The Meaning of Persons

In a tragic circumstance, a severely developmentally disabled twenty-two-year-old woman was raped and impregnated. She has no family and lives alone in a state of Florida housing facility. She is now at least five months pregnant and because of her disabilities is unable to even identify the rapist. On May 13, Florida Governor Jeb Bush asked state lawyers to appoint a guardian for the unborn child. He believes it is appropriate to intervene in this case because it is a "uniquely troubling situation." In a statement he said, "Given the facts of the case, it is entirely appropriate that an advocate be appointed to represent the unborn child's best interests in all decisions." The governor is absolutely right. Now in this case nobody is even suggesting the woman have an abortion, but civil liberties and pro-abortion groups are howling, and they have filed a brief to block the appointment of a guardian for the child. Appointing a guardian, they say, "would go against a 1989 Florida Supreme Court ruling that said fetuses cannot have guardians because they are not legally people." That is precisely what is at issue here, and the pro-abortion groups know it. If an unborn child can have a state-appointed guardian to look after his or her interests, it is ludicrous to then maintain that the unborn child is not a person. And if unborn children are persons, their rights -- including the right to life -- must be protected by the state. And that is why these same pro-abortion forces are opposing the Unborn Victims of Violence Act in Congress. The House of Representatives bill is called "Laci and Conner's Law." Laci Peterson's body and the body her unborn son, Conner, were found washed ashore near San Francisco. Scott Peterson, Laci's husband and Conner's father, has been charged with not one, but two murders, because California like many states has a fetal homicide law. The pro-abortionists are not happy about this case. If the Congress passes the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, federal law will declare that the killing of an unborn child through an act of violence is murder -- the killing of a person. Thus while Laci and Conner's Law is not about abortion -- in fact, it specifically excludes abortion -- the bill is on a collision course with the abortionists. In principle, pro-choicers simply refuse to grant any legal status to the unborn. They worry that the so-called "right to abortion" is being eroded. And they're right. It's eroding because abortion rests on an untenable notion that the unborn child is not a person and doesn't deserve protection. But that, you see, runs counter to what most Americans believe about the murder of Conner Peterson. Though not yet born, he was murdered. And there ought to be a law. Even when they are still in the womb, children have a right to protection. Similarly, the unborn child in Florida has a right to protection as well. Governor Jeb Bush and Secretary of Children and Families Jerry Regier deserve a hearty round of applause for seeking to protect both mother and child. As Ken Connor of Family Research Council wrote in a recent Orlando Sentinel op-ed, Bush and Regier "are simply seeking to help those whose interests would go unrepresented. They seek to help the helpless. That's a cause around which we can all rally." For further reading and information: Dana Canedy, "Gov. Jeb Bush to Seek Guardian for Fetus of Rape Victim," New York Times, 15 May 2003 (free registration required). l Mike Branom, "Fla. Gov. Bush Orders Guardian for Fetus," Associated Press, 13 May 2003. Mike Branom, "Fla. Judge Delays Fetus Guardian Ruling," Associated Press, 15 May 2003. Ken Connor, "2 Guardians for 2 Lives," Orlando Sentinel, 17 May 2003. Read the text of the Laci and Conner's Law, H.R. 1997. The Senate bill is S. 1019. Michael Doyle, "Laci's loss revives fetal-slaying bill," Sacramento Bee, 8 May 2003. Kathryn Jean Lopez, "Do It for Conner," National Review Online, 8 May 2003. Amy Fagan, "Laci Peterson's kin back fetal protection," Washington Times, 8 May 2003. Janice Shaw Crouse, "Was Conner a Baby?", Dot.commentary, Beverly LaHaye Institute, 12 May 2003. Jan LaRue, "In Conner's Name," Concerned Women for America, 24 April 2003. Don Feder, "Unborn Victims Act Exposes a Lie,", 4 May 2001. "High court: Fetus is a body part," Associated Press, 7 May 2003. "A Call to Protect Human Dignity" -- At the Wilberforce Forum Dinner on February 6, 2003, Joni Eareckson Tada encouraged Christians to take a stand for the dignity and sanctity of all human life. She shared her personal testimony, her work with Joni and Friends, a ministry for the disabled, and her advocacy in Washington, D.C. Her remarks provide ample reason for Christians to speak up in the culture and public square.


Chuck Colson


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