The Paramount Human Life Amendment

Author: Brian Young

The Paramount Human Life Amendment

Questions and Answers About the Legislative Goal of the Pro-Life Movement by Brian Young, A.L.L. Senior Vice President, Policy, Research and Development **************************************************************************

Q. What is the Paramount Human Life Amendment (PHLA)?

A. It is a proposed amendment to the United States Constitution that states, "The paramount right to life is vested in each human being from the moment of fertilization without regard to age, health or condition of dependency."

Q. What does this mean?

A. Basically, it means that every human being possesses the right to life, regardless of whether he or she is an embryo, fetus, infant, adolescent, adult or senior citizen, whether he or she is in good or bad health, and whether he or she needs mechanical or other assistance to survive.

Q. What does the "right to life" mean?

A. The "right to life" means simply the right to remain alive. It is the most important right because without it there can be no others.

Q. What does "vested" mean?

A. It literally means "fixed" or "established." In the context of the PHLA, it means that each person's right to life is established at the time each person comes into existence and remains with him or her until death.

Q. From where does the "right to life" come?

A. The Declaration of Independence answers this very clearly, stating that it is a "self-evident" truth that all people "are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." The right to life, then, comes from our Creator, God.

Q. Don't our rights come from government?

A. Some rights do come from government-for instance, Americans would not have the right to a jury trial in criminal cases if people, through the government, had not created it. The right to life, however, is not one of these rights. Each person has a right to live that is independent of any government.

Q. If each person already has a right to life, why is the PHLA necessary?

A. It is necessary because the U.S. government does not recognize each human being's right to life. The PHLA would not "create" a right; it would cause the government to acknowledge and protect an existing right.

Q. How would the PHLA affect legal abortion?

A. If adopted, it would permit states to enact and enforce laws to prohibit abortion. It would also permit Congress to adopt laws that protect the preborn.

Q. Would it affect existing pro-abortion laws?

A. Yes. Current state and federal laws and regulations that legalize, regulate, or fund abortion could be successfully challenged in court. Pro-abortion laws would become unenforceable.

Q. Why is the PHLA necessary to protect babies?

A. As noted, the U.S. government does not acknowledge everyone's right to life. The Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade (1973) and Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992) decisions say that abortion, not the preborn baby, is protected by the U.S. Constitution. Thus, any state or federal law that prohibits abortion is, according to the Supreme Court, unconstitutional at this time.

Q. How would the PHLA require judges to protect babies?

A. The PHLA specifically states that all human beings, from the time of fertilization, have a right to life. With its adoption, judges could no longer claim that the preborn were not included in the Constitution. (The Fourteenth Amendment defines "citizens" as "persons born or naturalized in the United States" and forbids states to "deprive any person"-citizen or not-"of life . . . without due process" but doesn't define "person.") Rather than leave justices and judges to argue over whether a preborn baby is a "person" the PHLA would spell out that the baby has the same right to live as any other human being; like any other human being, the preborn baby would be entitled to equal protection under law and could not be deprived of life without due process of law.

Q. But isn't there an easier way to protect babies than to pass a Constitutional amendment?

A. No other way would provide the security of an amendment. State laws cannot protect babies because of Roe v. Wade. Federal laws protecting babies could be declared unconstitutional or, if upheld, could simply be overturned by a majority vote of a later Congress.

Q. An amendment is more permanent, then?

A. Yes. While no law or Constitutional amendment can be "written in stone," so to speak, amending the federal Constitution is as close to permanent legal protection for the preborn as anyone can obtain.

Q. What would be the procedure for adding the PHLA (or any amendment) to the Constitution?

A. Article V of the Constitution provides for two ways to amend it: by Congressional action or by states asking for a Constitutional Convention. Any amendment passed by Congress or by a Constitutional Convention would have to be ratified by three-fourths of the states.

Q. What would be the process for having Congress originate a Constitutional amendment?

A. An amendment would have to be introduced in and approved by both the House of Representatives and the Senate. To be approved, it would have to receive the vote of at least two-thirds of each house of Congress.

Q. The proposed amendment would then be sent to the states?

A. Yes. Three-fourths (38) of the states would have to ratify the amendment. Ratification would be accomplished by a vote in either the state legislatures or specially called state conventions, depending on which method Congress specified. If three-fourths of the states approved the amendment, it would become part of the Constitution.

Q. Would state legislatures have to approve the amendment by a two-thirds vote as Congress did?

A. The votes necessary to ratify a proposed amendment vary from state to state. Some states require only a majority vote in each house of their legislatures.

Q. How would the Constitutional Convention approach work?

A. Two-thirds (34) of the state legislatures would have to pass resolutions calling on Congress to convene a Constitutional Convention. The Convention would then draft and approve an amendment, which, in turn, would have to be ratified by three-fourths of the states. ************************************************************************** Also available from A.L.L. is a more in-depth analysis of the PHLA, The Human Life Amendment by Prof. Charles E. Rice ($2.00). **************************************************************************