A guest post by Attorney Richard Console.
Life begins at conception. At least that is what the Catholic Church and other pro-life entities have always maintained. They may tout this belief, but when it comes to their alleged role in the death of a fetus they are quick to drop the classification of an unborn child as a human in favor of a greater cause: their wallets.
This was made clear when in a recent wrongful death lawsuit in Colorado, a Catholic hospital defended the suit on the basis that the fetus in question was, in fact, not a human being. This convenient defense shields them from liability in this matter. This begs the question, just how deep-seated is this belief if the Catholic establishment is willing to alter their stance so readily?
The interesting thing here is that the Catholic Church is one of the loudest voices in the pro-life, pro-choice debate, yet this hospital’s pro-life stance did an about-face when it was to their financial detriment. As a Catholic establishment, aren’t they expected to follow the beliefs of the Catholic Church?
Separation of Church and Uterus
The main debate for a woman’s control over her own body lies in civil liberties and the separation of church and state. Since most pro-life arguments are based in Biblical references, they are not considered evidence in the government realm — or at least, they are not supposed to be.
One of the top arguments from pro-lifers is that an abortion is akin to murder. Since they have the stance that life begins at conception, they believe that terminating the pregnancy is the same as killing a child. This moral-based argument is one that draws many to the pro-life side of the debate, but morality aside, this stance does not have a legal leg to stand on.
The First Amendment states:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
The first section of the amendment has been generally accepted to depict the separation of church and state. This intent has been further demonstrated by a letter from Thomas Jefferson and the Supreme Court has, on numerous occasions, cited Jefferson’s explanation of what this section was meant to serve as.
In a letter, written by Jefferson in 1802, to the Danbury Baptists, he explained:
Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.
No matter an individual’s own moral or religious beliefs, the law cannot be based solely on the argument of religion. Not only would making abortions illegal on the basis of moral objection violate the First Amendment, it would also violate the Ninth Amendment, as was cited in Roe v. Wade.
The Ninth Amendment states:
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
The Fourteenth Amendment states:
No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
In Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court stated:
This right of privacy, whether it be founded in the Fourteenth Amendment’s concept of personal liberty and restrictions upon state action, as we feel it is, or, as the District Court determined, in the Ninth Amendment’s reservation of rights to the people, is broad enough to encompass a woman’s decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy.
They went on to state:
The District Court held that the fundamental right of single women and married persons to choose whether to have children is protected by the Ninth Amendment, through the Fourteenth Amendment, and that the Texas criminal abortion statutes were void on their face because they were both unconstitutionally vague and constituted an overbroad infringement of the plaintiffs’ Ninth Amendment rights.
The Supreme Court upheld the ruling of the District Court, thus making abortion legal (abortions were illegal in the United States from 1880 to 1973) on the basis that not to do so would violate a woman’s Ninth and Fourteenth Amendment rights.
What’s the Fate of the Colorado Catholic Hospital Wrongful Death Case?
This case went through two long years of litigation before the hospital’s defense attorneys brought forth the “fetus is not a person” defense, according to a CNN report. Colorado state law does not recognize a fetus or embryo as a person until it is born, and, unfortunately, the death of the mother also resulted in the death of her two unborn twins before they were removed from the womb.
The lower court ruled in favor of the hospital, leaving the widower to file an appeal. The hospital did not stop with their quick-switch defense either. They filed a counter lawsuit against the widower seeking nearly $120,000 in legal fees — they have even sought to garnish his wages despite his being a single father of a now nine-year-old girl. The hospital has, however, ever so tactfully offered to drop their counter-suit if he drops his appeal.
The widower has not given in to the legal tactics attempted by the defense and has petitioned the Colorado Supreme Court to hear his wife and unborn children’s case. He has also asked that the Catholic Church formally reply to this matter. The Church has vowed to review the case and ensure that the actions of the hospital remain faithful with the sect’s beliefs.
The actions of the Catholic hospital in this case has prompted much speculation as to how invested they are in the teachings and beliefs of the Catholic Church. It would seem that they need to pick a side and stick to it if they are committed to taking a stance on the classification of an unborn child and if or when the pregnancy can be terminated. Without doing so, it not only shows weakness in the basis of their argument — although the Constitution overrules any of the moral arguments — but the lengths they are willing to go in order to save money.
The original post can be accessed at this link: http://www.consoleandhollawell.com/law-blog/in-the-land-of-abortions-and-hypocrisy