In 2015, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, recited a common refrain of the pro-abortion activists: “We do not support rolling back the protection that the constitutional right to make your own reproductive choices established in Roe vs. Wade has given to women.”
It should be noted that the United States Constitution actually says nothing about abortion specifically. And while it is true that the Supreme Court ruled in favor of legalized abortion in 1973, the high court cannot write constitutional amendments, meaning women’s reproductive rights are still not mentioned in the Constitution. However, it would seem that the unborn babies would qualify as our posterity, and thus, deserve a chance for life and liberty.
While there is no specific language in the Constitution regarding abortion, the Founders did leave behind their beliefs on the topic. For that insight, we turn to author and historian David Barton.
After America separated from Great Britain and the Founding Fathers made their own brand-new and unique government, they still preserved and protected the legal position against abortion. This fact is made clear by founding father James Wilson. James Wilson was one of only six Founders who signed both the declaration and the Constitution. He was the second most active member at the Constitutional Convention, and he was placed as an original justice on the US Supreme Court by President George Washington.
Wilson began America’s first organized legal training, and he authored our first legal textbook for students in which he told law students, quote, with consistency, beautiful, and undeviating, human life, from its commencement to its close, is protected by the common law. In the contemplations of law, life begins when the infant is first able to stir in the womb by the law that life is protected, end quote.
American law was clear. As soon as it was known that there was life in the womb, at that point, that life was protected by law for the purpose of government was to protect all unalienable rights, including that of life. In the Founders’ day, they recognized that there was a right to life in the womb, so soon as James Wilson said, quote, the infant is first able to stir. That is, when movement can be felt inside and, thus, they knew for sure that there was indeed life within. But with today’s technology, it is now possible to know with a certainty that life is within the womb for only a few days after conception.
Regardless, whenever it is known that life was within, according to the documents penned by our Founding Fathers, at that point, unborn life was to be protected under the law.
In the late 1700s, America’s attitude on life stood out compared to the rest of the world. Because our Founders believed the things that they did about God and nature, there was a difference between the law here and elsewhere around the world. Across much of secular Europe, it was wrongly believed that parents — not God — gave life to their children. So under the law of those countries, parents had the right to take their child’s life. After all, they believed they had given it. But Americans knew that the life of a child came not from parents, but from God. Parents, therefore, had no right to deprive an unborn child of its life.
A signer of the declaration, John Witherspoon acknowledged, “Some nations have given parents the power of life and death over their children. But here in America, we have denied the power of life and death to parents.”
It may well be that America’s Founding Fathers didn’t specifically address the abortion issue because they couldn’t conceive of a people that would destroy the lives of 55 million unborn babies in a 43-year period of time.