NYT Symposium on New Constitutional Amendments: The Word ‘Person’ Shall Apply to All Human Life—Born or Unborn


Published on August 4, 2021

The New York Times

This is EPPC Visiting Fellow Alexandra DeSanctis’s contribution to a New York Times symposium asking writers and legal scholars how they think the Constitution should be amended next.

“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.

Since Thomas Jefferson drafted these words, the United States has made enormous strides in recognizing that all human beings — regardless of race, sex or class — inherently possess the natural rights named in the Declaration of Independence. The 13th Amendment, by ending the dehumanizing evil of slavery, affirmed that Black people, too, possess these rights. We must affirm the truth of Jefferson’s words once again, this time by ending the dehumanizing injustice of abortion and securing the right to life of unborn human beings.

The Supreme Court held in Roe v. Wade that the Constitution protects a right to abortion. But a unique human life begins at the moment of fertilization, which means that every abortion intentionally ends a human life; the court’s decision denied to an entire class of human beings that right upon which all other rights depend.

Unless the court overturns its decades of hazy and unworkable precedent protecting abortion, lawmakers who attempt to safeguard the equality of the unborn will remain unable to do so. Even if the court changes course, without a constitutional amendment explicitly recognizing fetal personhood, states will maintain a maze of abortion laws, some of which will continue to allow abortion.

This amendment would affirm that, like each of us, every unborn human being possesses the intrinsic right to life, while accounting for situations in which a woman might need emergency medical treatment that may have the foreseeable secondary effect of harming her unborn child.

PROPOSED AMENDMENT:

SECTION 1. THE WORD “PERSON,” AS USED IN THE FIFTH AND 14TH ARTICLES OF AMENDMENT TO THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES, APPLIES TO ALL HUMAN BEINGS, INCLUDING UNBORN HUMAN BEINGS, FROM THE MOMENT OF CONCEPTION, AT EVERY STAGE OF BIOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENT, IRRESPECTIVE OF AGE, HEALTH, FUNCTION, GENDER, RACE OR DEPENDENCY.

SECTION 2. NOTHING IN THIS CONSTITUTION SHALL BE CONSTRUED AS CONFERRING OR PROTECTING A RIGHT TO ABORTION.

SECTION 3. THIS ARTICLE SHALL NOT BE CONSTRUED TO PREVENT EMERGENCY PROCEDURES IN CASES IN WHICH A REASONABLE MEDICAL CERTAINTY EXISTS THAT CONTINUATION OF PREGNANCY WILL CAUSE THE DEATH OF THE MOTHER.


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