The Constitution no more gives judges the right
to decide for the executive, than to the executive to decide for them.
If Congress is permitted to enact such a [Human
Life Statute] law that redefines the Constitution, a judgment which
the U.S. Supreme Court felt it could not make, the entire structure of
the American system of government could easily be destroyed at the
whim of the present or future Congresses.
Federation of America Annual Report, 1980.
A Human Life Amendment is the most Draconian,
anti-woman measure that the anti-choice fanatics could possibly dream
up. It would relegate women to the status of mere breeders and give
the fetus more rights that [sic] people who are already born.
It would allow the government to prosecute women
for murder for using an intra-uterine device, and would mandate
investigations of miscarriages.
Such an amendment must be thwarted if women in
this country ever hope to attain equality. The dangers posed to the
Constitution of the United States by a Constitutional Convention are
just too great to risk.[no reference, sic]
Those who would treat politics and morality apart
will never understand the one or the other.
John, Viscount Morley.
The successful enactment of an effective
Human Life Amendment would be the second to last battle in the long war
to save the unborn (the last being a conversion of the hearts and minds
of the citizens of the United States).
There are several different classes of Human Life
Amendments that have been proposed by pro-life legislators of the past
and present. This chapter examines these different HLAs, but first
reviews the history of Congressional correction of other serious Supreme
History of Congressional Corrections.
The passage of a Constitutional Amendment to repair
a Supreme Court error is certainly nothing new. The following Amendments
were proposed and enacted as a result of Supreme Court decisions;
• The Eleventh Amendment prohibited Federal
involvement in interstate lawsuits brought by private individuals, in
response to the Supreme Court's accepting jurisdiction in such a case
(Chisolm v. Georgia, 2 U.S. 419 (1793)).
• The Fourteenth Amendment was a direct result
of the Supreme Court's infamous Dred Scott v. Sanford decision
(60 U.S. 393 (1857)) that found Blacks to be "nonpersons"
under the Constitution.
• The Sixteenth Amendment was enacted in
response to a Supreme Court decision (Pollock v. Farmer's Loan and
Trust Company, 157 U.S. 429 (1895) and 158 U.S. 601 (1895)) that
found an unapportioned state tax to be unconstitutional.
• The Twenty-Sixth Amendment gave 18-year-olds
the right to vote after a Supreme Court ruling (Oregon v. Mitchell,
400 U.S. 112 (1970)) that Congress lacked authority to impose such an
obligation upon the States.
Objectives of the Human Life Amendments.
State efforts to ferret out prohibited abortions
as defined by the Government would require not only searches of
bedrooms for telltale 'morning-after' pills, but also searches of
women's bodies for intrauterine devices.
Law professor Laurence Tribe.
In order to be totally effective in protecting the
unborn, a proposed Human Life Amendment must fulfill all of the
following 11 specific objectives.
While some of these objectives may seem repetitive
and redundant, each addresses a specific and unique point of law. The
fulfillment of all of these 11 objectives is mandatory for complete and
unassailable protection of our preborn citizens.
NECESSARY ELEMENTS OF AN EFFECTIVE HUMAN LIFE
An effective Human Life Amendment must;
(1) Restore the personhood of the unborn which
was revoked by the Supreme Court in its Roe v. Wade and Doe
v. Bolton decisions;
(2) Provide the fundamental and paramount right
to life to all persons;
(3) Insure the protection of the Constitutional
status of persons to all individuals, regardless of age, function, or
condition of dependency;
(4) Assure protection for the preborn from
aggression at all stages of development from fertilization;
(5) Guarantee protection of the lives of the
unborn from all governments, organizations, and individuals;
(6) Establish that the paramount right to life is
the most fundamental Constitutional right, and superior to all other
(7) Provide private recourse of action to protect
the unborn where local, state or federal statutes do not apply or are
(8) Allow for the "double effect" in
cases of life-threatening pregnancies (i.e., surgeries that unintentionally
kill the unborn child in the process of saving the mother's life) (the
"double effect" is described in detail in Chapter 43,
"Catholic Church Position on Abortion")'
(9) Guarantee the preservation of all human life,
regardless of health or dependency status (thus crippling
pro-euthanasia objectives, as well);
(10) Insure that every effort is expended to save
the lives of both the mother and unborn child in life-threatening
(11) Provide the Federal and state governments
power to enforce the HLA's articles of provision.
