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Mr. VanDerhoef is now in private law practice with Geraghty, Geraghty, VanDerhoef & Sawyer in Seattle, Wash.
Mr. Van Derhoef's professional affiliation are the American Bar Association, Washington State Bar Association, American Trial Lawyers Association, Washington State Trial Lawyers Association, Seattle-King County Bar Association, judge pro tempore, Seattle Municipal Court, vice president and member of the Board of Trustees, Providence Medical Center, Seattle, past president of the University of Gonzaga Law School National Alumni Association, member of the Board of Directors of the University of Gonzaga National Alumni Association, president of Human Life Association, Washington State.
Mr. VanDerhoef served with the first Board of Directors of the National Right to Life Committee, which was first convened in 1969. And so it is my privilege, Mr. Chairman, to introduce to you Kenneth VanDerhoef, president, National Right to Life Committee.
Senator Bays. Well, thank you very much.
I would like to thank you for the opportunity to appear before you on behalf of the National Right to Life Committee, hopefully to assist this committee in the resolution of a national concern that demands the most sensitive type of legislation. This legislation must protect and guarantee the most basic right of our heritage, that is, the right to life.
By way of introduction, I also would like to outline what the National Right to Life Committee is. The National Right to Life Committee is an affiliation of State right to life organizations throughout the United States. Each of the 50 States has a member on our board of directors, and the 50-member board are the actual managers of the corporation. While every State of the Union is represented, they vary rather substantially from State to State, both in their organization and membership. In such States as California, we have over 120 right to life groups, all of them affiliated, however, under a State affiliation and coalition represented by one member on our board of directors. Various States, as I mentioned, vary in both their membership and the structures that they have.
Over the past several years, the National Right to Life Committee has been able to draw upon these individual State organizations for assistance and guidance, such organizations as the Human Life Organization on the State of Washington, which is the first group to be involved in a State referendum vote in 1970 on the question of abortion. The background and expertise gained in that election was called upon as a resource by the States of Michigan and North Dakota that were likewise faced with an abortion referendum in 1972.
Additionally, we have as one of our most active organizations the New York State right to life organization, which successfully repeal the law in the State of New York, but because of the veto of Governor Rockefeller over the legislature and the people of the State of New York, their actions were nullified.
We are basically a volunteer, nondenominational, nonsectarian organization. The actual membership and numbers reflected we feel represent the majority of the people of this country. The effect of over 60 percent of the people of the State of Michigan rejecting an abortion statute proposed to them on their referendum ballot, the statute being far narrower than the Supreme Court decision of 1972, would indicate that such States as Michigan have collectively a conscience which rejects the basic principle that we can in fact take life, including the life of the unborn. This is likewise reflected by some 70 percent of the people of the State of North Dakota, and certainly the substantial majority of the legislators representing the people of New York.
The National Right to Life Committee has outlined three basic purposes. One is to promote respect for the worth and dignity of all human life, including the life of the unborn from the moment of conception; second, to promote, encourage, and sponsor such amendatory and statutory measures which will provide protection for human life before and after birth, particularly for the defenseless, the incompetent, the impaired and the incapacitated; and third, we intend to engage in such activities as will assist in the accomplishment of those purposes outlined above.
To place your deliberations on the human life amendment in context, some historical evidence should be reviewed. The majority of the people of this country have rejected the abortion mentality as a solution to any problems that are facing this Nation. The National Right to Life Committee is a coalition of these people whose one basic effort is to demonstrate to this legislative body and to other people of this country that the destruction of any life is not an acceptable alternative in our constant quest to solve the human problems of this Nation. It is the position of the National Right to Life Committee to coordinate on a national level a movement that will properly reflect the genuine and since concern of the people of this Nation. Our organization likewise will not accept the ultimate rejection of this basic value judgment to protect alî human life and will work unceasingly until all such life is adequately protected. In 1970, over 470.000 people out of some 1 million casting their votes in the State of Washington, rejected the right of a mother to take the life of her unborn child. In November of 1972, the State of Michigan by over 60 percent rejected the same mentality while the State of North Dakota rejected it by over 70 percent.
