rabbis and ministers that stated a woman should have the right to abort her baby. One even suggested the amendment would interfere with the free exercise of his religion if this amendment were to pass! There were mothers who stated they wanted their daughters to be able to have safe and legal birth control and abortions. There were law school professors who told the legislators that it would be a direct violation of their oaths of office to allow a change to the constitution that would impact the abortion laws in the state of Georgia. There were doctors that argued for the continuation of birth control and abortifacients. They argued that it is scientifically impossible to determine when there is conception because it takes fourteen days for the fertilized egg to attach to the womb.
Even those who were for the constitutional amendment spent more time deflecting the questions of unintended consequences than they did arguing for the legal definition of personhood. Anticipating the arguments that the bill would result in an increase in wrongful death cases, changes to the death penalty or impact living will provisions, those in support of the bill spent more time on these questions than they did on whether there is personhood at conception. Yet even those arguing against the bill because of its potential impact on invitro fertilization acknowledged there were “frozen people” located around the state.
Who won the debate? Politics. Long before the first argument for or against the amendment was made the politicians devised a way to kill the amendment without accountability for their votes. The Speaker of the House announced on February 12, 2008 that he would not allow the bill out of committee for a vote. The politicians, some of whom style themselves as pro-life, followed the mandate of the speaker by voting to table the bill. Most of them did not have the courage to give voice to the voiceless by allowing the bill on the floor of the House for a vote.
Who lost the debate? The thousands of babies across Georgia who will die without a hearing. Their voices have been silenced because these legislators were not willing to acknowledge them as persons.
Who lost the debate? Georgians whose voices will not be heard because those they elected to carry out their wishes were unwilling to ask those same people who elected them what they believe the definition of a person is by allowing them to vote come November.
The Legislators know that had they had true concerns about “unintended consequences” they could have simply devised legislation to address those concerns. They legislate on questions involving persons every legislative session, such as the death penalty, use of birth control and other medical devices and living wills. Sadly, the committee allowed the political will of one to overrule the political and moral will of millions of Georgians.
What can you do if you live in Georgia? Call your legislator and the Speaker of the House today http://www.legis.state.ga.us/legis/2007_08/house/07alpha.html and ask for the right to vote on the personhood amendment. If you live outside of Georgia, please pray that hearts will be changed so this vital question can be answered by the citizenry of Georgia.
Do you believe a person is one from conception to death? Take my poll!