My reflections and musings on the struggle to leave a Christ-shaped impression on the world of law and public policy.


Sunday, February 28, 2010

A Letter from Mother Teresa to the United States Supreme Court

This letter was filed with the U.S. Supreme Court as an amicus brief in the 1994 cases of Loce v. New Jersey and Krail et al. v. New Jersey:

I hope you will count it no presumption that I seek your leave to address you on behalf of the unborn child. Like that child I can be considered an outsider. I am not an American citizen.

My parents were Albanian. I was born before the First World War in a part of what was not yet, and is no longer, Yugoslavia.
In many senses I know what it is like to be without a country.
I also know what is like to feel an adopted citizen of other lands. When I was still a young girl I traveled to India.
I found my work among the poor and the sick of that nation, and I have lived there ever since.

Since 1950 I have worked with my many sisters from around the world as one of the Missionaries of Charity. Our congregation now has over four hundred foundations in more that one hundred countries, including the United States of America.
We have almost five thousand sisters.

We care for those who are often treated as outsiders in their own communities by their own neighbors—the starving, the crippled, the impoverished, and the diseased, from the old woman with a brain tumor in Calcutta to the young man with AIDS in New York City.
A special focus of our care are mothers and their children.

This includes mothers who feel pressured to sacrifice their unborn children by want, neglect, despair, and philosophies and government policies that promote the dehumanization of inconvenient human life. And it includes the children themselves, innocent and utterly defenseless, who are at the mercy of those who would deny their humanity.

So, in a sense, my sisters and those we serve are all outsiders together. At the same time, we are supremely conscious of the common bonds of humanity that unite us and transcend national boundaries.

In another sense, no one in the world who prizes liberty and human rights can feel anything but a strong kinship with America. Yours is the one great nation in all of history that was founded on the precept of equal rights and respect for all humankind, for the poorest and weakest of us as well as the richest and strongest.

As your Declaration of Independence put it, in words that have never lost their power to stir the heart: “We hold these truths to be self evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness…” A nation founded on these principles holds a sacred trust: to stand as an example to the rest of the world, to climb ever higher in its practical realization of the ideals of human dignity, brotherhood, and mutual respect. Your constant efforts in fulfillment of that mission, far more that your size or your wealth or your military might, have made America an inspiration to all mankind.

It must be recognized that your model was never one of realized perfection, but of ceaseless aspiration. From the outset, for example, America denied the African slave his freedom and human dignity. But in time you righted that wrong, albeit at an incalculable cost in human suffering and loss of life.

Your impetus has almost always been toward a fuller, more all embracing conception and assurance of the rights that your founding fathers recognized as inherent and God-given.
Yours has ever been an inclusive, not an exclusive, society. And your steps, though they may have paused or faltered now and then, have been pointed in the right direction and have trod the right path. The task has not always been an easy one, and each new generation has faced its own challenges and temptations. But in a uniquely courageous and inspiring way, America has
kept faith.

Yet there has been one infinitely tragic and destructive departure from those American ideals in recent memory. It was this Court's own decision in Roe v. Wade (1973) to exclude the unborn child from the human family. You ruled that a mother, in consultation with her doctor, has broad discretion, guaranteed against infringement by the United States Constitution, to choose to destroy her unborn child.

Your opinion stated that you did not need to “resolve the difficult question of when life begins.” That question is inescapable. If the right to life in an inherent and inalienable right, it must surely exist wherever life exists. No one can deny that the unborn child is a distinct being, that it is human, and that it is alive. It is unjust, therefore, to deprive the unborn child of its fundamental right to life on the basis of its age, size, or condition of dependency.

It was a sad infidelity to America's highest ideals when this Court said that it did not matter, or could not be determined, when the inalienable right to life began for a child in its mother's womb.

America needs no words from me to see how your decision in Roe v. Wade has deformed a great nation. The so-called right to abortion has pitted mothers against their children and women against men. It has sown violence and discord at the heart of the most intimate human relationships.

It has aggravated the derogation of the father's role in an increasingly fatherless society.
It has portrayed the greatest of gifts—a child—as a competitor, an intrusion, and an inconvenience. It has nominally accorded mothers unfettered domination over the independent lives of their physically dependent sons and daughters.

