There is merit in the view from US lawyers that the recent very restrictive Texas law on abortion violates constitutional/legal precedent. However, in my opinion that precedent is not flawless, logically, as I argued in my latest book A Controversial Clergyman, pp. 83-86. I said there:
“I am no lawyer but from my reading of legal literature, lawyers need to probe more deeply the logical link made by the US Supreme Court between proof of the beginning of life and personhood in Roe v. Wade.
To me, a non-lawyer, the Court blundered somewhat in that it had reputable scientific evidence available to it that life begins at conception. Two 1968 textbook quotations should suffice.
1. Human Embryology (3rd edition) by Bradley Patten says at p.43: “It is the penetration of the ovum by a spermatozoan and the resultant mingling of the nuclear material each brings to the union that constitutes the culmination of the process of fertilization and marks the initiation of the life of a new individual.” [emphasis added]
2. Dr. Louis Fridhanler in the medical textbook Biology of Gestation (vol. 1) edited by N.S. Assau, calls fertilization: “that wondrous moment that marks the beginning of life for a new unique individual.” [p. 76 emphasis added]
Yet listen to Justice Blackmun, speaking for the Court in 1973: “We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins…”
Additionally, on the legal front. as I pointed out in my Jamaica Observer letter ‘Legal Puzzles concerning Pregnant Women’ (March 19, 2019) there are legal conventions that attribute personhood to the unborn from conception. Even if one indulges the nicety of legal personhood as opposed to personhood in fact there is much to ponder from quasi legal and other legal traditions that speak to the personhood of the unborn.
As Lawyer/Philosopher/ Theologian Prof. John Warwick Montgomery points out: “…in the area of property law Anglo-American jurisprudence has maintained remarkable concern for fetal rights…In that realm of the common law–property rights–where the protections afforded are the most unqualified and absolute (in rem), the fetus has most consistently been given recognition from the moment of conception…” (In his Slaughter of the Innocents, 116)
Montgomery goes on to say that the International and Comparative Law of Human Rights favours the unborn and so too does the non-obligatory Declaration of the Rights of the Child which states in its preamble that the child “requires juridical protection before as well as after birth.” (118) On the same page Montgomery adds that “the American Convention of Human Rights, which entered into force in 1978, declares (Article 4) that ‘Every person has the right to have his life respected. This right shall be protected by law, and, in general, from the moment of conception…’”
More attention needs to be given to critical thinking and logical reasoning by the learned [lawyers, jurists] and the unlearned alike [all others of us in general].
Rev. Clinton Chisholm is a retired Jamaica Baptist Union Pastor and former academic Dean of the Caribbean Graduate School of Theology (Jamaica).