Wichita -- In a hearing that at times seemed more like a seminar on biology or philosophy, a Kansas House committee wrestled Wednesday with the question of when life begins.
The wide-ranging discussion was prompted by a resolution that would require Attorney General Carla Stovall to trigger a court challenge of the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion on demand. The resolution introduced by 23 pro-life House members is aimed at forcing the courts to define when life begins.
Citing medical evidence, the resolution's sponsors argued that it begins at conception and that constitutional rights should therefore be extended to unborn children.
"As medical science has advanced since the 1973 decision in Roe v Wade, we submit that the fetus can now be medically determined to be clearly a separate person from his or her mother," Rep. Jan Pauls, D-Hutchison, said at the House Judiciary Committee hearing. "Roe vs Wade stated that if personhood is established, then the fetus has a right to life guaranteed by the 14th Amendment to the Constitution and Section 1 of the Bill of Rights of the Kansas Constitution."
To back up their assertions, the sponsors and Right To Life of Kansas, Inc. brought in Dr. Paddy Jim Baggott from the Pope Paul VI Insitute of Omaha, Nebraska.
Baggot, an obstretician, gynecologist, perinatologist and geneticist, delivered what amounted to a lecture on conception and fetal devilopoment using a projector and illustrations.
Baggot explained that in the first five days after conception, a human embryo goes from a single cell to 120 cells.
"This is what I did in the first five days of my life," Baggott said, using a laser-like light to highlight a series of illustrations. "We are anything but a clump of stagnant cells in our first five days of existence."
At one point, Baggott displayed pictures taken of an unborn child in the uterus in which the heart, eyes and backbone were clearly visible..
"Here's what I looked like, and any of us looked like, four weeks after conception," he said.
Denise Everhart, a former state representative from Topeka who now represents the Pro Choice Action League, said the concept of fetal personhood hasn't been established.
Everhart urged the committee to reject the resolution which would require Stovall to challenge state laws and regulations that allow public funding of abortions or authorize them to be performed at public institutions.
Elmer Feldkamp, president of Right To Life of Kansas, said such a challenge likely would force a court battle that ultimately could reach the Supreme Court and result in the overturning of Roe v Wade.
Stovall would be compelled to act even if only one house of the Legislature passed the resolution. But it isn't clear the resolution has enough support to emerge from committee.
"I don't think it's going anywhere." said Rep. Jim Garner, D-Coffeyville, the ranking minority member of the Judiciary Committee. "That's just the sense I get."
Rep. Tim Carmody R-Overland Park, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, provided no indication of when the committee would vote on the resolution.
-- Roe v. Wade: 25 Years of Life Denied http://www.prolife.org/rvw