WASHINGTON, D.C. (9/19/08) – The President’s Volunteer Service Award was conferred on 32 Heartbeat International affiliated pregnancy resource centers and 55 volunteers who serve Heartbeat affiliated centers on September 19, 2008. Assistant Secretary for Health Admiral Joxel Garcia, M.D., M.B.A., bestowed the honors on Heartbeat’s affiliates and volunteers for the significant contributions they have made to their communities.
“Heartbeat International is an effective network of more than 1,000 faith-based community organizations aided by more than 25,000 volunteers. We are thrilled to see our volunteers honored by the Administration,” said Heartbeat International President Peggy Hartshorn, Ph.D. “We are very proud to carry on the American tradition of volunteerism and community service especially in a way that helps women and strengthens families.”
In concert with the White House USA Freedom Corps, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Public Health and Science honored 150 “exemplary volunteers” who serve pregnancy centers around the country along with 56 pregnancy resource centers at a White House ceremony on September 19, 2008. Pregnancy center representatives and volunteers participated in the White House awards ceremony from 10 am-noon in the Indian Treaty room of the Old Executive Office Building connected to the White House.
“Uplifting the lives of women and families around the world is Heartbeat’s mission. We are compassionate people and passionate for life. If you feel called to give back to your community and want to volunteer you can visit http://www.pregnancycenters.org/" data-mce-href="http://heartbeatinternational.org/eNewsletter/2008/enews_Annual_Review-4-08-full.htm">PregnancyCenters.org and use the center locator system to find your local pregnancy center,” said Hartshorn. “Pregnancy center volunteers include doctors, lawyers, nurses, concerned parents, social workers, educators, and many others. They provide healthy alternatives to abortion for girls and women faced with an untimely pregnancy. Many of our volunteers have had personal experience with an unplanned pregnancy, adoption, and abortion.”
“These volunteers have spent countless hours serving the most vulnerable among us. Their efforts deserve recognition and our deepest appreciation,” said Assistant Secretary for Health Joxel Garcia, M.D., M.P.H.. “Their services provide these women and their babies the opportunity for a healthier beginning.”
“Today, we recognize the service of these volunteers who are lifting lives and impacting their communities and our country for good,” said Alison Young, acting director of USA Freedom Corps, an initiative to help Americans connect with volunteer opportunities at home and abroad. “As they serve women in need, they spread the very best of the compassionate volunteer spirit that keeps America strong.”
For more information about the President’s Service Award, visit http://www.presidentialserviceawards.gov/" data-mce-href="http://www.presidentialserviceawards.gov/">PresidentialServiceAwards.gov.
Click here for interview with Dr. Ann Moell, Medical Director of Elizabeth’s New Life Center, Heartbeat affiliate in Dayton, Ohio. Ann was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award.
by Jor-El Godsey, Heartbeat International Vice President
Yes, you read that right. The President signed his very first pro-life law just last month. The administration actually said that the law is aimed at “protecting the health of the woman” from dangers associated with abortion. The President went so far as to make it illegal to promote abortion as a safe procedure.
And more than that, the New York Times reported the President’s wife taking an even bolder stand in this brand new pro-life effort. She’s gone so far as to launch a nationwide campaign called “Give Me Life!” as a “week against abortion.” How amazing that the First Couple has taken such unprecedented steps for the cause of life!
Now if only other leaders of nations besides Russia would gain the realization that they are allowing their future to be aborted. But for now, we take heart that Scripture tells us, “The king's heart is like a stream of water directed by the LORD; he guides it wherever he pleases” (Proverbs 21:1, NIV).
Peggy Hartshorn, president of Heartbeat International, was a keynote speaker at the recent Moscow Demographic Summit, hosted by World Congress of Families. Political and spiritual leaders alike aligned their interests to address the devastation that abortion has wrought on the future generations of Russians and thus Russia itself.
What were once statistical predictions of demographic trends have become a bleak, stark reality for countries such as Russia, Japan, and nearly all of Western Europe. We salute Mr. Dmitri A. Medvedev, President of Russia, and his wife, Svetlana, for this valiant redirection of law, public influence, and resources in the former Communist nation. Their actions and those of other leaders like them reveal a broader movement of the Holy Spirit in changing the hearts of leaders and laymen alike to renew a culture of life. We truly take heart in the Giver of Life and the Gift of Life.
