(CNSNews.com) – In a case about a pregnant woman who used cocaine and endangered her unborn child, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed (8-1) that the word “child” includes “an unborn child,” and that the law therefore “furthers the State’s interest in protecting the life of children from the earliest stages of their development.”
In his concurring opinion, Alabama Chief Justice Roy S. Moore wrote that “an unborn child has an inalienable right to life from its earliest stages of development,” and added, “I write separately to emphasize that the inalienable right to life is a gift of God that civil government must secure for all persons – born and unborn.”
The court decision on April 18 was in reference to Sarah Janie Hicks v. State of Alabama. Hicks had been charged in 2009 with violating Alabama’s chemical-endangerment statute, which in part says that a “person commits the crime of chemical endangerment” by “knowingly, recklessly, or intentionally causes or permits a child to be exposed to, to ingest or inhale, or to have contact with a controlled substance, chemical substance, or drug paraphernalia,” a felony.
In Hicks’ case, she was charged with using cocaine while pregnant. Her child, “J.D.,” tested positive for cocaine “at the time of his birth,” reads the court document. (See Hicks v. Alabama.pdf)
In January 2010, Hicks pleaded guilty to the crime but also “reserved the right to appeal the issues” she and her attorneys had presented earlier in trying to get the charges dismissed. Hicks got a three year suspended prison sentence and was placed on probation.
Hicks appealed to the Court of Criminal Appeals in Alabama, arguing that because the chemical-endangerment statute did not specifically use the words “unborn children” or “fetuses,” the law was ambiguous and could not have applied to her unborn child.
The Appeals Court ruled against Hicks, stating that “the plain language of 26-15-3.2 [chemical-endangerment statute] was clear and unambiguous and that the plain meaning of the term ‘child’ in [the statute] included an unborn child or viable fetus.’”
Hicks then petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court in 2012 to review the Appeals Court decision. Last Friday’s ruling affirmed the judgment of the Court of Criminal Appeals.
In their conclusion, eight of the nine Alabama Supreme Court justices said: “Consistent with this Court’s opinion in Ankrom [a similar chemical-endangerment case], by its plain meaning, the word ‘child’ in the chemical-endangerment statute includes an unborn child, and, therefore, the statute furthers the State’s interest in protecting the life of children from the earliest stages of their development.”
The law to protect the life of unborn children “is consistent with many statutes and decisions throughout our nation that recognize unborn children as persons with legally enforceable rights in many areas of the law,” said the justices.
In his own concurring opinion, Chief Justice Moore argued that natural rights come from God, not from the government. He cited the Declaration of Independence that there is a “self-evident” truth that “all Men are created equal, [and] that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights,” particularly “life.” (See Hicks v. Alabama.pdf)
The Declaration of Independence “acknowledges as ‘self-evident’ the truth that all human beings are endowed with inherent dignity and the right to life as a direct result of having been created by God,” said Chief Justice Moore.
He also cited Sir William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England, which says, “This law of nature, being co-eval [beginning at the same time] with mankind and dictated by God himself, is of course superior in obligation to any other. It is binding over all the globe, in all countries, and at all times: no human laws are of any validity, if contrary to this ….”
Chief Justice Moore went on to explain how at the Nuremburg Trials at the end of World War II, Nazi criminals could not argue that they were only following orders or just following the laws of the German government because there is a higher law, the “very law of nature.”
“Although the Nuremberg defendants were following orders and the laws of their own officials and country, they were guilty of violating a higher law to which all nations are equally subject: the laws of nature and of nature’s God,” wrote Justice Moore.
That law binds all nations, including the State of Alabama, said Justice Moore. “In 2006, the AlabamaLegislature amended the homicide statute to define ‘person’ to include ‘an unborn child in utero at any stage of development, regardless of viability,” he wrote, “thus recognizing under the statute that, when an ‘unborn child’ is killed, a ‘person’ is killed.”
In conclusion, he wrote, “The Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment provides that a state may not ‘deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.’ … Unborn children are a class of persons entitled to equal protection of the laws.”
“[S]tates 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,” wrote Justice Moore. “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.” (See Hicks v. Alabama.pdf)
“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,’” wrote Chief Justice Moore. “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.”