Types of Human Life Amendment.
Since 1973, various legislators have proposed more
than a score of Human Life Amendments for consideration by Congress.
These proposed Amendments fulfill one or more of the 11 specific
objectives of the pro-life movement listed above, and are therefore
considered to be of varying effectiveness in terms of actual real-world
The six general types of Human Life Amendment are
listed below, from most desirable to least desirable in terms of
(1) Life Protective Type
(2) Paramount Type
(3) Prohibition Type
(4) Personhood Restoration Type
(5) Reversal Type
(6) Legislative Authorization Type
The following paragraphs briefly describe these
types of Human Life Amendment.
Life Protective Type.
Various Life-Protective HLAs have been introduced
for vote, including the Burke Amendment (House Joint Resolution (HJR)
121), the National Right to Life Committee Amendment (HJR 114, 98th
Congress), and the Garn Amendment (SJR 4, 98th Congress), as shown
With respect to the right to life, the word
'person,' as used in this Article and in the Fifth and Fourteenth
articles of amendment to the Constitution of the United States,
applies to all human beings, irrespective of age, health, function, or
condition of dependency, including their unborn offspring at every
stage of their biological development.
No unborn person shall be deprived of life by any
person: Provided, however, that nothing in this article shall prohibit
a law permitting only those medical procedures required to prevent the
death of the mother.
The Life Protective HLAs, modeled after the
Thirteenth Amendment, provide direct and unassailable protection to the
These HLAs would disable pro-abortion attempts to
define conception at implantation, which would allow the use of
abortifacient pills and possibly some IUDs. This Amendment is also so
solidly worded that the Supreme Court would have no basis by which to
graft onto it various exceptions for abortion.
Senator Jesse Helms introduced a Paramount HLA in
the 98th Congress as SJR 8, worded as follows; "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."
The critical word "paramount" logically
insures that the right to life is held superior to all other
Constitutional rights, and prevents the Supreme Court and other Courts
from eroding this right in preference to others, as they have often done
in the past by compromising the right to life in favor of the
"right to privacy."
This Amendment, however, would not extend the
protection of personhood to the unborn, and therefore they could not
take advantage of the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth
Amendment. This means that private abortion clinics could continue to
operate. Also, the term "moment of fertilization" is
sufficiently vague to permit the use of abortifacient morning-after
pills, which, if allowed for very early abortions, would of course be
unscrupulously used for much later abortions.
The Paramount HLA is not designed to prevent the
individual States from enacting legislation which permits surgical
procedures directed at saving the mother's life.
This type of HLA directly forbids abortion, unlike
some of the HLAs described later in this chapter (including the Helms,
Hogan, and Buckley Amendments).
The best example of a Prohibition-type HLA is HJR
Res. 394, authored by Charles Rice of the Notre Dame Law School and
introduced by Congressman Roncallo; "Abortion is hereby prohibited
within the United States and all territory subject to the jurisdiction
thereof. As used in this article, abortion means the intentional
destruction of unborn human life, which life begins at the moment of
This Amendment would directly prohibit
abortion in the same manner that the Thirteenth Amendment directly
prohibited the ownership of slaves. It would prohibit all abortions,
including those required to save the life of the mother, but would
employ the doctrine of the "double effect:" that is, any
lifesaving surgery performed on a pregnant woman that resulted in the unintentional
death of her unborn baby would not be treated as or classified as an
abortion. The "double effect" is described in detail in
Chapter 43, "Catholic Church Position on Abortion."
(4) HLA: Personhood Restoration Type.
This type of Human Life Amendment would not only
invalidate Roe v. Wade, it would establish once and for all the
preborn as a class of people deserving of legal protection.