And, in granting this unconscionable power, it has exposed many women to unjust and selfish demands from their husbands or other sexual partners.

Human rights are not a privilege conferred by government. They are every human being's entitlement by virtue of his humanity. The right to life does not depend, and must not be declared to be contingent, on the pleasure of anyone else, not even a parent or a sovereign.

The Constitutional Court of the Federal Republic of Germany recently ruled that “the unborn child is entitled to its rights to life independently of acceptance by its mother; this is an elementary and inalienable right that emanates from the dignity of the human being.” Americans may feel justly proud that Germany in 1993 was able to recognize the sanctity of human life. You must weep that your own government, at present, seems blind to this truth.

I have no new teaching for America. I seek only to recall you to faithfulness to what you once taught the world. Your nation was founded on the proposition—very old as a moral precept, but startling and innovative as a political insight—that human life is a gift of immeasurable worth, and that it deserves, always and everywhere, to be treated with the utmost dignity and respect.

I urge the Court to take the opportunity presented by the petitions in these cases to consider the fundamental question of when human life begins and to declare without equivocation the inalienable rights which it possesses.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Truth About Delegate Marshall

It looks like many in our community have fallen for one of the oldest tricks in the book: the use of one ill-conceived sound bite to demonize a politician. In the case of Delegate Bob Marshall, this is more than unfortunate.

First of all, to read or hear what Marshall really said, go to The media reports of Marshall’s statement conveniently omitted the fact that it was made in reference to a 2008 study by Virginia Commonwealth University published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health. This study pointed to higher risks of premature birth and low birth weight in children born to women who have had an abortion.

Second, I propose that a responsible alternative to crucifying the man based on one misconstrued statement is to judge him by his record. This record includes bills to provide healthcare for autistic children, to ban partial-birth abortion, and to authorize courts to require counseling about the effects of divorce on children.

I wonder how many of those who are quick to attack have ever thanked Bob Marshall for championing these just causes.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A Shout Out to the Legislators

"It's not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat."

Theodore Roosevelt

If you have 5 or 10 minutes today or tomorrow, please take the time to thank the legislators who were "actually in the arena" for us on H.B.112. You don't need to say anything extraordinary--a simple thank you will show them that you care about the bill and appreciate their support of it. You could just say, "Thank you for supporting H.B.112." E-mail addresses for those who supported the effort are as follows: - Delegate Bob Marshall - chief patron - Delegate Ben Cline - co-patron - Delegate Todd Gilbert - co-patron - Delegate Clay Athey - co-patron; voted for the bill in subcommittee - Delegate Jackson Miller - voted for the bill in subcommittee - Delegate Charles Carrico - co-patron - Delegate James Morefield - co-patron - Delegate Brenda Pogge - co-patron

Monday, February 22, 2010

Virginia Catholic Conference

I just spoke with Jeff Caruso at The Virginia Catholic Conference. It was so encouraging to me to have a reasonable conversation with a reasonable man who shares my passion for protecting the lives of the unborn. Of course, details will need to be hammered out, but I am excited about the prospect of working together with this organization to achieve our mutual goals.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Is Believing In the Sanctity of Life Enough?

I had the privilege to attend a Sunday School class taught in the style of a "Last Lecture" today by doctor, author and missionary Harry Krauss. He quoted a "really smart guy" (name not given) who said, "I don't care what you believe. I care what you believe enough to do."

If followers of Christ really believe, based on God's infallible Word, that life begins at conception, shouldn't we be doing all we can to protect that life? I submit that it is our duty to do so. I believe that we must continue to work for laws that chip away at the practice of abortion. Some of these include laws that mandate stricter regulation of abortion clinics, the provision of better information to women seeking abortions, parental and spousal notifications, etc.

I also believe that it is time for us to raise our voices and demand laws that define unborn children as "persons" who are possessed of fundamental, unalienable rights. Let it be clear that when an abortion happens, it happens not to a meaningless blob of tissue, but to a human being who was knit together and "known" by the Creator of all.