You can read more about Peggy’s visit to Russia in the coming issue of Pulse. Watch for Pulse in your inbox later this month.
by Peggy Hartshorn, Heartbeat International, President(from Take Heart Volume 2, Issue 2)
I’m excited to share with you our encouraging news “fresh from Washington, D.C.”! I spent almost a week in our nation’s capital for meetings with national pro-life leaders, for the annual March for Life, and for our Babies Go To Congress™ (BGTC) event. What a magnificent week! Click here for a quick picture album of our March for Life team.
First, our BGTC was full of glory. We took several Heartbeat affiliates and their clients with babies – five Heartbeat teams totaling 27 people – to meet with to key Congressional representatives in 23 offices. We delivered the message that “pregnancy centers are good for America.” And our mothers were able to tell their stories as well and present to their elected officials a copy of the powerful report A Passion to Serve, A Vision for Life (researched by Family Research Council with the help of Heartbeat and other organizations in our movement). Walking the halls of Congress with our affiliates, mothers, and babies, was an honor and blessing for me personally.
Ripples, turning into currents, as a result of this trip will be many! Here are excerpts from a thank you letter to Heartbeat from just one of our mothers who came with her husband and baby:
“I wanted to thank you and Heartbeat International for the love and commitment to healthy babies and families you showed to me and every lady in attendance (and the thousands of others that benefit from all that Heartbeat does). I personally praise God for you!
Anthony and I experienced so much while in Washington, DC, I am still processing/taking all of it in… I am a counseling student and I will be obtaining my School Counselor Certification. After my professors heard of my pending trip and involvement in BGTC, they advised me to submit a proposal to present at this year's Illinois School Counselor Association Annual Conference… School Counselors in Chicago need to be able to "Connect the Dots" and know about community resources that their students may need.
I must share that before coming to Washington, DC I was not 100% committed to the pro-life movement. Although I do not believe in abortion and would never advise or financially back someone in their decision to get an abortion, I just was not comfortable in completely taking that right away from women either. However, I was challenged to really think about not only what I believe but WHO I believe in.”
I would estimate that about 350,000-400,000 people came to Washington for the March this year, probably the largest in recent history. Perhaps 50 percent of the Marchers were young people. A Washington Post columnist went to the March thinking he would see a “quaint” gathering with a hopeless cause. He admitted his surprise when he found otherwise! An excellent column by Cal Thomas (January 27), highlights the youth pro-life movement, and mentions TWICE the role of our pregnancy centers: “Thousands of pregnancy centers are winning a new generation to their views.”
I hope that each of you will experience in 2010 the personal “refreshment” I experienced during this intensely pro-pregnancy center week, feeling the Hand of God at work in the halls of Congress and at the March for Life. Clearly, our united labor, gifts, prayers, and strategic initiatives are winning our fellow Americans over to the truth and goodness of our Cause.
Learn more about BGTC at HeartbeatInternational.org.
Return to Take Heart Volume 2, Issue 2.
I have personally stared into the crematorium at Auschwitz.
It’s a somber and sobering experience even to begin to try to digest the horrors perpetrated by the Nazis a little more than six decades ago. There are distinct connections and eerie similarities between the inhumanity of the Holocaust history and the ravages of abortion in our day. This is not an easy subject to share, but let me narrow it to three lessons that Auschwitz (and the other death camps like it) teaches us.
Ever heard of the Tiergarten 4 program? It was a 1930’s Nazi program to “deal with” the physically handicapped, disabled and mentally ill. Nazi leadership determined that the resources necessary to maintain such life could be better used elsewhere to the betterment of the overall society. Sound familiar? (Google Tiergarten 4 for more understanding.) The outcomes of this relatively small program were instrumental in the implementation of the “Final Solution.”
As Nazi Germany and imperialistic Japan gained power, champions in various disciplines also rose to oppose these regimes. Some stepped out willingly while others were thrust into leadership. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Corrie Ten Boom, Winston Churchill, and Douglas McArthur are but a few well-known names. But countless others – from the underground and resistance forces to those in the ranks of the liberation armies – joined with the efforts of homebound citizens of many nationalities to defeat this worldwide scourge.
