Law professor: Alabama embryo ruling shows we are a theocracy

To the editor: I am a law professor. This week in class, while discussing the Alabama Supreme Court's decision on frozen embryos, this exchange occurred:

I showed the words of the chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court on the screen. He wrote that frozen embryos are children and that their destruction would bring “the wrath of a holy God.”

I told my students that I am Jewish and I don't believe it. I told him that when I had a miscarriage and went to my rabbi for comfort, he told me there was no prayer for miscarriages. For us as Jews, the rabbi said, life begins with the first breath. He encouraged me to write my own prayer.

A student born in a foreign country raised his hand and said that Alabama was imposing a Christian form of government on its residents, so isn't that a violation of the First Amendment's prohibition of the United States Constitution on establishing a religion?

Yes, I answered. I also said that since the reversal of Roe v. Wade in 2022 (the first time a fundamental constitutional right has been “defundamentalized”), the United States has become a theocracy. State by state, a new Mason-Dixon line is taking shape, and on one side of the line, government officials are imposing their religious beliefs on us.

In 1802, Thomas Jefferson coined the phrase “separation of church and state” in a letter to Connecticut Baptists to assure them that the United States would never establish a religion or interfere in matters of worship. Today he is surely turning in his grave.

Julie A. Werner-Simon, Philadelphia

The author, a former federal prosecutor, teaches law at Drexel University in Philadelphia and USC.


To the editor: The Alabama Supreme Court's ruling on frozen embryos should come as no surprise, not where Alabama state law criminalizes abortion, with no exceptions for rape or incest.

I have spoken to people who oppose aborting any pregnancy caused by rape. They reliably put forward a faith-based justification: that the pregnancy was not the fault of the fetus and was part of God's plan.

I fear we are approaching an existential crossroads: will our nation choose to govern as a democracy or as a theocracy?

History tells us, as it told our founding fathers, that the latter option does not work very well.

Glenda Martel, Los Angeles


To the editor: Hello Alabamians, if you have to live with this exaggerated definition of “kids,” use it to your advantage.

The parents of each embryonic “child” can declare an annual tax deduction. Imagine, every year you get a tax break without having to pay for your little one's braces, school, food, and clothing.

Also, don't forget the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, which allows up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year. Think about the home improvement projects you could take on, or the opportunity to take classes to improve your future job or take that vacation you never had time for.

This is a perfect example of when life throws you a lemon, make lemonade.

Jill Chapin, Santa Monica

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