Friday, April 25, 2014

Alabama Supreme Court Concurrence Relies On Natural Law Argument To Define Fetus as A "Child"

In a blog post yesterday, Americans United called attention to the concurring opinion of Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore in Ex parte Hicks, (AL Sup. Ct., April 18, 2014). In the case, in an 8-1 decision, the Court upheld the conviction of Sarah Janie Hicks for ingesting cocaine while pregnant, concluding that "the use of the word 'child' in the chemical-endangerment statute includes all children, born and unborn." Justice Parker's majority opinion focused mainly on legislative intent.  Chief Justice Moore's concurrence, however, made a broader natural law argument, rooted in language from the Declaration of Independence.  He wrote in part:
[A]s stated by James Wilson, one of the first Justices on the United States Supreme Court: "Human law must rest its authority ultimately upon the authority of that law which is divine." ***
 Under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, states have an obligation to provide to unborn children at any stage of their development the same legal protection from injury and death they provide to persons already born. Because a human life with a full genetic endowment comes into existence at the moment of conception, the self-evident truth that "all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights" encompasses the moment of conception. Legal recognition of the unborn as members of the human family derives ultimately from the laws of nature and of nature's God, Who created human life in His image and protected it with the commandment: "Thou shalt not kill." Therefore, the interpretation of the word "child" in Alabama's chemical-endangerment statute, § 26-15-3.2, Ala. Code 1975, to include all human beings from the moment of conception is fully consistent with these first principles regarding life and law.