“Divide and conquer,” attributed to the great Roman general Julius Caesar, is a well-known battle strategy. The enemy of God has been using this tactic since the temptation in the Garden. Unfortunately, he still uses this tactic every day and every way to divide God’s people. This is an unfortunate reality in the pro-life movement as well.
Pro-life champions, whether on the stage, in public demonstrations or “in the trenches,” must recognize the necessity of standing together. We must resist divisions of denomination or method. We must walk with respect for how others are called to address this single greatest evil of our time. “But now there are many members, but one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you"; or again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you" (1 Corinthians 12:24-25).
It’s also important to remember the Apostle Paul’s admonition in 2 Corinthians 10:3-4 “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.” This man of God addressed paupers and princes, artists and academics, the weak and the wealthy, in his effort to advance the Gospel. Can we do any less in advancing the Gospel of Life?
As one of our champions, John Ensor says, “It’s our turn.” As other generations have arisen to combat the evil of their day, we do so against the evil of our generation – abortion. We, like Corrie Ten Boom in her day, are not alone. We have millions upon millions of like-minded, life-minded friends and partners worldwide dedicated to the advancing a culture of life. Most of all, we stand rightly on the side of the Giver of Life, also known as the Lord of Hosts! In this, we can draw comfort, strength and even peace. In this, we can truly take heart!
Another Planned Parenthood office closed its doors this week. Dozens have done so across the U.S. as the “defund Planned Parenthood” movement gains traction in states like Indiana, North Carolina, Kansas, Wisconsin, and Texas.
Actually the defunding provides cover for Planned Parenthood since it has been aggressively moving towards super-size service operations located, predominantly, in urban communities. Its own strategy has put its smaller, less profitable locations in jeopardy. Losing taxpayer monies has motivated it to speed up the consolidation process.
When Planned Parenthood (or any abortion provider) clinic closes its doors, it is a gift to the pro-life movement and to the pregnancy help centers (PHCs) in that community. One less location providing abortions means that abortion seekers will have more opportunity to find the life-affirming help we offer.
Planned Parenthood gives the gift of the ground they abandon. Several pregnancy help centers now occupy former abortion clinic locations. Along with incredible symbolism, there are enormous practical opportunities to minister to former abortion-clinic patients who return to that same location seeking help.
Planned Parenthood has even given from its own staff! Former staffers converting to the pro-life position has been a wonderful gift to our movement. Abby Johnson and others like her are powerful voices exposing how little choice is actually in the pro-choice argument and how much Planned Parenthood preys on women instead of serving them. As more such converts join us, we must welcome them as the gifts from God that they are.
Even the fallacious, Planned Parenthood-sponsored legislative attacks are turning into gifts for the pregnancy help movement. Such attacks have netted judicial rulings in favor of PHCs. These same attacks have helped mobilize many marginal pro-lifers.
Phineas T. Barnum, the 19th century American showman and circus owner, is credited with saying, “There is no such thing as bad publicity.” With this in mind, Planned Parenthood has gifted the movement with enormous publicity in the past few years!
Take heart! Even our opposition is contributing to your great work. I wonder if we can consider those unwitting contributions as in-kind gifts?
by Ellen Foell, Heartbeat International Legal Counsel
If the purpose of Pulse is to help life-affirming people keep their fingers on the pulse of America’s pregnancy help movement, then here are two very interesting and highly contentious battles which mandate a closer look. On opposite ends of the country, California and New York, local governments have pitted themselves against pregnancy help centers (PHCs), in both the legislative and judicial forums.
In New York, Mayor Bloomberg and the city council’s efforts to unfairly regulate the work of PHCs through superfluous fraud, deception, and consumer protection laws, came to a grinding halt as a federal district court judge ruled that the Council’s law was unconstitutional. Indeed, the court found that the speech (essentially advertising and information on services provided) of PHCs was not commercial speech, that the speech of centers was particularly prone to biased regulation because of its controversial nature and that New York City council’s attempt to regulate the speech was offensive and unconstitutional. The court imposed a preliminary injunction on the application of the law pending a trial on the merits.
