Got questions about what a Personhood Executive Order might mean and how to explain it to people? Unsure of the implications or whether this strategy is even practical? Keep reading.
Are executive orders constitutional?
Executive orders are a constitutional way for the president to communicate how he wishes to run the executive branches of the federal government. As the chief executive with the responsibility to faithfully execute the laws of the United States, executive orders are essential to the proper functioning of the government. From Washington to Trump, presidents have issued approximately 14,000 executive orders to work their will through the executive agencies. One legitimate concern is that executive orders have been used to undermine the function of the legislative branch. After all, if a president can choose to refuse to implement laws that he doesn't agree with, what is the legislature to do to retain its proper role? As can be seen, executive orders involve a complex interplay of the divided powers of government (you can learn more here). With regards to abortion, the use of an executive order would be a legitimate way for the executive branch to take the initiative to limit the unconstitutional exercise of power by the Supreme Court in inventing a right to kill pre-born children through abortion.
Why an executive order now?
President Trump has demonstrated his willingness to use the power of the executive order (55 to date) to enforce policies that he has promised the American people (human rights abuse, immigration, protecting our borders). He has promised to promote pro-life law, policy, and judicial appointment. Promoting personhood is promoting the original policy objective of the pro-life movement; one that it certainly still claims as its objective.
What immediate events will this executive order trigger?
President Donald Trump issued an executive order banning travel from certain countries. It was immediately enjoined by federal courts. An injunction was issued until the order went before the U.S. Supreme Court just 3 months later. It is the same mechanism we hope to trigger with a personhood executive order, putting the personhood of the child in the womb front and center.
Will this lead to an overturning of Roe v. Wade?
If the US Supreme Court upholds the executive order, then Roe v. Wade would be overturned. But nullification is another strategy at play here.
What does it mean to “nullify” Roe v. Wade?
Nullification is nothing more than the refusal of the People to give their consent to certain government action. Abortion advocates like to equate nullification with racist segregationists, but nullification is not specific to any subject matter. In fact, the most successful modern example of nullification is the movement to legalize marijuana.
Proponents of legalizing marijuana - hardly your run-of-the-mill religious conservatives - were able to stand up to the clear federal prohibition by simply convincing enough people to ignore the federal law. This is nullification in action.
James Madison, the Father of the Constitution, wrote in Federalist #46 that when the clear words of the Constitution were not enough to keep the federal government in check, the People should do one of the four following things:
- Protesting on a large scale; Madison referred to it as "disquietude of the people"
- Disobeying the unjust law; "A refusal to cooperate with officers of the Union"
- Resistance by executive officers; "Frowns of the executive magistracy of the State"
- Enacting state legislation to counter federal power
Notice that Madison did NOT resort to electing better politicians, appointing better judges, or asking federal legislators to overturn laws they had passed. To nullify Roe v. Wade, the People need to reject it as legitimate on a large scale. By signing an executive order, the president would be leading by example and be giving the strongest possible push to the eventual nullification of Roe v. Wade. To learn more, visit the Tenth Amendment Center.
What will happen to the federal pro-life laws already in place?
Federal law, whether as interpreted by the Supreme Court or legitimately passed by Congress, cannot be repealed by an executive order because statutes and constitutional precedents have a higher in power than executive orders. Executive orders are similar to the value of federal regulations.
Executive orders are a kind of rules-and-regulations law authored by the President and binding only on employees of the US federal executive (about 4 million people). These orders cannot defy the Constitution or statute law, and usually, detail how the President intends for government to implement congressionally-authored programs.
By directing all federal agencies to recognize the personhood of the pre-born, the president will be going against dicta in Roe v. Wade that stated the judge's opinion that the child in the womb is not a person. The likelihood of litigation is very high, but nothing in that litigation would endanger any other pro-life legislation already in law.
What about state laws?
State laws are lower in hierarchy than federal laws, including executive orders. However, executive orders only affect the operation of the federal agencies, so state law would not be directly affected. Also, there is a general and broadly recognized principle that disfavors repeal of any law by implication. State laws would not be affected in a negative way for pro-lifers. However, if the executive order were upheld in court, states could be more free to ignore federal abortion mandates and this would add to a general movement to nullify Roe v. Wade.
Has personhood ever been proven as a workable strategy?
YES! And it’s a strategy that’s growing in power. Georgia is an example of promotion of personhood in education, public policy, political action, and legislation. In 2013, Georgia was awarded "All-Star" status by Americans United for Life (AUL). In 2017, AUL ranked Georgia the MOST pro-life state in the nation among those over 10 million in population. It is the only state where the Personhood Amendment passed with a super-majority (66%) in a statewide ballot among voters of the majority party. Its largest pro-life group (Georgia Right to Life) requires every candidate seeking office to sign an Affirmation that declares their support for a Personhood Amendment at a state constitutional level. It is the only state in the nation where all nine statewide elected officials are not only pro-life, but also pro-personhood.
The "first in the nation" presidential primary state of Iowa and the "presidential swing state" of Ohio have recently adopted this same model of personhood. There are nine other states pursuing a personhood strategy, including Mississippi, ranked 7th most pro-life by AUL and awarded its "All-Star" status in 2017. For additional evidence of how this very effective strategy is sweeping the nation, order Personhood: A Pragmatic Guide to Pro-life Victory and the Return to First Principles in Politics.
What can I do to learn more about personhood?
Get a copy of the groundbreaking book Personhood: The Tree of Life, authored by 18 diverse pro-life leaders who provide practical strategies to change hearts and minds and restore legal protections for all humans, at all stages, and in all circumstances.
How can I stay informed about this effort?
|Sign up to receive email updates on upcoming educational initiatives that support personhood—the principled, practical approach to defending human life and human dignity in the 21st century.|