Posts Tagged ‘legal’

It seems to me a good idea for our laws to be based on truth.  If the meaning of “miles per hour” is ambiguous, I would want to find the true definition of miles and hour rather than arbitrarily setting up some other explanation.  No argument about how an accurate definition of miles would infringe my freedom to drive as fast as I wanted should be considered.  We might change the law to increase the speed limit if that is our argument, but we cannot keep the existing law and just lie about what all the words mean.

Personhood is such an issue.  We have a law that guarantees life and due process to all persons.  If we don’t like that law, we can try to change it so that not all persons are so guaranteed.  (That law, incidentally, is based on a moral judgment that murder is wrong.  Many of our laws are enforcement of morality.)  What we cannot do is alter the definition of a person to mean something that it truly does not.  Defining the word “person” to include my rocking chair would be absurd.  Including my pet would be a stretch not intended by those who wrote the law.  Excluding my neighbor with freckles is dishonest.  Saying that my neighbor in the womb is less of a person than me is too arbitrary to be good science or good law.

Some would argue that the truth reflected in our laws should be based on precedent.  This breaks down for a number of reasons.  First, we have the problem of where the very first precedents got their truth.  History does not record an eternal list of precedents.  Secondly, we can point to many court rulings that have been made by liars, self-serving judges who refused to acknowledge the truth.  For example, see the slavery decision Dred Scott.  Finally, precedents can (and sometimes should) be overturned.  The “landmark” ruling that made abortion legal throughout the USA, Roe v. Wade, overturned many state laws that had been in existence for years.  It wasn’t that the question of reproductive rights had never been in court before; this was simply the first time the Supreme Court said abortion was a mother’s “right.”  (I must specify that it was seen as a woman’s right, not a man’s right or a baby’s right – which is important.  Roe v. Wade rests in the supposition that the baby is actually a part of the mother, thus giving her special privileges to end his life.  US law does not give a man the right to decide a mother must abort.  In fact, it will punish those criminals who assault a preborn child.  Nor does the legal system ask the baby, who is demonstrably a separate entity from his mother, whether he wants to be aborted, or acknowledge his right to life.  This is what Personhood seeks to amend.)

Another supposed basis for the truth of our laws is democracy.  What does the majority believe or want?  While our government is set up as a participatory representative system, where the voice of the people influences the leaders making the laws and even at times the laws themselves, this is arguably not the best means for ensuring justice.  The majority has sometimes voted for terrorist governments.  Or for slavery.  Hitler got his first foothold of power through democracy.  A majority of people once believed the world was flat.  We human beings are special, but not powerful enough to mold truth as we wish it was.  Republics like ours, the founding fathers warned us, are only sustainable, only free, if they are comprised of a moral citizenry.  The people must acknowledge a standard outside of themselves, and align with that, for freedom and justice to exist.

Can science be used to decide such a moral and philosophical question as what constitutes life or personhood?  We already have these philosophical terms in our law.  These words have been applied to at least some groups of humanity since the law was written.  No one disputes that the word “person” applies to a large part of humanity (always including the one making the judgment).  And here comes science, demonstrating that there is no significant, meaningful difference between one group of human beings and another.  Science can demonstrate that skin color is not a factor in personhood.  Size does not make person more of a person.  In fact, science can tell us that a human being has the same unique DNA from the moment of conception, at their birth, as they grow from infants to adolescents to fully-formed adults, even as they age and their health declines.

Any lines that have been proposed distinguishing one class of human beings as non-persons have been arbitrary.  Every person needs two things to continue living: nourishment and defense from violence.  The fertilized egg, the single-celled human embryo, needs only these things to develop into an adult.  An infant 1 year of age is still very dependent on his parents for the necessary nourishment and protection.  But given these things, he will grow into a man.  A young woman has to go through puberty to give her the hourglass shape associated with womanhood (and the ability to reproduce).  Where do you draw the line?  Which of these stages begins personhood?