On the other side of the country, San Francisco - presumably unaware of the rulings in Baltimore, Montgomery County, and New York - proceeded full-speed ahead. They threatened two San Francisco PHCs, First Resort and Alpha Pregnancy Center, with a two pronged legal action. One prong is the now typical, albeit unsuccessful, proposed law which seeks to regulate the speech of PHCs.
The other prong is the threat by San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera that he intends to pursue legal action against the two pregnancy centers whose business names pop up first in a Google search when someone uses San Francisco and abortion as keywords. According to Herrera, that first-in-line pop up constitutes false advertising and violates reproductive rights of women. This attack is so bizarre that even those who are not pro-life see that Mr. Herrera is on a hunt to harass PHCs and they easily recognize the ridiculous nature of the threat.
Zombie, a contributing blogger to PajamasMedia.com, an online blogging portal, wrote: “even from my pro-choice perspective, the city’s attempt to essentially banish any counseling center which doesn’t encourage or perform abortions is simply beyond belief.” This blogger continues, “And in the press conference proudly announcing this, the City Attorney openly admits that it’s politically motivated, that he’s going after the centers because he defines them as ‘right-wing.’ But seriously, have you ever looked at the ads for the other kinds of pregnancy counseling centers, the kinds of places where if you walk in, the only advice they ever give you is abort abort abort?
“Never do they put up big neon signs saying ‘Fetuses aborted here.’ Instead, they have innocuous (some would say ‘deceptive’) names like ‘community health center’ or ‘reproductive services clinic’ and so on.” Zombie concludes, “In fact, if you flip the narrative, and do a Google search for ‘pregnant’ and ‘San Francisco,’ the top result is a hospital that does provide abortions.”
In a comment posted on Zombie’s PajamasMedia.com blog "chambers," a reader, responded to the article with this observation, "The psychology of the legislators driving this effort is skin-crawlingly creepy … How can so much passion, indeed fury, be worked up for ending the life of a fetus in the womb?"
Indeed, skin crawlingly creepy. If this doesn’t make our pulse rate rise, what will?
"I can't remember a day being this happy in the 27 years of doing this work," said Leslee Unruh, South Dakota’s founder of Alpha Center, a Sioux Falls, S.D. pregnancy help center.
Leslee asks you to stand with pregnancy centers in South Dakota. “If you want to help take this case and future cases to the Supreme Court, contact the Alpha Center in south Dakota at (605) 361-3500.
In light of this tremendous victory for the women of South Dakota, Alpha Center is committed to continue our involvement in this case but we need to hear from you that you are standing with us. Just like the babies we save, we are alive and kicking and we hope you will join us.”
Source: Elizabeth Nash, public policy associate for the pro-choice Guttmacher Institute and Christianity Today, “The New Pro-Life Surge, Political gains by U.S. conservatives unleash waves of anti-abortion legislation,” Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra 6/10/2011
“Doctors must inform pregnant women that they have ‘an existing relationship’ with an ‘unborn human being’” according to a recently upheld provision in South Dakota’s 2005 informed consent law. In its recent opinion on this case, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis, Mo., overturned a lower federal court judge's decision that had struck down the "relationship advisories" section of South Dakota's 2005 informed consent law.
During the drawn-out legal battle, Heartbeat International, National Institute of Family and Life Advocates, CareNet, and the Family Research Council filed an amicus brief asking the court to reject Planned Parenthood’s attempt to block portions of the law.
Leslee Unruh, founder of Alpha Center in South Dakota, was deeply involved in this battle. She says that this victory will have a huge impact on pro-life legislation across the nation. “A federal court finally recognizes the personhood of a baby in its mother’s womb!” rejoices Leslee. The status of personhood bestows rights and the protection of the law on the fetus.
Leslee says that the collection of data by South Dakota pregnancy help centers (PHCs) is what turned the tide during this court struggle. The court demanded documentation of the effects of choosing life over abortion on the women served in South Dakota PHCs. “Our center was able to document the immensely positive impact of choosing life on our clients.” The Eighth Circuit Court judges were impressed with the facts and the personal testimony of these brave women, according to Leslee.
