By Harold Pease, Ph. D
In the third of three presidential debates Chris Wallace asked Hillary Clinton if there were any limits on abortion for her. “You have been quoted as saying that the fetus has no constitutional rights. You also voted against a ban on late-term, partial-birth abortions.” She made it clear that she supported Roe v. Wade “so long as the life and health of the mother are taken into account,” including late term abortion.
In response to the same question Donald Trump responded. “Well, I think it’s terrible. If you go with what Hillary is saying, in the ninth month, you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb of the mother just prior to the birth of the baby. Now… Hillary can say that that’s OK. But it’s not OK with me, because based on what she’s saying…you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb in the ninth month on the final day. And that’s not acceptable.”
Most media reaction was very critical of Trump saying, as did Hillary in the debate, that late term abortion “did not happen that way” and that the procedure was very rare. It was very dismissive but what was not emphasized is that Trump’s expressed position on abortion is the strongest of any presidential candidate since Ronald Reagan. So who is telling the truth?
First, in the assertion that “the fetus has no constitutional rights,” Hillary is wrong. Reagan correctly gave clarity to this question in his Proclamation of Personhood rendered January 14, 1988, when he wrote that the God-given right to life, identified in the Declaration of Independence as an inalienable right, extended to all humans whether born or not yet born. “That right to life belongs equally to babies in the womb, babies born handicapped, and the elderly or infirm,” he wrote. Moreover, the right to exist, once existing, is defended in the Constitution under the 5th and 14th Amendments that “no person shall be deprived of life without due process of law.” Article II, Section 1, Clause 8 requires that the President swear an oath “to preserve, protect, and defend” the Constitution and this includes protecting all persons irrespective of their age.
Reagan ended his proclamation with, “I will take care that the Constitution and laws of the United States are faithfully executed for the protection of America’s unborn children. Upon this act, sincerely believed to be an act of justice, warranted by the Constitution, I invoke the considerate judgment of mankind and the gracious favor of Almighty God.”
Second, Trump is both wrong and right with respect to his assertion that, “you can … rip the baby out of the womb in the ninth month on the final day.” Any review of abortion pictures on the Internet show tiny human body parts separated from the whole body, but these are depictions prior to 26 weeks of gestation when a scalpel was used to cut up the body making it easier to expel, probably not after that time.
The law of the land regarding partial-birth abortion is stated in 18 U.S. Code 1531 and reads. “The term ‘partial-birth abortion’ means an abortion in which the person performing the abortion—(A) deliberately and intentionally vaginally delivers a living fetus until, in the case of a head-first presentation, the entire fetal head is outside the body of the mother or, in the case of breech presentation any part of the fetal trunk past the navel is outside the body of the mother, for the purpose of performing an overt act that the person knows will kill the partially delivered living fetus; and (B) performs the overt act, other than completion of delivery, that kills the partially delivered living fetus.”
In practice, and depicted graphically on the Internet, a physician inserts forceps into the womb guided by ultrasound, grabs an infant leg pulling it into the birth canal and out. When all but the head is outside the mother’s body, scissors are used to make a hole in the back of the infant’s head large enough to insert a tube sucking out the brains and collapsing the skull killing what in a few seconds would be a living baby. The breach method is favored as the baby is killed in the womb rather than outside which feels too much like murder. Apparently, Trump’s graphic description of partial birth abortion is mostly correct, despite media objections.
On a personal note, as my parents were returning from a movie my mother slipped and fell on the ice in front of their home. After assisting mother into the home and onto a bed, dad left to find a doctor and I arrived two months early delivered by my grandmother. Although small I was clearly a human, not just tissue or an unfeeling fetus, at no time in my existence, from conception forward, was I not a human. How can I not defend other preemies my age? And if I had constitutional rights five seconds after my birth how could I not have them five seconds before?
The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are supposed to apply to all Americans including Americans almost born and Trump is more right than wrong on the evil of partial birth death. When we finally get Justices that use the Constitution as framed, as promised by Trump, the Constitution will protect even the babies. Then America’s darkest secret will be exposed and removed, and Planned Parenthood will not be secretly selling baby body parts for research.
Dr. Harold Pease is a syndicated columnist and an expert on the United States Constitution. He has dedicated his career to studying the writings of the Founding Fathers and applying that knowledge to current events. He has taught history and political science from this perspective for over 30 years at Taft College. To read more of his weekly articles, please visit www.LibertyUnderFire.org.