Thursday, October 26, 2023


Even D.C. journalists knew little about the new speaker of the House, Mike Johnson, before his election yesterday. We're all learning more now. CNN's Andrew Kaczynski and Allison Gordon report that he argued in favor of the criminalization of gay sex in opinion pieces published in the mid-2000s. And Judd Legum and his colleagues at Popular Information tell us about Johnson key role in the effort to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, as well as his support for Evangelical-tinged Bible courses in public schools, covenant marriage, and legalized discrimination against people in same-sex marriages, and also his belief in fetal personhood.

On that last subject, Legum and his co-authors write:
Today, [Johnson] is an original co-sponsor of the "Life at Conception" bill, which would effectively ban all abortions. The bill would grant every "preborn human person" equal rights under the 14th Amendment from "the moment of fertilization."
In addition to the obvious horrors of this, I wonder what it would do to the U.S. census. The Constitution mandates a census, and also says that each person in the nation must be counted. Here's the wording, from Article I, Section 2, Clause 3:
Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within 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, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons. The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct.
Ignore the references to the enslaved and indentured, and to Native Americans. Wouldn't a personhood law make every fetus, zygote, and fertilized egg (even a pre-implantation fertilized egg) a "free person," or at least a "person"?

Would the United States be constitutionally required to ascertain the existence of every fetus, zygote, and fertilized egg in the country? How would that be done? I assume that those who are happily pregnant would be expected to report their pregnancies to the Census Bureau, but how would every other instance of pregnancy and fertilization be discovered? Would government employees go house to house and conduct tests? This nightmare future government might content itself with self-reporting -- but would there be penalties for a deliberately false report, and would the penalties be harsh? Would everyone who could conceivably be pregnant be expected to self-test and report the results, because the Constitution requires it?

I'm just asking questions. Fortunately, it's all hypothetical, at least for now.

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