In case you haven’t been following the controversy surrounding a 24-year-old conservative female commentator named Tomi Lahren – whether it’s because you detest conservatives, or you loathe Glenn Beck (understandable), or maybe you just don’t give a fuck (also understandable) – let me get you up to speed.
In mid-March (no Julius Caesar references, please) of 2017, Ms. Lahren’s TV segment, Final Thoughts with Tomi Lahren, was cut from conservative juggernaut Glenn Beck’s program, The Blaze, for statements she’d made in which she publicly declared she was Pro-Choice rather than Pro-Life. For her to say this, when so much of the Conservative establishment look to her to appeal to a young, especially female, demographic, strikes many as unconscionable.
Ms. Lahren made the statement in question while appearing as a guest on The View (or as I personally refer to it, The Spew, but that’s just me). I won’t provide a link to the actual video clip because I appreciate readers too much to subject them to that kind of torture. Instead, here is what she said, in her own words:
“I’m Pro-Choice, and here’s why – I am a Constitutionalist, I am someone who loves the Constitution, I am someone who is for limited government. So, I can’t sit here and say, ‘I’m for limited government, but government should decide what women do with their bodies’ … As a Republican, I can say, ‘You know what, stay out of my guns, and you can stay out of my body as well.’”
(© 2017 ABC, for informational purposes only.)
Her words were met by ardent applause from the television audience, but she was quickly rebuked by almost the entire Conservative establishment – namely, one Glenn Beck.
Shortly afterward, Mr. Beck suspended her employment permanently from The Blaze. He explains his decision in the following segment:
Here are the important parts of Mr. Beck’s statement, in case you don’t feel like mucking through the entire 4 minutes:
“There are two things to discuss on this Tomi Lahren dust-up with The View, and one of them is her employment at The Blaze. The other is the Constitutionality, or the Constitutional argument for Conservatives on Pro-Life … Let’s start there. First of all, if you’re Pro-Choice, you can have a job at The Blaze. I try to hire people with a different opinion [from mine], because I believe in being intellectually rigorous … I want people to make a real argument on the other side, so we can learn from each other and grow. So, let’s learn from each other and grow, shall we? What is the Constitutional argument for Conservatives on Pro-Life? … Women’s rights are important; however, they’re not the only thing to consider when another person’s life is at stake. The Founders were really, really clear. The Preamble of the Constitution clearly states, ‘to secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.’ Who are our posterity, if not our unborn children …
“The Founders … didn’t talk about abortion, but they did talk about it, and that’s because abortion was already illegal under British Common Law. The context … shows this really clearly. James Wilson … who signed the Declaration [of Independence] and the Constitution … [who] was also an original judge on The Supreme Court, [wrote] …”
(Beck proceeds to quote this statement made by Justice James Wilson in 1770):
’Human life, from its commencement to its close, is protected by Common Law. Life begins when the infant is first able to stir in the womb …’ ”
(Wilson, “Of the Natural Rights of Individuals”)
(At that point Mr. Beck, as he often does, went off on a tangent about technology detecting pregnancy earlier nowadays; he then cites John Witherspoon, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison, all of whom shared Wilson’s opinion.)
“So, I would disagree … [on Lahren’s opinion that] you’re a hypocrite if you want limited government , and yet you want the government to protect the life of the unborn.”
(© 2017 TheBlaze, Inc., for informational purposes only.)
I will admit that Mr. Beck makes a compelling argument. He did not, however, read the entire quote from James Wilson, so for the sake of remaining “intellectually rigorous,” here it is:
“With consistency, beautiful and undeviating, human life, from its commencement to its close, is protected by the Common Law. In the contemplation of law, life begins when the infant is first able to stir in the womb. By the law, life is protected not only from immediate destruction, but from every degree of violence, and, in some cases, every degree of danger.”
(Wilson, “Of the Natural Rights of Individuals”)
So, surely, one might think, the man who penned this elegantly-worded avowal of the sanctity of human life, this man of the Enlightenment with such unshakeable conviction, could not possibly be wrong?
Well, here’s the thing:
That man, Justice James Wilson, also co-authored the Three-Fifths Compromise.
In case you don’t remember from your high school history class, the Three-Fifths Compromise counted every 5 slaves in a state’s population as 3 people. The Southern states, who otherwise probably wouldn’t have counted their slave populations as people at all, wanted higher population numbers to seize more power in the House of Representatives. The Southern states, for their own political gain, wanted to count the slaves as ‘whole’ people.
The Northern states, on the other hand, didn’t want the South to have that much power in Congress, especially since – obviously – slaves weren’t even allowed to vote. So, when the Southern states threatened to leave the Union if they couldn’t get their way (a threat they didn’t actually follow through on until almost a century later, but that’s a whole different story), James Wilson and his colleague Roger Sherman had an idea. They threw together the Three-Fifths Compromise, which, as history would show, turned out to be only a temporary solution to a much greater problem.
Now, the 3-5 Compromise didn’t actually say “a slave is only 3/5 of a person” in those exact words. Actually, the exact words have been repealed by the 13th Amendment and are redacted from most versions of the Constitution.
Still, here they are, as they would have been valid at the time:
“Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included in this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a term of years [i.e., white people, and indentured white servants], and excluding Indians [Native Americans] not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons [i.e., slaves].”
(U.S. Const., Art. 1, § 2, cl. 3 (Repealed))
The text of the early Constitution didn’t specify the race of those ‘other persons,’ but we all know what they meant. The slaves were black. There, I said it.
