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Issues Law Med. 2010 Spring;25(3):185-273.

Unborn children as constitutional persons.

Author information

1
greg.roden@comcast.net

Abstract

In Roe v. Wade, the state of Texas argued that "the fetus is a 'person' within the language and meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment." To which Justice Harry Blackmun responded, "If this suggestion of personhood is established, the appellant's case, of course, collapses, for the fetus' right to life would then be guaranteed specifically by the Amendment." However, Justice Blackmun then came to the conclusion "that the word 'person,' as used in the Fourteenth Amendment, does not include the unborn." In this article, it is argued that unborn children are indeed "persons" within the language and meaning of the Fourteenth and Fifth Amendments. As there is no constitutional text explicitly holding unborn children to be, or not to be, "persons," this argument will be based on the "historical understanding and practice, the structure of the Constitution, and thejurisprudence of [the Supreme] Court." Specifically, it is argued that the Constitution does not confer upon the federal government a specifically enumerated power to grant or deny "personhood" under the Fourteenth Amendment. Rather, the power to recognize or deny unborn children as the holders of rights and duties has been historically exercised by the states. The Roe opinion and other Supreme Court cases implicitly recognize this function of state sovereignty. The states did exercise this power and held unborn children to be persons under the property, tort, and criminal law of the several states at the time Roe was decided. As an effect of the unanimity of the states in holding unborn children to be persons under criminal, tort, and property law, the text of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment compels federal protection of unborn persons. Furthermore, to the extent Justice Blackmun examined the substantive law in these disciplines, his findings are clearly erroneous and as a whole amount to judicial error. Moreover, as a matter of procedure, according to the due process standards recognized in Fifth Amendment jurisprudence of the Supreme Court, Roe v. Wade should be held null and void as to the rights and interests of unborn persons.

PMID:
20443281
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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