By Joanne Moudy
On April 18, 2014, when the Alabama Supreme Court issued its stunning ruling in the case of Sarah Janie Hicks v. State of Alabama, not many seemed to notice. Yet it’s possible this brilliant 8-1 decision has set the tone to lead the charge against the inhuman crime of eliminating children because they’re an unwanted inconvenience.
Should other states be so inclined to follow suit, all they need to do is follow the prescription set forth by the Alabama legislature and have a State Supreme Court willing to do battle with poor public policy. Alabama’s succinct ruling could, in fact, be the impetus to encourage other states to bravely move toward a more humanitarian, pro-life mentality, and here’s why.
The case originated in 2009 when Hicks was charged under Alabama’s chemical-endangerment statute for giving birth to a child who tested positive for cocaine. Hicks had ingested cocaine while pregnant with her son, “J.D.” and per Alabama Statute 26-15-3.2, it is a crime to expose a child to a harmful environment over which he or she does not have control.
To further clarify, the Statute defines that it is a crime to knowingly, recklessly, or intentionally permit a child to be exposed to, ingest or inhale, or to have contact with a controlled substance, chemical substance, or drug paraphernalia as defined by Alabama law.
Although Hicks admitted to abusing illegal drugs, she alleged she was not guilty of this offense, because in her opinion, a fetus is not the same as a child, and therefore not covered under the State law. According to Hicks, the case should have been dismissed because ingesting cocaine during pregnancy couldn’t have possibly done any harm to anyone else, since the life inside her womb wasn’t technically a child.
However, at the November 2009 Trial Court hearing, her argument was unsuccessful and the judge refused to dismiss the case. Hicks then filed a Motion to Declare the Statute Unconstitutional, using an argument similar to the one she presented in her initial motion to dismiss. This matter was not ruled upon.
Finally, in January 2010, the Hicks entered a plea of guilty to the charge of chemical-endangerment of a child, but reserved the right to an appeal. The Trial Court sentenced Hicks to three years imprisonment. The sentence was suspended, and Hicks was placed on supervised probation for one year.
She immediately appealed to the Court of Criminal Appeals and in August, 2011, the Appeals Court ruled against her, stating the “plain language of Statute 26-15-3.2 [chemical-endangerment] was clear and unambiguous and that the plain meaning of the term ‘child’ in [the statute] included an unborn child or viable fetus.” Wow!! Did you read that?
Hicks then appealed to the Alabama Supreme Court which agreed to grant her petition to review the case. According to the Court, the facts of the case were undisputed. The only issue then dealt with how the Court would define the term “child.”
Hicks’ arguments to the Court were three-fold. One, the supposition that when the legislature passed the chemical-endangerment statute, they did not intend for the word “child” to apply to an unborn child. Two, that applying the statute to protect unborn children is bad public policy. And three, that she herself was denied due process of law, because the Alabama Statute was vague and did not define the word “child,” leaving her unaware that the term includes unborn children.” Really?
In the Court’s answer to the first argument, they concluded “the plain meaning of the word ‘child’ is broad enough to encompass all children – born and unborn.” This was further clarified in the statement, “Not only have the courts of this State interpreted the term “child” to include a viable fetus in other contexts, the dictionary definition of the term “child” explicitly includes an unborn person or fetus.”
Finally, the Court reasoned “That the term “child” in Alabama Statute 26-15-3.2, is unambiguous;” and states “that there is no rational basis for concluding that the plain and ordinary meaning of the term “child” does not include a viable fetus.”
The Court’s answer to the second argument was to say “that [public] policy cannot be the determining factor in our decision; public-policy arguments should be directed to the legislature, not to this Court.” The Court wisely went on to clarify, “This is not because policy is unimportant but because policy arguments are ill-suited to judicial resolution.”
This is a critical point because in recent times, more often than not, we find judges who do overstep their duties and try to legislate from the bench. Bravo for these Supreme Court Justices who know the difference.
In answer to the third argument regarding Hicks’ claim that she was denied due process because the term “child” is too vague to be known to common people, the Court stated, “A person is not relieved of criminal liability for conduct because he engages in that conduct under a mistaken belief that it does not, as a matter of law, constitute an offense . . . ” followed by “Ignorance of the law is never an excuse . . . ”
In summary, the Court found that “[T]he word “child” in the chemical-endangerment statute includes an unborn child, and, therefore the statute furthers the State’s interest in protecting the life of children from the earliest stages of their development.”
Chief Justice Moore, author of the opinion, wrote, “Our creator, not government, gives to all people “unalienable” natural rights, and that right to life is a gift from God.” He further charges that all governments must secure those God-given rights under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. “Because a human life with a full genetic endowment comes into existence at the moment of conception, the self-evident truth that “all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights” encompasses the moment of conception.”
Justice Moore went on to issue these powerful words, “Legal recognition of the unborn as members of the human family derives ultimately from the law of nature and of nature’s God, Who created human life in His image and protected it with the commandment: “Thou shalt not kill.”
Justice Parker concurred and asked an important question in his response, “Why should legal protection of an individual (child) at a particular point in time depend entirely upon his or her subjective relationship to the killer?”
He went on to issue this beautiful statement: “It is impossible for an unborn child to be a separate and distinct person at a particular point in time in one respect and not to be a separate and distinct person at the same point in time but in another respect.”
In Justice Parker’s final comments he states, “Courts must have the courage to allow the law of noncontradiction to dismantle the bad reasoning of Roe . . . and recognize a child’s inalienable right to life at all stages of development. Until then, our grief is not for the Constitution alone; we also grieve for the millions of children who have not been afforded equal value, love, and protection since Roe.”
Aside from the brilliant decision this court handed down, the ramifications are almost too much to hope for. If, in fact, it is deemed a crime to ingest cocaine during pregnancy because the child might be born an addict, deformed or dead, one might assert it is just as immoral to ingest abortifacient drugs, about which the mother (and abortion provider) have full knowledge will destroy and kill the child. This revelation could have widespread impact on the states wishing to eliminate the abortifacient drug, RU-486 and others.
Casey Mattox, senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom and former judicial law clerk for the Alabama Supreme Court, had this to say about the decision, “Every child’s life deserves to be protected. The Alabama Supreme Court was on solid ground in affirming this truth and safeguarding the lives of all children in their state, regardless of age.”
It’s too early to tell if the Alabama decision will turn the tide on the horrifying abortion holocaust occurring in America, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction. As Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel said, “In an age where some judges do not know the difference between the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, or do not even care, finally the Alabama Supreme Court springs forth with a ray of light.”
Kudos for the Alabama Supreme Court for having the courage to stand up to the immoral decisions which were laid down as law by the Supreme Court of the United States in Roe v Wade. Even bigger kudos for giving a voice to the millions of unborn children who will never get an opportunity to speak or defend themselves.
Joanne Moudy is the author of “The Tenth,” a supernatural thriller exploring the very real trauma of abortion in a fictional realm. She proudly served as an officer in the military for nine years, before specializing in emergency nursing until retirement. She regularly speaks about the horrors of abortion, and the impact of liberalism and secularism on all of humanity. You can follow her on Twitter @composedof1