The battle lines were drawn with a Planned Parenthood challenge to a 2005 South Dakota Public Health and Safety Code amendment expanding the requirements for informed consent to abortion. Under that law, a doctor must give a woman contemplating abortion oral advisories 24 hours before the procedure and written advisories at least two hours before the procedure.
In addition to providing the patient with information about known medical risks and increased risk of suicide and suicidal thoughts, the written advisories inform the patient that:
In the 2005 challenge, a lower federal district court granted summary judgment in favor of South Dakota on the human being and risk advisories and in favor of Planned Parenthood on the relationship and suicide advisories. Planned Parenthood, however, continued to challenge the "existing relationship" provision.
Previously, in 2009, federal District Court judge Karen Schreier wrote, regarding the relationship section of the South Dakota law, "A legal relationship requires two people. The United States Constitution does not recognize an unborn embryo or fetus as a 'person,' in the legal sense."
On September 2, 2011, the Eighth Circuit Court panel, rejected Judge Schreier’s interpretation and agreed with the state's reading of the law on the relationship between a mother and her unborn child. In effect, the Eighth Circuit Court affirmed that a preborn child is a person.
Still, the recent ruling of the Eighth Circuit Court is not a complete victory. The three-judge panel gave a two-one split decision reversing the district court judge’s decision ruling on the “protected relationship” provision, and only narrowly upholding the judge’s decision with regard to the “risk of suicide” provision.
Circuit Court Judge Raymond Gruender dissented, arguing that the “risk of suicide” provision should have been upheld. He wrote in his dissent, “Even the evidence relied upon by Planned Parenthood acknowledges a significant, known, statistical correlation between abortion and suicide. This well-documented statistical correlation is sufficient to support the required disclosure that abortion presents an ‘increased risk’ of suicide, as that term is used in the relevant medical literature.”
Eighth Circuit Court Judges Diane E. Murphy and Michael Joseph Melloy voted in the majority.
The Eighth Circuit Court's September 2 ruling is a victory for LIFE on several fronts. The ruling supports a woman’s right to know that she has a relationship with the child living in her womb. It also establishes yet another protection for unborn children.
Twenty-three years into pastoral ministry, Mike Spencer resigned.
But, a year after stepping away from the pulpit, Mike says it wasn’t the usual reasons that initiated his change of direction. What caused the change was a bit of unfinished business.
“When I resigned my position, it was a very difficult thing to do,” Mike says, “I wasn’t pushed out, bummed out, or burned out. I really loved my church and serving in the role God had called me to there.
“The reason I stepped away is I really think there’s a large portion of the church who have given up on the plight of the unborn. That’s why I do what I do today.”
Today, Mike serves as an educator with Life Training Institute, a pro-life organization started by Christian apologist Scott Klusendorf that focuses on training Christians and other pro-life advocates to save lives by presenting and defending the sanctity in the public square.
Mike, who will be leading a pre-conference in-depth day, “Making the Case for Life,” at the 2016 Heartbeat International Annual Conference, became an advocate for life in 1984. Having become a Christian just one year prior, Mike still held pro-choice views, until a viewing of The Silent Scream—hosted by his church—changed everything.
Thirty years of serving in the church—including 23 as a pastor—and active involvement in the pro-life movement throughout that time have convinced Mike of the need for more Christians to become equipped with strong arguments on behalf of the unborn, so he couldn’t resist the chance to say, “Yes” when he was given the opportunity to jump onboard with Life Training Institute.
“The value in learning the proper role of apologetics can’t be overstated,” Mike says. “One of the things I’ve experienced is when someone gains a certain amount of knowledge and can speak winsomely, the result is both confidence and engagement.
“The more engagement we can have—whether in a formal setting with a pro-choice advocate, or with your brother-in-law at a family get-together—the more natural we’re going to feel, and the more effect that will have in the long run.”
In the teeth of a bitterly cold week in Washington, D.C., Heartbeat International brought along eight moms and eight babies to deliver a single message to their elected representatives.
Their message? Pregnancy help centers are good for America!