In November of 1972, the State of New York through its legislative process struck down the New York abortion law only to be overpowered by the veto of the then Governor of the State of New York, Nelson Rockefeller. In 1971, some 30-State legislatures considered lifting the abortion restrictions in their States, and the concept was rejected by each and every State.
In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, struck down the will of the people of the States of Michigan, North Dakota, and New York, and in fact, the people of this country, and imposed upon all of us a legislative standard grounded on specific, philosophical tenets. The Court's first holding stated that it would not speculate as to when life begins, and it proceeded to legislate in this area regardless of whether life was present or not. Additionally, it indicated that the unborn child has no constitutional rights to the law's protection at any stage of its gestation. It stripped the protection of both the 5th and 14th amendments' “personhood” from the unborn. It eliminated not only its right to life but also the equal protection afforded it under the laws. While this subcommittee will shortly be scheduling hearings to consider the legal aspects of the right to life amendment, we are faced at the present time with the stark reality that the U.Ś. Supreme Court in a 7 to 2 decision has removed a class of human beings from the protection of the U.S. Constitution. It has indicated that the potentiality of human life existing in the unborn is not afforded the protection of the personhood by the U.S. Constitution.
It is not correct to say that the U.S. Supreme Court merely limited when abortions could be obtained. Under its definition of health as defined in the Doe v. Bolton case, it included "all factors, physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the women's age, relevant to the well-being of the patient.” The actual effect, then, of the U.S. Supreme Court decision has been to ban any legislation that would in any way protect the unborn from abortion.
This decision was reached with an utter disregard for the medical facts that are known to us today. Most of these facts have been outlined to your committee and to your personally in the medical testimony heard by this committee and presented by internationally renowned physicians and scientists. Since the time of those hearings, the reported studies of Dr. Motoyuki Hayashi of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Toho University School of Medicine in Tokyo, Japan, showing the actual fertilization within the human female and the releases of Dr. Douglas C. A. Bevis of the University of Leeds in England wherein he described the embryo transplants after successful fertilization and incubation in test tubes, have made it even more incumbent upon this committee and the Congress of the United States to analyze carefully the statements of the U.S. Supreme Court as to whether or not we do in fact know when life begins and in addition as to whether or not we have the means of protecting all life, even the earliest stages of the unborn. While these latest developments are new to the scientific field, science has always acknowledged the above facts. We need only to review the editorial that is quoted so often out of "A New Ethic for Medicine's Society” out of the California Medical Journal wherein they stated, “The very considerable semantic gymnastics which are required to rationalize abortion as anything but taking a human life”, pointing out, I think, clearly, that the only way that you can do it is again to resort to semantic and gymnastics.
Our Nation has gone through a very soul-searching and conscious wrenching episode wherein the people of this country and the legislature as well has been involved in a review and a judgment of personal conduct which to many appeared to be devoid of moral and ethical judgments. The American people as well as their elected representatives felt the overwhelming force of social judgment and a value system which had not been met by certain elective and appointed officials. Both the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives were rapidly drawing to the point where they would answer not only to their own conscience, but also to the conscience of the public on a grave moral issue.
We respectfully submit to this committee and to the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives that the right to life issue is of such magnitude and deep personal and moral concern to the citizens of this country that their reaction would be far stronger than to the crisis the Nation has just passed through.
The question facing this Nation in addressing the abortion question involves a true balancing between two innocent lives. The mother, because she is pregnant, has not forfeited her right to life. The child conceived has done nothing to dictate that its life should be taken. Both deserve the utmost in competent medical care. There may be cases where the material care to prevent the death of the mother is more sophisticated than is presently available to an infant. No action should be taken, however, to eliminate the life of the child, and every precaution and medical measure must be used to assure that neither life be sacrificed for the sake of the other.