In the history of this debate, the line of personhood has been suggested to begin:

–         at some point after birth when the baby is still dependent on his parents.  (If we draw the line at 3 months, was he less of a human the 24 hours before he was 3 months?  Honestly?)

–         at the first breath of air.  (Are humans receiving CPR or on ventilators not people?  What about the pre-mi’s born and kept alive for months by artificial breathing machines, to be weaned off when their lungs developed fully?)

–         when the baby completely leaves the womb – birth.  (Ten inches decides the identity of a human being?  There have been surgeries performed on preborn babies that involve removing the infants from the womb and then returning them there.  Are they people while out of the womb, then non-people again?  What has changed in the baby?)

–         at viability.  (Come What May, a film produced by the students at Patrick Henry College, makes the point that when we talk about viability, we are talking about viability sustained by human inventions.  Most babies are viable in the womb.  When we talk about viability, though, we disqualify that means of life support and substitute our own.  Man is not better than God at providing a hospitable environment for the youngest among us.  Even aside from that argument, our technology is improving.  A child who was not viable outside the womb 20 years ago might be now.  Nothing changed in the abilities or nature of the children.  We changed.)

–         when the mother can first detect movement – sometimes called “quickening.”  (Some mothers are more sensitive to the movement of their child than others.  Body shape and other factors might contribute to missing the first sensations of motion.  Also, some preborn babies move less or less emphatically than others.  We know from scientific experience that the baby is moving: swimming – from day one when he moves to the uterus!, kicking, waving, turning, changing facial expressions.  Again, this line is not dependent on the nature of the being inside the mother.)

–         at the beginning of biological development – called fertilization or conception.  (At this point a new life is begun.  Already his DNA has determined his features, his gender, his blood type – all of which can be different from his mother’s.  Before this moment, more was needed than nourishment and protection.  After this he will grow at his own body’s initiative and direction.)

All but the last “line” are arbitrary – as arbitrary as me deciding you were not a person because you live in the country, or because your skin is a different color from mine, or because I can whistle and you can’t (actually, I can’t), or worse: if I can’t hear you whistle even when you are.  Science and a bit of logic can recognize that there is no objective difference between adults like us and the kids who are so needy and the preborn.  Draw the line at conception.  Anything else is discrimination.

One more point I’d like to address is the legal objection many put forward.  In most abortion laws, pro-abortion activists push for “exceptions,” when a baby may still be killed.  They say that oh yes, abortion is a tragedy and we want it to be rare.  But surely there are bigger tragedies that abortion could solve: rape, incest, the life of the mother.

Regarding the “life of the mother” exception: our definition of person begins at conception.  It doesn’t end at birth.  This definition includes mothers.  The life of the baby is not, by this truth-reliant definition, more or less important than the mother’s.  Doctors and parents would be legally required to treat that baby as a person, without treating the mother as a non-person.  That’s the answer to the most common “life of the mother” clause.  No exception is necessary in the wording used by Personhood groups, because they affirm the right of the mother to life as well as the right of the baby.

But there are other “exceptions” argued for.  These tragedies are chosen for the exception list emotionally.  Why not include in the list: financial incompetence, household over-population, genetic deformity?  And if you go that far, why not make exceptions for gender, for the mom’s busy career, for her relationship with the father?  I’m not saying that everyone pushing for a few exceptions wants all of these exceptions.  My goal is to make it obvious that to be consistent in their reasoning, they should include all of these exceptions.  In every case the baby is a person.

That’s why I want to finish by asking you a few questions:

–         Is a human being not a person if her father is a rapist?  Is a 3 year old not a person if her father is a rapist?  Do you have less rights if your father was a rapist?

–         Is a human being not a person if his mother gets cancer?  Is a 3 year old not a person if his mom gets cancer?  Do you have less rights if your mother gets cancer?

