The US Supreme Court Needs to Affirm Explicitly Fetal Personhood

Michael D. Pfeifer
Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of San Angelo
September 2022
Reproduced with Permission

We are grateful to the Lord for the recent Supreme Court decision in Dobbs overturning Roe v Wade, stating there is no right to abortion in the constitution. This Court decision implicitly recognized that the unborn are persons. While the Supreme Court should be praised for overturning Roe v Wade, it did not go far enough. Now as a follow-up to this pro-life decision the Supreme Court must recognize explicitly fetal personhood. This decision will have the potential to produce a nationwide abortion ban if the Court affirms the unborn are true persons with guaranteed rights. Recognizing the personhood of unborn babies under the US Constitution's Fourteenth Amendment would ensure that no state shall "deprive any person of life, liberty, property without due process of the law".

This hopeful follow-up decision of the Supreme Court affirming fetal personhood would flow from the Court's 1973 Roe v Wade decision that was made on an important condition. We need to remember that the Court admitted in that decision, "If...personhood (for the unborn) is established the appellant case of course collapses for the fetus right to life is then guaranteed by the 14th Amendment". And of course, we know the appellants case has collapsed! "The right to life" affirms the fetal personhood. We are now experiencing a truly historic victory for human life. Affirming the fetal personhood is totally in accord with medical science which over and over in recent years recognizes that there is a new human being in the act of conception which has always been our biblical belief. Never once has the Supreme Court declared abortion as a constitutional right nor as a human right as some falsely claim. Hence as we move into the future after Roe v Wade, governments and courts at a national and state level must respect and protect the tiny unborn person made in God's very image and must never be deprived of life and liberty.

As we know from the experience of the last few months since the Supreme Court's decision, there are many negative forces at a presidential and congressional level that are actively proposing bills and policies to approve the terrible killing of the unborn through abortion. Now is the time for all pro-lifers, led by the bishops and leaders in government and civil positions to strongly and clearly preach and protect this fundamental life issue of the sacredness of the personhood beginning with the unborn. All pro-lifers need to join the efforts and actions of the Catholic pro-life advocates who are formally asking the US Supreme Court to recognize the personhood of the unborn babies under the US Constitution. The push to recognize fetal personhood has the potential to produce a nationwide abortion ban if the Supreme Court affirms that the unborn are persons with guaranteed rights. The petitioners request that the Court "recognize the personhood" of unborn babies under the US Constitution's Fourteenth Amendment would ensure that no state shall "deprive any person of life, liberty or property without due process of law".

As Catholics, flowing from our biblical belief, our constant teaching and clear scientific evidence follow the strong statements of both Pope St. John Paul II and Pope Francis who have clearly stated we must have a great love and support for each new child of God and their mothers and fathers. Both Popes have stated clearly that abortion is murder.

Now as we pray to the Holy Spirit and work to promote the Court's decision to declare the fetal personhood, we must urgently encourage all pro-lifers, beginning with the bishops to show more concern for all women who are struggling with a pregnancy issue. Pope Francis stresses the closeness, compassion, and tenderness we must have for all pregnant women and those considering an abortion decision and offer them spiritual, human, health, and financial means to assist them with their many needs and to encourage them to save their babies. And we must work with our elected officials to provide the proper aid to cover the cost of the birth and the early, and ongoing care and education of their children. God created the human person in the divine image and likeness as the pinnacle of all creation. Each of us including the unborn share in the image of God's glory. Human life as a gift from God is sacred and inviolable.