One may assume this position without losing sight or sensitivity to the other sensitive issue involved. The difficulty of problem pregnancies must be faced, and consequently the National Right to Life Committee does all in its power to support all programs, such as birth right, pregnancy aid, that are designed to assist in problem pregnancies. All such programs, however, which offer alternatives to the taking of an innocent life rest on a basic definition of not only the right to life but also the responsibility that each of us have to assist those in need. The pragmatic or utilitarian approach to the quality of life must not allow the implementation of a program that would improve your or my specific quality of life by destroying another. It is difficult to imagine how a physician trained in the practice of medicine could make a statement to me recently that he had performed over 3,000 abortions without the loss of a single life.” We are less than intellectually honest if we deny the facts as presented by science today that we are dealing with a life.
It should also be clear to this committee that the human life amendment presently being discussed is not an abortion statute. It will hopefully be designed to afford the constitutional protection of the 5th and 14th amendments to the U.S. Constitution to all human beings, including their unborn offspring at every stage of their biological development irrespective of age; health, function or condition of dependency. We have already seen the effect of defining the unborn as a nonperson in the area of fetal experimentation, infanticide and the accelerated interest in death with dignity legislation. People's moral sensitivity will ultimately be reflected in our legislative deliberations.
The U.S. Supreme Court decision of January 22, 1973, has not only not resolved the question but in fact has brought us to the stage where the conscience of the American public, after a brief exposure to the realities of the nonpersonhood of a segment of society has become intolerable. The unborn has value because it is human not because it is wanted, convenient, or meets some arbitrary standard of physical or mental normalcy. Once the scientific facts are explained to people, the solution proposed by the U.S. Supreme Court must be sold on the merits illustrated by the newly elected president of the Canadian Medical Association when she indicated that abortion was
a “necessary evil.” It must be sold on necessity because it will never be sold on the fact that it is not evil. It will never be morally justifiable. We cannot for a moment lose sight of the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade stated that its judgment was consistent with an attempt to solve the profound problems of the present day.” We likewise cannot ignore the concurring opinion of Justice Douglas when he stated that this “is only the beginning. The State has interest to protect.” If it is acceptable to the American
» people that our system will legalize a selective, technologically efficient elimination of a segment of our society in an attempt to solve any of our social ills, such action would be so violative of our ideals of jurisprudence that the ultimate effect would be to destroy our society. For this reason, the National Right to Life Committee most strongly urges that this committee adopt and endorse a constitutional amendment, and that that constitutional provision would secure the following rights:
First, define the word “person” as used in the 5th and 14th amendments as applicable to all human beings, including their unborn offspring at every stage of their biological development irrespective of age, health, function, or condition of dependency.
Second, clarify that the definition of the word “person” as used in the 5th and 14th amendments and defined in section 1 above, with respect to due process and equal protection of the law, would thus prohibit official Federal and State action designed to deprive the unborn child of its life.
Third, to provide legal and constitutional rigidity to assure that the life of the unborn child is protected in every reasonable effort made to preserve the life of that child in light of all of the rapid medical advances in the care of the unborn as well as providing the constitutional protection to prevent the death of the mother.
It is within these principles that we support all legislation which demonstrates that its intent and purpose is to secure these ultimate goals. We encourage Congress, the State legislatures and all political, moral, and religious leaders in this country to unite personally and within their representative institutions to assure the attainment of these goals.
I would like to conclude my presentation on a personal note. To the members of this committee and your colleagues in the U.S. Senate we must realize that this is a very basic and personal responsibility that you are accountable for as you deliberated on the human life amendment. I have been subjected to questions and perhaps criticism as all of you have when addressing myself to the question of abortion. I speak to you now as a father of four children. While I do not deny in any way or take exception to the fact that the question of abortion intimately affects the life of the woman, you and I must not become desensitized or intimidated by the fact that we are men. We have a vital and God-given responsibility for the care of all people in this Nation and in this world. The unborn child is not a part of the mother's body but actually a new, distinct person carrying with it a very intimate part of the father's very being. My responsibility and concern flows from the fact that the unborn child from its very first inception requires that I as a parent and fellow