‘Created in God’s image’ – the meaning of Alabama’s controversial constitutional amendment

Feb 24, 2024 by

by Tom Parker, Mercator:

The Alabama Supreme Court ruled last week by a vote of 8 to 1 that frozen embryos in IVF clinics are children, at least in Alabama, or, to use the language of the decision, “extrauterine children” in “cryogenic nurseries.

Chief Justice Tom Parker concurred with the majority, but he used the opportunity to discuss the meaning of the phrase “sanctity of unborn life”. It appears a 2018 amendment to the Alabama Constitution.

This is a remarkably well-informed essay on, grounded in theology, philosophy and the common law. Below is a lightly edited excerpt from his concurrence. 

PARKER, Chief Justice (concurring specially).

A good judge follows the Constitution instead of policy, except when the Constitution itself commands the judge to follow a certain policy. In these cases, that means upholding the sanctity of unborn life, including unborn life that exists outside the womb.

Our state Constitution contains the following declaration of public policy: “This state acknowledges, declares, and affirms that it is the public policy of this state to recognize and support the sanctity of unborn life and the rights of unborn children, including the right to life” (sometimes referred to as “the Sanctity of Unborn Life Amendment”).

Meaning of ‘sanctity’

The Alabama Constitution does not expressly define the phrase “sanctity of unborn life.” The goal of constitutional interpretation is to discern the original public meaning, which is “‘the meaning the people understood a provision to have at the time they enacted it.’ ” Constitutional interpretation must start with the text, but it also must include the context of the time in which it was adopted.

Read here

Read also: A ruling by Alabama’s Supreme Court will have a chilling effect on the IVF industry by Michael Cook


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