How Law Students and Attorneys Can Help the Pro-Life Movement

Article excerpt

I. THE PRIORITY OF THE TASK

At their annual meeting in November of 1989, the United States Catholic Bishops unanimously adopted a Resolution on Abortion, which stated in part: "At this particular time, abortion has become the fundamental human rights issue for all men and women of good will." (1) That statement remains true today and has been echoed in numerous subsequent statements from the bishops over the years. No act of violence claims more victims. (2) Moreover, no social policy more radically undermines our legal system, turning on its head the very purpose of law. In their 1998 document Living the Gospel of Life, the bishops made this striking statement: "When American political life becomes an experiment on people rather than for and by them, it will no longer be worth conducting. We are arguably moving closer to that day." (3)

Pope John Paul II spoke in similarly strong language about the implications of the failure of the state to protect the right to life in his encyclical The Gospel of Life, which is a seminal document for the pro-life movement:

   The appearance of the strictest respect for legality is maintained,
   at least when the laws permitting abortion and euthanasia are the
   result of a ballot in accordance with what are generally seen as
   the rules of democracy. Really, what we have here is only the
   tragic caricature of legality; the democratic ideal, which is only
   truly such when it acknowledges and safeguards the dignity of every
   human person, is betrayed in its very foundations.... When this
   happens, the process leading to the breakdown of a genuinely human
   coexistence and the disintegration of the state itself has already
   begun.

   ... This is the death of true freedom.... (4)

There can be no arena, therefore, in which the assistance of professionals--and in no small measure, legal professionals--is more urgently needed than in the pro-life movement. What is at stake is not merely a societal trend or an undesirable policy, but ultimately the survival of society.

II. THE SPECIAL CONTRIBUTION OF LEGAL PROFESSIONALS

The abortion issue, and therefore the pro-life movement, has many dimensions, and there are many professional organizations geared toward assisting people to use their professional skills to advance the culture of life. (5) Whether as a member of such organizations or not, and whether doing pro-life work full-time or part-time, legal professionals are needed to meet many critical strategic and practical needs of the pro-life movement at the present time. Meeting these needs corresponds to the call of Pope John Paul II to transform culture with the help of law. (6) This Article identifies eight of these areas: (1) assisting citizens to understand the nature of our government, and particularly the rote of the judiciary; (2) assisting pro-lifers to understand and utilize their First Amendment right to freedom of speech; (3) exposing abortionists and their staff to the consequences of malpractice and other illegal activity in abortion clinics; (4) assisting women who have been injured physically and emotionally from abortion; (5) gathering evidence from legal documents for pro-life activists to use; (6) assisting pastors and other Church leaders to understand and exercise their rights regarding political activity; (7) assisting pro-life organizations to create and strengthen their legal infrastructure; and (8) developing the "embryonic moment" in constitutional law.

A. Understanding Our Republic and Our Judiciary

Americans have never agreed with the current policy of abortion-on-demand, and most still do not understand what that policy is. Yet as people become informed about it and desire to change it, a basic understanding about how our Republic is structured and how the three branches of government interact is indispensable. Law students and attorneys exercise special influence here, because they can speak with a certain authority. …