–         Is a human being not a person if he and his mother are in danger and only one of them can be rescued?  Is a 3 year old not a person if he and his mother are in danger and only one of them can be rescued?  Do you have less rights if you and your mother are in danger and only one of you can be rescued?

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn


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Once upon a time there was a country that belonged to the people.  Maybe you have an idea which one I mean.  The thing about ownership is that property can be stolen.  Two of the ten Mosaic commandments address property rights.  But not only is theft no longer illegal; it has been codified.  Government itself functions on and benefits from theft.  We’re talking about private property, private rights, private liberty. 




It just so happens that the supreme law of this land guarantees a few rights to its people.  For example, we have the right to peaceably assemble, the right to bear arms, the right to free speech, and freedom from federal laws instituting or prohibiting religion’s exercise.  There are a few other little rights that we usually ignore, but that are in this simple list of laws all the same.  We citizens cannot be unreasonably searched, plundered, or seized by our government.  There is a right to trial by jury, prompt and in due process.  (Due process and promptness tend to be mutually exclusive in today’s courts.  But they keep everything legal by allowing you to waive your right to a free trial so that there will be no miscarriage of justice.) 


I’ve never been too bothered by conspiracy theories that warn, “Big brother is watching you.”  I mean, our country has ceased to belong to the people, and the rulers in charge have the power, should they choose to declare themselves free of the laws that have kept us complacent, to do whatever they want.  By the time Big Brother has put surveillance in place, you weren’t free anyway.  We were already doomed. 


So I’m not sounding any dark warnings here.  (Well… I guess I did begin on a depressing note…)  What I want to do is to tell you a story.  If you wish it were impossible, you are welcome to protest to your elected officials (and the unelected ones).  If instead you see opportunity and power to take to yourself, by all means, step up to the plate. 


You probably know if you’re a regular reader of my blog that I do regular sidewalk counseling, a ministry by which, with much prayer, I stand on a sidewalk outside an abortion clinic and try for a chance to talk with a mother about her choice, to share options with her, truth with her, and chances for help.  This is the last ditch effort to save lives – a place for me to meet hurting people and offer them love.  That love tends to look like standing on a ladder increasing my volume as the women move away from me and towards the door through which they will murder their sons and daughters, warning them about side effects, consequences, and the precious life they have this one last chance to save – that is unfortunate.  I wish that more often it looked like a girl sitting in the passenger seat of a car looking at pictures of life forming in a womb, shedding quiet tears and finding out about forgiveness, hope, and crisis pregnancy clinics that can help.  Sometimes it does, and I rejoice to see fruit in my attempts. 


So this abortion clinic is on the edge of an ethnic neighborhood caught between mall redevelopment and inner city tradition and railroad industry.  It sits on a wide, empty street.  Directly across is an abandoned parking lot.  On either side is a telephone company building that has no signs and gets about one visit a week, and a fire house no longer in use.  This three-story red brick building is surrounded by no trespassing signs, and displays a few large signs warning that no help can be found at the location any longer.  On top is a disaster siren that is tested on Wednesdays at 11 when the weather and season are right.  Beside that are two white cameras, rounded in a style too modern and artistic to be original to the building.  From their vantage point on the tower, these two cameras can take in the whole street – not to mention the cameras posted high on the lights above the entrance to the abortion clinic. 


So this building still appears to be public property, with the siren on top – but it isn’t.  Yet the police came last week to ticket another sidewalk counselor.  They parked (side by side, blocking half the road) and sat to watch us for a while.  Mostly ignoring them, we went on as usual.  They have warned us before about “stopping cars by stepping into the street.”  Now, we stand in this empty street near the curb because of sunshine.  Until about 10 AM the black tarp the abortion clinic has erected to keep the truth contained and invisible to the women it entices in with “choice” manages to shade the entire sidewalk.  So I don’t have to step into the street for anything; I’m already there.  But if I do happen to be on the sidewalk instead, I don’t step into the street.  I stand on the edge of the curb and hold out my hand in a stop signal or extend a flyer towards cars driving to the abortion clinic.  This is an effective tactic because it is non-threatening (and a little confusing), so people tend to stop.  When they stop, we go to their cars to give them the promised flyer and try to talk them out of killing children.  No one has ever been unable to access the street or the clinic due to this tactic, nor have we forcibly stopped cars or impeded traffic.  If the conversation is going well, we will have the car pull to one side so we can talk more. 


