A YEAR OF STANDING FOR THE INHERENT WORTH (DIGNITY) OF HUMAN LIFE(DECEMBER 2021)
A SHORT OVERVIEW OF CAUSE FOR JUSTICE’S WORK DURING 2021
At Cause for Justice (CFJ) we believe in the sanctity of all human life. The pre-eminent worth of every human life affirms that each life carries equal value and that everyone is entitled to equal protection and benefit of the law. In the past year this is what we advocated for, by placing ourselves at the frontline of matters concerning the value of human life and the protection thereof.
UPDATE (December 2021)
On 4 November 2021, Cause for Justice (CFJ) participated in the Constitutional Court hearing of Voice of the Unborn Baby NPC v Minister of Home Affairs. We participated as a ‘friend of the court’ party and asked the court to protect and promote the value of unborn human life. We presented legal arguments and led evidence to assist the court in recognising the inherent worth of all human beings, including unborn babies.
Our counsel, Advocate Cooke, argued that “the value of human dignity entails that all human beings, including unborn human children, have worth and ought to be treated with respect”. (See 1:45:13 to 2:01:28 of the video recording of the Constitutional Court hearing for CFJ’s oral submissions.) Advocate Cooke submitted that prohibiting parents from burying their unborn children not only violates parents’ rights but amounts to treating human beings as objects. Disrespecting unborn children and their human worth is not consistent with the value of human dignity, he said. “It is not only parents who have an interest in how the remains of their unborn children are treated, but society. We are all demeaned in a sense, if parents are denied a choice and children are disposed of as medical waste”.
The matter came before the Constitutional Court via the Pretoria High Court, who on 29 March 2021 gave its judgment, declaring that most parents who lose a child prior to birth, have a right to bury their baby’s bodily remains irrespective of how far along pregnancy had been. The court granted most of the relief sought by the applicants (Voice of the Unborn Baby NPC and the Catholic Archdiocese of Durban), including granting parents of babies miscarried before reaching viability (26 weeks in the womb) the right to choose to bury the bodily remains of their deceased unborn baby.
The court however, declined to extend this right to parents of unborn babies who die through human intervention (whether with the intent to save the unborn baby’s life or to end the unborn baby’s life). To this we emphatically respond that the mere fact that a baby is not wanted does not mean that a baby is in any way less human.
To learn about this important case – visit our dedicated webpage here.
What will happen next?
After having heard all the parties, the Constitutional Court reserving its judgment. The court will consider the arguments and evidence presented to it in order to arrive at a decision. CFJ remains convinced that the only appropriate outcome would be one that promotes and gives expression to constitutional values – especially the foundational value of human dignity – acknowledging the humanity of all and not only some human beings.
WALTER (COURT CASE)
UPDATE (December 2021)
A legal challenge has been mounted against the total criminal prohibition of euthanasia in South African law. The plaintiffs who challenge the constitutionality of current law (Walter and Harck), both suffer from terminal illnesses, and instituted court action in the Johannesburg High Court in August 2017. They seek to legalise physician assisted suicide (PAS) and active voluntary euthanasia or physician assisted euthanasia (PAE). PAS refers to suicide committed by a patient, which was facilitated by means, such as prescribing a drug, or by information, such as an indication of a lethal dosage, provided by a physician who was aware of the patient’s intent to commit suicide. PAE refers the killing of a patient by a physician through measure such as administering a lethal dosage of a drug. Both PAS and PAE are prohibited under current South African law and are treated either as murder (unjustified intentional killing) or culpable homicide (unjustified negligent killing).
What is at stake?
The legalised active killing of human beings (in any form) is a grave matter. It has far-reaching societal consequences – beyond the particular individuals whose lives are ended as a result. As a means of “medical treatment” or response to human sickness and suffering (caused by physical or psychological illness/medical condition), it represents a drastic departure from a bedrock constitutional principle: all human lives have inherent worth and are of inestimable value. The sanctity of life principle requires us to respect and protect human life.
Pain and suffering can cause a person to experience loss of quality of life, but it can never diminish the inherent worth of his/her life. However well-meaning, to depart from this principle, will result in a dangerous cultural shift – a slippery slope – towards acceptance of death as a solution to human pain and suffering. We need to guard against this at all costs.
Diminishing the worth of human life, inevitably erodes all other fundamental rights. Why? Because each human right is anchored by the value of and right to human life.
The loss of human life is a tragedy. We say, killing is not the solution to human pain and suffering – it destroys human dignity. Cause for Justice is committed to ensuring that the constitutional value of respect for and the protection of human life will never be diminished!
Where do things stand?
Cause for Justice will participate in the court case as a “friend of the court” party.
We will present evidence and legal argument to persuade the court that euthanasia (in whichever form) is a horrific violation of the fundamental rights to human dignity and life – and for this reason, amongst others, should not be legalised or decriminalised under the South African Constitution. We will also show that safeguards are failing to protect vulnerable persons from being killed in jurisdictions where euthanasia has been legalised.
During 2015 and 2016, Cause for Justice acted as a “friend of the court” party in the first South African euthanasia case heard under the Constitution: the Stransham-Ford matter. The case was finally heard by the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA), which ruled that PAS and PAE are justifiably treated as criminal acts in terms of South African law.
What is next?
Most court papers have now been filed. Due to the serious nature of the plaintiffs’ illnesses and their fast-deteriorating health, the hearing of their oral evidence was expediated and heard in March 2021.
The case is expected to be heard in court in the first semester of 2022. In the lead-up to the trial CFJ will do the necessary preparations to present the best possible case in court.
Current court case in US to overturn Roe v Wade
On 1 December 2021, the Supreme Court of the United States heard oral argument in the case of Thomas E. Dobbs, et al. v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The case is about challenging the constitutionality of a March 2018 law banning abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy by the Mississippi Department of Health.
The significance of the case is that it might introduce a shift in US abortion law. It will provide an opportunity for the Supreme Court to reconsider (potentially reverse or soften) their 1973 Roe v Wade decision. Since Roe v Wade, the law has been that banning any abortion below 24 weeks would be considered unconstitutional. The fact that the Supreme Court is willing to consider this case is a glimmer of hope for all who believe that unborn babies are human beings worthy of protection.
Heartbeat law in US
On 1 September 2021, the Texas Heartbeat law came into operation. It bans all selective abortions after a heartbeat can be detected in the unborn baby. The law accordingly potentially prohibits abortions as early as 6 weeks in the womb. Although the law does not provide for punishment for women who undergo abortions after a heartbeat can be detected. It does however provide those private citizens can file a lawsuit against any doctor that performs the abortion. This is a very appropriate approach because we know that mothers are often scared and misinformed about an abortion. But the doctor that performs the act of killing, is not.
There were immediate reactions from pro-abortion lobbies, that asked the law to be blocked from becoming part of the law. It went as far as the Supreme Court of the United States which decided not to block the law on an emergency basis but will give parties the opportunity in the future to argue for or against the constitutionality of the Heartbeat law.
We will be watching these cases closely. Everyone that thought the battle against abortion was lost, should take heart from these two events. There is always those standing up for the truth that every single person has value not matter born yet or not.
Cause for Justice is committed to ensuring that the South African Constitution and the rights and freedoms contained within the Bill of Rights are respected and defended. The Constitution recognises the inherent value (worth of dignity) of all human beings. The right to human dignity and the right to life cannot be separated from one another. Every person has the right to be respected and treated with dignity as a worthy member of the human family.
If you are passionate about protecting or advocating for the sanctity of life, we invite you to support our work. Without your contribution, we will not be able to continue taking up worthy causes such as these.