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A ‘must-read’ doctoral dissertation

Mon, July 16, 2007   |   Author: Ron Gray   |   | Share: Facebook | Twitter   

This week, I've set myself what looks like a doubly impossible task: to digest a 200-page legal treatise into a single page-that'll be hard!-and to explain why I found it to be utterly compelling-that'll be much easier, but still a strain on the space available.

Let me start by introducing the author: Dr. Charles Lugosi, a Canadian who has been teaching law at two American universities. The document he has written, Conforming to the Rule of Law, is rooted in American constitutional jurisprudence-but it has great relevance for Canada. Subtitled When 'Person' and 'Human Being' Mean the Same Thing in 14th Amendment Jurisprudence, it was deemed so important by the scholarly journal Issues in Law & Medicine that they combined two quarterly issues to publish it.

In a nutshell, Dr. Lugosi says the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution bears a similar purpose to Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms: to protect people from discrimination and harm. Its provisions have been extended to include the artificial "persons" known as corporations-but its protections are withheld from pre- born children.

Drawing on history and on legal precedent, Dr. Lugosi shows that the U.S. Supreme Court could apply the 14th Amendment to pre-born children… if it chose to. The decision not to do so, he ably demonstrates, is a political-not legal-choice.

Many similar cases dot past legal history; here are just two:

  • In 1857, in the Dred Scott case, Chief Justice Taney of the U.S. Supreme Court-himself a slaveholder-ruled that Black people were not "persons" under the American Constitution: because they were "inferior", he ruled, slavery was actually for their own benefit.
  • In 1927, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that women were not "persons" under the law. A group of Alberta women-the "Famous Five" whose statues now grace Parliament Hill-successfully appealed that absurd decision.

Dr. Lugosi's thesis (alas, I really cannot do it justice in this small space) is that if our society desires to be considered just, pre-born children—living human beings according to biology, science, logic and natural law—must be treated as full "persons". The right to life is foundational to all other rights; and makes a superior claim to any other rights demanded by others.

To allow the life and body of such a person to be used or disposed of for the benefit or convenience of any other person, says Dr. Lugosi, is no different than the odious institution of slavery-which, thanks to a Christian politician named William Wilberforce, was abolished throughout the British Empire in 1833. What few people know is that slavery was abolished in Upper Canada by Lord Simcoe-also a Christian-in 1793.

If enough of us care enough, Canada can once again lead the world in protecting rights, by granting to our most helpless citizens-pre-born children-the right to life. At the moment, only one federal political party—the CHP—advocates this important policy. All the parties now in Parliament official consider it OK to kill 110,000 babies a year for the "crime" of being conceived at an inconvenient time.

Surely we can do better!

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