Proposals for a personhood restoration HLA include
the Hogan Amendment (HJR 261, January 30, 1973), the Buckley Amendment (SJR
119, May 31, 1973), and the Helms Amendment (SJR 6), which reads;
"With respect to the right to life guaranteed in this Constitution,
every human being, subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, or
of any State, shall be deemed, from the moment of fertilization, to be a
person and entitled to the right to life."
Under any of these Amendments, the Federal
government and the States would be prohibited from taking the lives of
the preborn without "due process of law." Moreover, under the
equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, the States would
also be compelled to provide effective protection for the unborn, i.e.,
aggressive prosecution of illegal abortionists. However, the States
might be allowed to recognize "degrees of evil," thus allowing
light or even no penalties for illegal abortionists. Depending upon the
moods and biases of prosecutors and police, abortions could be treated
as felonies, misdemeanors, or even as violations.
As background, in 1965, 49 of the 50 States and
Puerto Rico classified abortion as a felony. New Jersey, the exception,
classified it as a serious misdemeanor.
Under the Personhood Restoration HLA, the States
would have to provide that degree of punishment for illegal abortions
that results in "effective" protection of the unborn. This
vague term would, of course, allow pro-abortion local and state
jurisdictions to effectively allow abortionists to go unpunished, if
they so desired.
An example of the reversal type HLA is the Hatch-Eagleton
Amendment (SJR 3), which reads simply; "A right to abortion is not
secured by this Constitution."
These Amendments are intended primarily to reverse Roe
v. Wade and its progeny and return control of abortion to the
States. However, this type of HLA would not establish any new
Constitutional rights, and if the personhood of the unborn is to be
guaranteed in this country, a second Amendment would be required.
This Amendment would insure that no future Supreme
Court could suddenly "discern" a right to abortion in any
other portion or amendment of the Constitution. Such has been suggested
by some pro-abort lawyers. As ludicrous as some of these findings have
been, we should not assume that they are beyond the reach of a future
For example, Rhonda Copeland of the Center for
Constitutional Rights asserts that childbearing (and abortion) are ways
that women "speak" with their bodies, and are therefore
protected by the First Amendment (if such were true, any action at all,
including rape, bombing abortion mills and self-mutilation, would be
protected as "speech"). Copeland also stated that the right to
abortion could be found in the Thirteenth Amendment, which prohibits
Interestingly (and tantalizingly), an abortionist
could be prosecuted under the Federal Racketeering Influenced Corrupt
Organizations (RICO) statutes under a reversal Amendment, much as
pro-lifers are now being prosecuted.
Legislative Authorization Type.
These HLAs merely return the power to legislate
abortion to the States. As such, they would overturn previous Supreme
Court decisions that wrested such power from the States, but would not
establish the right to unborn life as a national policy. As a result,
state laws could become even more permissive than have ever been allowed
even under the Supreme Court rulings, a very real danger in some states.
Additionally, like all of the other types of HLAs, this type of
Amendment does not touch Griswold v. Connecticut.
One example of such a legislative authorization HLA
is the Whitehurst Amendment, HJR 261, 94th Congress; "Nothing in
this Constitution shall bar any State or territory or the District of
Columbia, with regard to any area over which it has jurisdiction, from
allowing, regulating, or prohibiting the practice of abortion."
Other legislative authorization HLAs that have been
introduced include the Noonan Amendment (HJR 681), the Federal Rights
Amendment, and the Hatch Federalism Amendment (SJR 3, 98th Congress).
The Constitutional Convention.
One method for passing a Constitutional Amendment
into law is by having 38 states call for a Constitutional Convention, or
Con-Con. At such a convention, any aspect of the Constitution could be
addressed and amended, but the topics for discussion must be determined
As of 1992, 19 states had enacted Con-Con
resolutions. These are Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Idaho, Indiana,
Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska,
Nevada, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota,
Tennessee, and Utah.
Those who fear a Human Life Amendment indirectly
target it by attacking the institution of the Constitutional Convention.
