On Thursday, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing to examine privacy and civil rights issues in a post-Roe America. During the hearing, Texas Republican Congressman Chip Roy questioned law professor and MSNBC contributor, Melissa Murray, on the topic of abortion and the role of courts in shaping constitutional law.
Roy began by asking outright, "Who decides when life begins?"
Murray, who appeared virtually, answered, "The question of when life begins is an essentially personal question. It is often informed by the individual’s religious beliefs and more." Instead of invoking the long-held belief that questions pertaining to when life begins to fall within the purview of science, Murray chose to frame the issue as a religious question, presumably to ensure that no law could be passed to protect that life.
Roy clarified his question by asking, "Who–as a matter of law–as in who decides when life begins and who decides when and how life is protected?"
Murray, evaded a direct response and said, "The Constitution does not speak to the question of when life begins just that it doesn't speak to many other things, including the right to an abortion and executive privilege and qualified immunity. So it's a personal decision."
Unable to get a straight answer, Roy framed his question in multiple choice format by asking, "In the absence of the Constitution, specifically saying when life begins, then who best to decide when to protect life, the people or courts?"
But Murray again dodged the question and insisted on viewing the issue in religious terms. "Representative Roy, as you know, the question of when life begins is a personal question informed by religious beliefs. Our Constitution in the very First Amendment says emphatically that the government shall not endorse any particular religion…"
Roy, unsatisfied with Murray's framing, attempted to use analogies, saying, "When we have life, we make decisions about protecting life, which we do all the time. If a three month old is murdered, we protect that life, and if a 50 year old is murdered, we have laws across the country that protect that life. We make decisions about when life begins. My simple question is, as a matter of law, who decides when we protect life? And whether or not that is judges to decide that moment or whether that is elected representatives, elected by the people?"
But given the time contraints, Congressman Roy did not receive an answer to his question. After the hearing, Roy took to Twitter to share the clip of his exchange with Melissa Murray and provide an answer to his own question: "The answer, in truth, is unelected judges that the pro-abortion crowd hand-selects….. irrespective of the Constitution or the will of the people."
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