Last week while the police watched, I did that very thing.  I extended the flyer with a large list of facilities and people offering help to moms in need to a couple in a car.  They stopped and I headed to meet them with my paper, but was intercepted by the other sidewalk counselor, who has been doing this for decades and knows what to say much better than I do.  After a few sentences, she had them pull to the curb so she could answer their curiosity about what was going on (they were not clients of the abortionist).  Five to ten minutes after her conversation had begun, the police got out of their cars and came up to her, interrupting and requesting that she come with them.  She complied. 


They told her they would have to give her a ticket.  In a few minutes I joined her, confessing that I had stopped the car (which they could see).  The officer, who was considerably taller and larger than me, ignored me.  He said not a word to me, and seemed by looking over my head and addressing my friend to have brushed me aside like a bit of lint blowing across his vision.  After a short plea for the officers to save lives instead of writing tickets that would prevent her from doing so, she decided that her temper could not handle further discussion, and submitted to the citation. 


As the police drove away, we the pro-life team gathered around the yellow slip to discuss, question, and criticize all that had taken place.  “They showed me pictures,” my friend said.  And she pointed.  The pictures the police had used for evidence were taken from the old firehouse across the street.  “You were in one of them, standing by the car with me,” she looked at me.  But I hadn’t been by the car today, and how could they get pictures so quickly? 

 The Cameras

“What’s the date?” said another friend, an older man with a golden dog on a leash.  “This citation is written for yesterday.  At 11:38 AM.  Were you here at 11:38 yesterday?”  My friend nodded. 


“But I wasn’t.  I was at work…  That picture must have been from a long time ago.  I haven’t been in the street for a while.”  I added. 


“The officer signed as the complainant.  He wasn’t here yesterday.” 


“[the security guard] complained.  He called them,”  reported the owner of the ticket. 


“A police officer can’t be the complainant unless he was a witness.” 


That’s how it went.  She’s going to challenge the ticket in court (something she is rather good at by way of experience).  The incident for which she was cited was actually a mom with two little kids in her car driving by asking for directions.  My friend didn’t even do anything to get that woman to stop except to be outside. 


So here’s my question.  It only took a little bit of investigation to know that Planned Parenthood owns the cameras that survey the entire public street.  There is no sign on the building on which they were mounted informing the public that they are being video-taped.  Court precedent says that such surveillance is legal if it is in a place where someone can reasonably expect to be seen (parks, streets).  But since when can a private company or citizen take a picture of someone doing something that they think may be illegal, send the picture to the police with a complaint, and the police respond with a ticket?  Can you really be ticketed for something that no one witnessed? 


This has come up with the photo-radar machines that measure your speed and then snap a picture of you and your license plate as you drive by.  Some courts, I believe, have ruled that such evidence is shaky. 


And I understand that video from security cameras can be used to track down, identify, and convict criminals who rob convenience stores or graffiti buildings.  That’s ok with me.  But seriously – a jaywalking ticket after the fact?  And absolutely no one was inconvenienced?  Can I set up a camera on my street and call the police on random kids – or on cars failing to use turn signals, etc.?  It’s bad enough for the police to do it themselves, let alone a private citizen! 


Planned Parenthood loses money every time we educate women and help them to avoid the stain of murder on their conscience.  That wicked company is therefore applying pressure to the public government, asking them to enforce laws that they never enforce (tying up 3 to 4 officers and squad cars to deliver the citations, for some reason) on the rest of the population, so that the calloused businessmen inside can keep brutally murdering the most innocent human children alive. 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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