While we must continue to fight this battle on the abortionists' turf by placing piecemeal limitations on the "right" to destroy unborn children, it's time to claim some turf of our own by recognizing the humanity of those silent victims. Let's require that the arguments about fundamental rights be played out in the framework of the Truth.

I hope you're wondering how you can show that you believe in the sanctity of life enough to do something about it. Stay tuned!

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Questions

Truly, one of the most exasperating things to me throughout this process has been the way "questions" have been used, at best, as excuses for not supporting this bill and, at worst, as weapons against it. Don't get me wrong--it's good and appropriate to ask questions, but only if you're willing to stick around and hear the answers. So many questions have been raised about the bill's potential to have "unintended consequences." Some of the questions are asked in good faith, and some are not. [Would you believe that it has been seriously suggested that treating unborn children as persons possessed of fundamental rights would give embryos the right to vote?]

But the point is this: every question I've been asked so far has an answer. If you have questions about this bill, please click on the link (near the top of the page) called, "Questions and Answers." It covers everything from oral contraception to census data. If you don't find the answer to your question, please let me know, and I'll get back to work to get it for you.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

What Happened to H.B. 112 - My Take

The members of the Constitutional Law Special Subcommittee voted not to report the bill, with a vote of 5 opposed and 2 in favor. Going into the hearing, we were pretty sure we would not pick up any of the 3 Democrats on the Subcommittee, but we were hopeful that the Committee Chairman (Del. Dave Albo) and Del. Kilgore would vote for the bill, as they are both Republicans and both pro-life.

I knew that Chairman Albo had questions about possible unintended consequences of the bill (effects on oral contraception and in vitro fertilization), so I provided him with a full brief on those topics well before the hearing. While it is true that this bill may have moral implications that lead future sessions of the General Assembly to consider further regulation of the discarding of unused embryos by IVF clinics, my brief explained why, as a legal matter, HB112 would not affect any of those practices. It is simply a rule of construction that would construe the word "person," for purposes of Virginia law, to include all human beings.

During the hearing, I pointed out that none of the horrible results feared by some members of the subcommittee have occurred in Missouri, where the statute after which HB112 is modeled has been on the books for over 20 years! Illinois and Louisiana also currently recognize unborn children as legal "persons" from conception.

Many of the questions were fierce, but I honestly cannot think of a question that was left unanswered. Even the Solicitor General of Virginia testified in support of the constitutionality of the bill. Representatives of Planned Parenthood, NARAL and the ACLU gave their predictable statements in opposition.

At the close of the testimony, renowned attorney Pat McSweeney rose and gave an incredibly moving, eloquent statement in support of the bill. I could never do it justice, but his point was this: the General Assembly has a responsibility to define who is a "person" for purposes of Virginia law. That is the issue. If other laws must be altered to fit with the fact that all human beings have human rights, so be it.

Nonetheless, the vote was 5-2, and so the bill failed. However, Chairman Albo and Del. Kilgore stated during the hearing that they both would have voted for the bill if it had been identical to the Missouri statute. Which is good information to have on hand for next session....

What Happened to H.B. 112?

I'll give my own take on that soon, but in the meantime, check out this post from American Life League's Judie Brown:

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Why I'm blogging

Thomas Jefferson wrote, in the Declaration of Independence, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with inherent and inalienable rights; that among these, are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness; that to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among men."

During the past two months, I have had the great privilege of working with elected representatives on a bill that would recognize the human rights of unborn children under the laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia. It was an honor to stand behind a true statesman, Del. Bob Marshall, in this effort. (Go, Bob!!!)

It was sometime late last week when Thomas Jefferson's words came to mind: it is for the purpose of securing these fundamental rights that "Governments are instituted among men!" That's the whole point of government!

Throughout my intellectual, legislative and literal journey, I have had an army of faithful friends supporting me through prayer, encouragement, and practical assistance. I'm writing this blog for those who want to continue to follow the progress of this effort. There is much yet to be done! It is my hope that by providing periodic updates here, I can empower you to join with me in praying for this work, and, when the time is right, maybe even to enter the fray by contacting those in positions to influence the outcome.