National Committee for a Human Life Amendment

Human Life Amendment

On January 22, 1973, in its infamous twin decisions, Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, the U.S. Supreme Court created a constitutional right to abortion throughout the nine months of pregnancy, effectively removing all legal protection from the unborn child and setting forth the most permissive abortion policy in the world.

In one fell swoop the abortion laws of all fifty states were struck down. The public conversation then underway on just what the proper abortion policy should be, was stopped in its tracks. Citizens and the other branches of government were disenfranchised and the destruction of unborn children became a state protected activity. In his dissenting opinion, Justice Byron White stated: “I find nothing in the language or history of the Constitution to support the Court’s judgment.” He called the Court’s action “an exercise of raw judicial power.” Even legal scholars who support abortion criticize Roe for its complete failure as sound constitutional law: John Hart Ely said of the ruling: “It is bad because it is bad constitutional law, or rather because it is not constitutional law and gives almost no sense of an obligation to try to be.” Roe and Doe stand on fundamentally erroneous ground. Like other infamous, erroneous opinions of the Court, they must – and will – be reversed.

From the day the Court’s Roe and Doe opinions were handed down, citizens supporting the right to live have worked with renewed dedication. They have promoted legislation protective of the unborn child, mother and family. They have repeatedly challenged Roe and Doe in court, winning some victories along the way, e.g., scuttling the attempt to have the abortion right funded at tax payers’ expense. They have supported the appointment of judges who manifest a willingness to correct the errors of Roe and Doe. And they have proposed Human Life Amendments to the U.S. Constitution that would reverse Roe and Doe and enshrine the right to life in the Constitution. Since 1973, more than 330 Human Life Amendment proposals have been introduced in Congress. Several sets of extensive hearings have been held. An unsuccessful Senate vote on an amendment occurred in 1983. Reversing Roe and Doe and passing a Human Life Amendment remain long-term goals of the pro-life movement.

The only formal vote on a Human Life Amendment occurred in the U.S. Senate in 1983 on the Hatch-Eagleton Human Life Federalism Amendment. The votes listed in the link below include the 1983 vote as well as votes on other matters that have special implications for the right to life of the unborn, e.g., call for hearings on abortion or reactions to Roe v. Wade.