The American Civil Liberties Union (which obviously knows better) leads
the way in manufacturing scare-monger statements whose purpose is to
frighten and confuse the public; "The [Constitutional] convention
issue is a matter of concern to everyone. It poses a serious threat not
only to the right to choose abortion but to all other civil liberties.
No one knows whether a convention could be limited to one purpose,
because there are not procedures or precedents. Once a convention is
called, it could decide to do away with any or all of the individual
rights now guaranteed by the Constitution. For this reason, the ACLU
opposes all constitutional convention resolutions."
When the possibility of a Human Life Amendment
became a little less remote, fringe groups like the National Abortion
Rights Action League and Americans United for Separation of Church and
State suddenly became very concerned about "protecting the
Constitution." The so-called "NARAL Project for the
Constitution" asks in a flyer "No matter how worthy the cause
... is it worth posing a threat to the nation's stability or risking the
loss of our Constitutional guarantees in the Bill of Rights?"
The same Neoliberals who oppose the Human Life
Amendment naturally oppose the Balanced Budget Amendment, and use the
same arguments today against the BBA that they did against the HLA in
the late 1970s, when it appeared that a Con-Con would be convened for
the latter. The primary tactic used by these groups is to falsely state
that a Con-Con would "Repeal the Constitution."
Absurdly, Charles Black of Yale University said
that the Con-Con could only be held to amend all aspects
of the Constitution. Writers for Ms. Magazine and other Leftist
propaganda organs claim with straight faces that "They plan to take
the Bill of Rights away from you." They trot out the tired old
'victim' group cliche and illogically state that women and minorities
are special targets of a Con-Con.
In reality, the Neoliberals did not need a
Constitutional Convention, because they could rely on an activist
Supreme Court to enact their agenda for a quarter of a century. The
Supreme Court essentially handed down Amendments such as the No-Prayer
Amendment of June 25, 1962, when the Supreme Court amended the
Constitution to read "No prayer shall be offered in a public
the Uniform Method of Electing State Legislatures
Amendment of June 15, 1964; and, of course, the Abortion Amendment of
January 22, 1973.
References: Human Life Amendments.
 Law professor Laurence Tribe, quoted by Douglas
Johnson. "81 Congressmen File Brief Urging Court to Retain Roe."
National Right to Life News, September 26, 1985, pages 7 and 12.
 "Women's Guide to Reproductive
Rights." American Civil Liberties Union's Reproductive Freedom
Project, 1981, page 27.
 Undated pamphlet entitled "Choice,"
issued by the Colorado affiliate of the National Abortion Rights Action
 John T. Noonan, Jr. "Calling for a
Constitutional Convention." National Review, July 26, 1985,
pages 25 to 28.
Further Reading: Human Life Amendments.
James Bopp, Jr. (editor). Restoring the Right
to Life: The Human Life Amendment.
1984: Brigham Young University Press, Provo, Utah. 239 pages. Order
through your local Right to Life chapter. The most complete available
discussion of all of the various types of HLA.
Sue Robinson. The Amendment.
New York: Birch Lane Press, 1990. This book is valuable only because
it is hysterical pro-abortion fright-propaganda at its very lowliest.
The story is set in the year 1998, after a Human Life Amendment has
passed, First Lady Mary Holt Morgan leads an "anti-choice"
group called Rights for the Unborn League, which operates heavily-armed
weapons teams that roam the cities destroying illegal clinics and
killing abortionists, their staffs, and women who have had abortions en
masse. But wait it gets worse! After setting the stage with a couple of
particularly brutal murders, the 'author' uses the rest of the book with
weepy anecdotes and inept, watered-down 'logic' to support anti-life
slogans. They're all here, folks; pro-lifers are rich, woman-hating,
Bible-thumping creeps, and pro-aborts are peaceful little lambs. Women
who have had abortions have to fearfully conceal the fact, for fear of
being executed (never mind that many leaders of the current pro-life
movement are women who openly acknowledge their exploitation by
abortion). And it just goes on and on. Read this book on an empty
© American Life League BBS — 1-703-659-7111
This is a chapter of the Pro-Life Activist's Encyclopedia published
by American Life League.