This year’s entourage was the largest contingent Heartbeat has ever brought to the nation’s capitol, bringing the total number of moms and babies to over 100 throughout our 12 trips since we initiated Babies Go to Congress® in 2009.
While a look at big numbers like these (plus the more than 200 congressional offices we’ve visited!) certainly provides a breath-taking view of God’s goodness, no number quite drives the point home like… Two.
That’s because, every day in the pregnancy help centers, medical clinics, maternity homes, and non-profit adoption agencies Heartbeat International serves, the lives of women and their unborn children are being rescued, protected, and preserved… Two lives at a time.
Take Diana and Jaycee, for example. Single and 19, Diana felt as if her “whole world stopped” as the pregnancy test read Positive.
Afraid to tell her family and desperate to find a way out, abortion was a real option for Diana’s mind as she typed in the words, “pregnant and scared” into her Google search engine. What she found was a nearby Heartbeat affiliate pregnancy center whose after-hours phone number routed automatically to Option Line®, Heartbeat’s 24/7 pregnancy helpline (800-712-HELP).
Patiently listening to Diana’s story, the caring voice on the other end of the line helped schedule an appointment for the following week at the pregnancy help center.
In Diana’s words:
I went into (the center) knowing there were other options like an abortion and thinking that was my only way out. My thoughts of having a baby were overshadowed with unanswered questions and I felt like I had hit a dead end.
That day now four years behind her, Diana was all smiles as she shared her story with her Rhode Island congressional offices in Washington.Of course, she didn’t come alone, as she was joined by her 3-year-old son, Jaycee, whose life was both spared and nurtured because Diana found the emotional support and practical resources she desperately needed through Option Line and Heartbeat’s network of life-saving local partners.
Like Diana, every woman facing an unexpected or difficult pregnancy desperately needs the emotional support and practical resources that only pregnancy help organizations provide.
Over 100 moms and babies thank you… Two at a time.
by Jay Hobbs, Communications Assistant
Related: Saving Lives Now with a Winning Strategy, by Jeanneane Maxon
Related: Fight to Win: An Argument for a State Human Life Amendment
We hold these truths to be self-evident, 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.
There are perhaps, no better known or rehearsed words in American history than these, which are embedded in the foundational document of the United States.
In the Declaration of Independence, the framers articulated two self-evident truths:
Those are possibly some of the most profound and meaningful words ever penned.
However, we also know that on the face of this profound and meaningful document itself, the words, and presumably the inalienable rights, applied only to certain men. One of those inalienable rights—the right to vote, to sway the system of government—belonged only to men.
If owning property or just about anything else is an inalienable right, then women were denied that right as well.
In a letter to her husband, John Adams, in 1776, Abigail Adams wrote, "in the new Code of Laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make I desire you would Remember the Ladies." His answer: "As to your extraordinary Code of Laws, I cannot but laugh… We know better than to repeal our masculine systems."
Appealing to her husband’s sense of fairness and desire for liberty for all, Abigail Adams wrote again, “I can not say that I think you very generous to the Ladies, for whilst you are proclaiming peace and good will to Men, Emancipating all Nations, you insist upon retaining an absolute power over Wives."
This appeal fell on apparently deaf ears.
And so it was that women could not vote or be elected as presidents, senators, or anything else until 1920 by virtue of the 19th Amendment. From 1776 to 1920, it was clearly not self-evident that women had inalienable rights.
[Related: Saving Lives Now with a Winning Strategy, by Jeanneane Maxon]
Racial inequality: All men are created equal…
We further know that at the time those words were penned, non-landowners, African Americans, and those deemed too young (under 18) were specifically excluded not only from voting, but from other inalienable rights as well. In fact, some colonies, in 1776, prohibited any of these classes of people not only from owning land, but in some cases, from owning a gun, joining the militia, or owning real property.
Evidently, when the framers wrote that it was a self-evident truth that all men are created equal, they were really referring only to white, land-holding men. It was evidently not so self-evident that God created all people—men and women, black and white, slave and free, rich and poor—with unalienable rights.
