Editor’s Note: In our quest to deliver truth and engage with our readers, Liberty Nation sometimes publishes articles by guest contributors. Our guest today is John Klar, attorney, pastor, writer, and off-grid farmer. John blogs for Mother Earth News on agricultural issues and maintains a weekly commentary in The Newport Daily Express. He has also recently been featured in The Federalist and American Thinker.
In “The Conservation of Nature and the Preservation of Humanity,” author Wendell Berry observes that life is sacred, including the lives of the unborn:
“If we cannot justify violence to unborn human beings, then how can we justify violence to those who are born, or to the world that they are born into? The issue ultimately turns on one question: Is a human fetus a human being? I believe that it is. Anybody who believes that it is not must say what else on earth it might be.” (Another Turn of the Crank, 1995)
Vermont’s recent House Bill 57 (H.57), which passed 105 to 37, seeks to secure an expansive “protection” for women’s “rights” to abort children even in the third trimester of pregnancy. More, Vermont’s Senate recently voted 28-2 to amend the state’s constitution to similarly enshrine existing, completely unrestricted access for women to terminate their pregnancies. Only China is more abortion-friendly than Vermont, and the number of clinics in the Green Mountain State has doubled in recent years, from three in 2011 to six in 2014.
H.57 presents the perfect opportunity for our new U.S. Supreme Court to answer the question posed by Wendell Berry in 1995, and left unanswered by Roe v. Wade: At what point does a human fetus become a human being? The left wishes to avoid this question at all costs, but Vermont’s H.57 now compels the asking. And then there’s its companion question: How can you care about children at the border, Sandy Hook, or Haiti while ignoring those murdered in the third trimester? Are they not children?
Worried about Roe v Wade, Vermont’s Democrats figure they have carte blanche to cement its “protections” in state law, and thus preempt any Kavanaugh/Gorsuch intrusions into their judicially-fabricated “right to commit infanticide.” Normally, such “state law protection” is effective – Vermont has extended greater protections to its citizens regarding, for example, helicopter searches (State v Bryant, 2008) and vehicle stops (Zullo v State, 2019). The states can grant more expansive shields against intrusion than the federal government, but not fewer rights than those protected by federal statutory or common law (federal preemption).
Here’s the rub for those who praise infanticide: Roe did not resolve that pesky question of when a fetus becomes human. The Court held that the state has a legitimate interest to protect the health of both the pregnant woman and also “the potentiality of human life.” The Court went on to rule that “These interests are separate and distinct. Each grows in substantiality as the woman approaches term and, at a point during pregnancy, each becomes ‘compelling.’”
The new federal Supreme Court will likely address that viability question more directly. And for those who are pro-life, the ideal test case is not the heartbeat statutes of states such as Georgia, Mississippi, or Tennessee, but the abortion protections of Vermont, where third-trimester babies are legally dismembered with no date recognized for viability.
Vermont enjoys no protections for the unborn, and existing law shields offenders from murder charges if they kill a baby in the womb, at any stage of development. (State v Oliver, 151 Vt 626, (1989)) H. 57 bolsters that protection of killers.
The Roe decision included what is often dubbed “the collapse clause,” in which Justice Blackmun wrote: “The appellee and certain amici argue that the fetus is a ‘person’ within the language and meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment. In support of this, they outline at length and in detail the well-known facts of fetal development. If this suggestion of personhood is established, the appellant’s case, of course, collapses, for the fetus’ right to life would then be guaranteed specifically by the Amendment. The appellant conceded as much on reargument.” (emphasis added).
For decades, the focus has been on proving when life begins in order to proscribe an abortion procedure. Vermont offers an opportunity with its brash new laws to reverse that burden – once fetal personhood is recognized at some stage, those who wish to terminate a pregnancy must show that that fetus is not a human being. Perhaps the newly passed heartbeat bill in Georgia’s will be struck down as too intrusive to a mother’s rights. Yet Vermont’s statute invites being struck down for the opposite extreme, in that it barbarically seeks to deny that a baby just weeks from delivery is a human being meriting government (and constitutional) protection.
The recent film Gosnell is a true-crime retelling of the unthinkable conditions in a slaughterhouse-like abortion clinic in Philadelphia. “Oh,” we might say, “that was a mere aberration. That was just one doctor who abused patients and fetuses.” But it is clear that for many years there was no government oversight of the Gosnell Clinic, where women and their babies were so unthinkably desecrated by this doctor, his unqualified staff, and the agencies that were supposed to protect the health and safety of these (mostly black) women.
The inconvenient truth revealed by the Gosnell trial is that third-trimester abortions are commonplace – and they’re unconscionable in any setting. Yes, the babies feel pain. Yes, they are often still alive. Yes, they are then killed, most often by snipping the spine at the base of the neck with a pair of scissors, but often only after limbs have been severed, among other mutilations.
This is the “normal” third-trimester abortion. No wonder only seven nations in the world permit elective abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
In the Gosnell case, the pivotal evidence related to “Baby Boy A,” who was near full-term and was troublesome because he didn’t die quickly. One of these babies seems sure to make it to the Supreme Court eventually – and that troublesome date question about when they became a human “being” will finally have to be answered.
Shakespeare’s Macbeth was warned by witches to “Beware MacDuff” who was “from his mother’s womb, untimely ripped.” That third-trimester Baby MacDuff is destined for the U.S. Supreme Court, and when that happens “Birnam Wood shall move to Dunsinane.” A tectonic shift in American jurisprudence will leave Roe intact but acknowledge the personhood — the humanity — of the fetus at some point prior to delivery. All the scientific evidence, common sense, and humanity is with Baby MacDuff — that child in utero, perhaps mere days away from delivery.
Vermont’s H.57 seeks to statutorily ensconce the right to kill up until the very moment of birth, for any reason. The outrage over Baby MacDuff will arise from the horrors of third-term “terminations” in Vermont and elsewhere, and the question will no longer be put off. Ironically, Vermont’s extremist zeal will accomplish the opposite of its intention, and the entire nation will cry out for the federal courts to please put a stop to the madness.
Those who wish to allow murder up until minutes before that newborn opens its gentle, trusting eyes, must answer Wendell Berry’s question and “say what else on earth it might be,” if not a human being. The moment personhood is acknowledged, there is no right to “choose” to terminate.
Then there’s that future, second-trimester, Baby MacDuff …
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