Yes, as a white person, I realize how it could be seen as exploitative if I were to use the painful narratives of other peoples’ ancestors just to prove a point, and that is not my intention. The fact is, slavery is one of the ugliest chapters in our nation’s history, but it won’t help anyone if we pretend it never happened. Instead, the best we can do is to be mindful of our past mistakes, in order to guide our actions in the future.
After all, a wise man once said, “Those who don’t remember history are destined to repeat it.”
That man was Edmund Burke, the founding philosopher of modern Conservatism, who – no disrespect to Winston Churchill, although he said “doomed” instead of “destined” – made the above statement nearly two full centuries prior to Mr. Churchill. (I will make more mention of Mr. Burke in Part II of this article.)
Point being, in the primeval days of the Constitution, people of color (am I even allowed to say that, or will the internet get mad at me?) were not afforded the same rights and freedoms as white people, because people of color were wrongfully viewed as being less than human.
So, for those of you who didn’t sleep through Philosophy 101, here’s my question:
If it is possible that James Wilson (and his colleagues who were of the same opinion) believed people of color were less human than they actually were, then is it also possible that Wilson (et al.) believed unborn fetuses are more human than they actually are?
It’s not a rhetorical question. The answer is, yes, it’s possible.
Yet, my Constitutional argument does not end there. I could just make a scapegoat of Wilson and say, “he’s wrong because he’s racist” and leave it at that, but that would be too easy.
Instead, I’m going to refer back to the original source material, the often name-dropped yet rarely cited Constitution, and see if Beck’s claims have any basis in the actual text.
You see, like Ms. Lahren, I also love the Constitution. Its authors, like all humans, were flawed; but they designed a document that could transcend human error, and its power has endured for over two centuries. Our Constitution has adapted itself to accommodate many changes, from technological advances to social and political upheavals, and throughout that time it has continued to exist because its reason for existence remains constant. That reason is every American’s inherent right to freedom.
(So all you haters can just do one big collective eye-roll at the obnoxious Conservative cliché right now, and avoid any subsequent eye-rolling at all the other annoying Conservative things I’m going to say for the remainder of this article so you don’t strain your weak optic nerves, how ‘bout that?)
Furthermore, the Bill of Rights, and many later Constitutional Amendments, were added to protect the personal liberties of every American. One of them was the Thirteenth Amendment, which nullified all that nasty slavery stuff from before, and gave former slaves (in theory) the same rights as all free Americans (even though it took us a ridiculously long time to get there, I’ll admit). Then there was the Fourteenth Amendment, most commonly known as an integral part of the Equal Protection Clause.
The Fourteenth Amendment says this:
“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of the citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person [again, “born” or “naturalized”] of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
(U.S. Const., Amendment XIV, § 1)
Full disclosure: Section 2, at the time it was written, went on to say that only 21-year-old males could vote (we still had some ways to go, but it got repealed eventually); but the rights to life, liberty, and property unequivocally applied to all born or naturalized citizens.
Interestingly, the Constitution makes no mention of the unborn. (You can download a PDF of the Constitution from archives.gov and type ‘unborn’ into the search bar if you don’t believe me.)
Yet, as Mr. Beck himself said, the Founders were definitely aware of unborn children. They did, as Mr. Beck said, discuss the issue in many other legal documents at the time, but they didn’t write it into the Constitution, when they easily could have.
It would seem that, maybe, the Founders were going to let the individual states be free to decide how to deal with the unborn within their borders?
In that case, the Tenth Amendment would take it from here:
“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
(U.S. Const., Amendment X)
It’s almost as if, even if many of the Founders didn’t personally support abortion, they weren’t going to make it unconstitutional? …
So then, does that mean abortions are …
“Of course not,” some might argue, “because that would just mean literally anything (yes, literally) could be Constitutional.”
All right, then, let’s use as an example a widely controversial issue among many people: the addition of pineapple as a topping upon pizza. (Seriously.)
Most people would say, “No, there’s no way that’s Constitutional! It’s disgusting! It’s appalling! It has to be unconstitutional!”
Yet, how would one determine if something truly is unconstitutional?
Well, you’d go back to that PDF of the Constitution which I’m sure you’ve actually downloaded, type ‘pineapple’ into the search bar, then type ‘pizza’ into the search bar …
And you got zero results? Really? You mean there’s nothing in the Constitution saying you can’t practice this abhorrent activity?
Then technically, it’s Constitutional. You may think it’s disgusting, but it’s Constitutional.
Hang on, though, you’re not off the hook just yet! If, for some unspeakable reason, you actually want to use pineapple as a pizza topping, you still have to make sure it’s legal. So, is there anything in the U.S. Federal Code that forbids it? What about your state constitution? No? What about your state statutes? Make sure you check the criminal code! Still nothing? Then you better check your county and municipal ordinances to make sure it’s not a public health violation or a public nuisance or anything like that … Still no? Is there really nothing even vaguely related to pineapple pizza consumption in any law of any jurisdiction in which you reside?
Then congratulations. You’re now free to commit your vile, despicable, socially unacceptable action in the United States of America.
Or, you can just abort your early-term pregnancy and avoid any unnatural food cravings altogether.
Or, if you happen to be Glenn Beck, you can just keep sputtering your poorly-researched diatribes like spittle onto your miserable audience – if you even have any viewers left after cutting Lahren’s show – because, unfortunately, being an idiot isn’t illegal in this country either.
Author’s Note: As of 4/7/2017, Ms. Lahren has filed a wrongful termination suit against Glenn Beck and TheBlaze, Inc.
I say, more power to her, and I fully support her decision to do so.