Black people, both slaves and free, also tried to get equal rights under the new Constitution. In 1777, Prince Hall and eight other black men wrote a petition to the courts of Massachusetts arguing the following:
[Y]our Petitioners apprehend that they have in Common with all other men a Natural and Unalienable Right to that freedom which the Grat Parent of the Universe that Bestowed equally on all menkind and which they have Never forfeited by any Compact or agreement whatever.
In his first draft of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson named the following among the list of offenses committed by the British crown:
[He] has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people [the Africans] who never offended him, captivating and carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither.
But Jefferson’s above defense did not gain traction with the rest of the framers. Instead, when writing the Constitution, the Founding Fathers eventually agreed to the Three-Fifths Compromise, which counted each black man as three-fifths of a white man in censuses, yet did nothing to give freedom or rights to black individuals.
In fact, the truth that African Americans had unalienable rights took another 180 years, at least two Supreme Court decisions, marches, protests, arrests, and spilled blood before the government truly acknowledged that African Americans were endowed with unalienable rights, including the right to freely vote.
[Related: Fight to Win: An Argument for a State Human Life Amendment]
But the issue was not just that blacks did not have the right to vote, which would be wrong in and of itself. It was the logical underpinnings of that denial of suffrage that were truly objectionable. The right to vote does not exist in a vacuum. It is given to those society values and accepts within the ranks as having equal footing with all, worthy of the protection afforded to all.
For 180 years following the Revolutionary War, blacks were not treated as those to whom God had endowed with unalienable rights.
Likewise, Native Americans were not allowed to vote in the first 100-plus years of American life. The Constitution (Article I, section 2) states that "Indians not taxed" should not even be counted in the census at all. The men who wrote the Constitution held that Native Americans belonged to their own group, and were not part of the United States at all.
Native American men did not get the right to vote until 1889, and then only if they left their tribes and lived like white men. It wasn’t until 1924 that tribal Indians could vote. And before 1924, it is doubtless a scar upon America’s history that Native Americans were forcibly removed from their ancestral land.
A final inconsistency in voting rights was corrected in 1971 by the 26th Amendment, which granted 18-year-olds the right to vote. This amendment was passed in response to Vietnam War-era protests that the same young men who were drafted into war did not themselves possess a right to vote.
Taking all these classes of people together, only about a quarter of the adults in the United States could vote immediately following the Revolutionary War. All men created equal, endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights? Self-evident Not really.
These truths did not become self-evident for many classes of people until much later, and only then after several hard-fought battles.
The truth is that what was said to be self-evident in 1776 only became truly evident over time, as a result of sustained effort by the people. No one would argue today that blacks, women, those who do not own property, 18-year–olds, or Native Americans should be denied equal status as humans with inalienable rights.
But in 1776, that was evidently not self-evident.
Personhood Amendments seek to make it self-evident that life begins at fertilization—the embryo is a human being. And while embryos are not given the right to vote, or own property, he or she certainly has the inalienable right of protection.
There are currently several states in which personhood amendments are either pending or proposed. A Personhood Amendment seeks to define personhood in a state Constitution. In short, Personhood Amendments seek to define life as starting at fertilization and thereby worthy of legal protection.
In Georgia, a Personhood Amendment passed by a super majority in July, 2012. In North Dakota, the Personhood Amendment states in part, “the inalienable right to life of every human being at any stage of development must be recognized and defended.”
In Mississippi, the failed Personhood Amendment (2011) stated the following:
As used in this Article III of the state constitution, the term ‘person’ or ‘persons’ shall include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof.
These amendments are controversial, both among Christians and non-Christians, as well as pro-life and pro-abortion camps. Is such an amendment necessary? Is such an amendment wise? Is pursuing such an amendment helpful or harmful to the pro life movement?
In this issue of Capitol Matters, Heartbeat presents two strongly pro-life attorneys—Rob Muise, American Freedom Law Center and Jeanneane Maxon, Americans United for Life—who debate the two sides of the issue.
We present them primarily to demonstrate two differing opinions within the pro-life movement. We also present their arguments to provoke thinking and discussion, and hopefully, as Hebrews 10:24 instructs us, to love and good works.
by Ellen Foell, Esq., Heartbeat International Legal Counsel
Web Design and Development by Extend Web Services