It was a sweltering July day in the city of Philadelphia in 1776. The delegates to the convention slowly make their way into what ultimately would be dubbed “Independence Hall” but on this day it was still commonly known as “Moe’s Place.” Representatives from the 13 American colonies were there to discuss whether or not to break away from Mother England and set up their own nation. A committee had been formed to draft a statement of principles that would publicly explain to King George and the rest of the world why the colonies felt it was necessary to declare its independence and, in effect, start a war.
The debate over the proposed resolution was intense and went on for days. Should we actually call the King a “tyrant?” How do we address the issue of slavery? Should we be quoting Thomas Paine or Voltaire? Should we refer to God?
Then, suddenly, after days of laborious discussion, a delegate raised his hand and is recognized: “Mr. President, why is there no language that protects fetuses from being aborted?”
There are puzzled looks on the faces of those in the room then Thomas Jefferson, the primary author of the document, calmly assures the delegate that his concern has been met and refers him to the section which says that all men shall be endowed with the right to “life” in this new nation so, he explains, since every baby has the possibility of coming out as a male, you cannot have any abortions!
Somehow I just don’t think that’s how it all played out.
Those who advocate making abortion a crime in this country love to cite the Declaration of Independence and, in particular, the line that says (cue the trumpets!): “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Or is it “inalienable?” I always get that part confused.
Anyway, so somewhere along the line the anti-abortion folks started to interpret that passage to mean that everyone has a “right to life.” See! See! The Founding Fathers, those wise old men, were saying that everyone, including those little fetuses, have the right to life! See! What did I tell ya? You gonna argue with the likes of Jefferson, Franklin, Berkowitz and Adams?
Okay, now let’s everybody calm down and think this through a little.
First of all, the fact is that those sage, all-knowing Founding Fathers never said a word about abortion during that long summer in Philadelphia. The word is never found in any of the historical accounts of the process. I mean, just think about about it. It wasn’t even an issue in those days and they had much bigger things on their mind, like creating a new country. Didn’t they have other things to do that were a little more important than abortion?
Second, remember that in those days, when they said “all men” are blah, blah, they really meant all MEN. We know that they weren’t talking about women – God forbid – and they weren’t talking about the slaves either. They were talking about all of those old white people who had the power. So, please do not tell me that, although they didn’t give a rat’s ass about women or slaves, they did care about protecting those little, defenseless fetuses.
This is one of those arguments that is really stretching it a bit, don’t you think?