Personhood: A Person’s a Person

Personhood: A Person’s a Person

2020 | Week of January 20 | Radio Transcript #1343

Earlier this month Republican Senator André Jacque and Republican Representatives Joe Sanfelippo and Janel Brandtjen began circulating Wisconsin’s Personhood Amendment for co-sponsors. This is a resolution that would amend our state constitution. Part of the beauty of this approach is that unlike the pro-life bills the governor quickly vetoed last spring, this proposal completely bypasses the governor. The proposal would need to pass in two consecutive legislative sessions and then be presented to the people on a statewide ballot.

The pro-life movement is founded on the bedrock principle that all human beings, all persons, at all stages of their development, deserve equal protection under the law. This proposed legislation extends the inalienable right to life already found in the Wisconsin Constitution to all preborn children from the beginning of their lives, in other words from the moment of conception.

Both the Kansas and Iowa supreme courts have recently ruled that the “liberty” right in their respective state constitutions includes a substantive due process right to abortion, which means abortion is now a fundamental right in Kansas and Iowa. Both states are now moving to amend their state constitutions to nullify that court decision.

If the Wisconsin Supreme Court loses its tenuous conservative majority, we can be sure a new liberal majority will move quickly to find a right to abortion in the Wisconsin Constitution. And they would have an easier time doing so with the language currently used in our state constitution.

From a pro-life perspective, the Wisconsin Constitution contains a glaring error.  In specifying the beneficiaries of its human rights, which are enumerated in Section 1 of the Declaration of Rights, our state constitution leaves out the preborn. According to the wording, the rights of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” are provided only to those persons who are “born.”

An activist Wisconsin Supreme Court most assuredly would use the word born in our state constitution to deny the right to life of the preborn by interpreting an independent right to abortion in that document. In so doing, the court would nullify any present or future pro-life laws in our state.

The authors are proposing a minimal but absolutely essential correction to make the Wisconsin Constitution cover all people, every person, at any stage of development.

Section 1 of the amendment provides clear definition of the word person. That definition says, As applied to the right to life, the term “persons” shall apply to every human being at any stage of development, born or unborn. Such a definition enshrines in our state constitution the principle of equality of all human beings before the law. It is indispensable to extending the protective cover of Wisconsin’s constitution to our state’s preborn persons.

Section 2 of the amendment provides a principled rejection of government by the judiciary, which is antithetical to what our founders intended. This proposed new section makes it very clear that the legislature is the proper authority to implement the equality provision in the amendment. Specifically, the amendment says only the legislature may define the scope of protections afforded to unborn persons and requires that only the legislature can determine any prohibition of conduct relating to unborn persons. This is as it should be. The legislature, not the judiciary, is the proper authority to implement the amendment’s equality definition.

Over the past 50 years, the courts have usurped the role of the legislature in making law, interpreting a so-called “living constitution” and then brazenly imposing their morals and personal values on the public. The legislature, not the judiciary, has the sole authority to make law under the legal framework of our federal and state constitutions.

While the Wisconsin Personhood Amendment by itself will not end abortion now, it offers a return to two important first principles: equal protection under the law and rejection of government by the judiciary rather than the legislature. In addition, when Roe v. Wade is overturned and the matter of abortion returns to the states, then Wisconsin’s preborn persons would be fully protected under this provision.

Psalm 139 tells us in no uncertain terms that God considers human beings persons from the moment of conception. I’m pretty sure Dr. Seuss, who was not known to be a Christian or even a conservative, was not thinking of this Psalm when he wrote Horton Hears a Who!. However, Seuss was exactly right when he penned the now-famous words, “a person’s a person no matter how small!”

This is Julaine Appling for Wisconsin Family Council reminding you the Prophet Hosea said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”


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