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Barton’s Most Baffling Claim Ever?

We’re used to some seriously bizarre pronouncements from David Barton, but this one really leaves me scratching my head. He told a pre-RNC prayer gathering that abortion is unconstitutional under the 7th Amendment. What does the 7th Amendment say? I’m glad you asked:

In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury shall be otherwise re–examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

And here’s Barton:

Comments

  1. muzakbox says

    I guess a woman’s uterus is worth more than $20. Or the sperm inside it is….or something. But clearly abortion is about ownership. And the woman clearly doesn’t have it.

  2. Quinn Martindale says

    Maybe he meant the 8th amendment barred the government from aborting criminal fetuses?

  3. MikeMa says

    How many Barton-ites would know or bother to look up the text of an actual amendment or the constitution for that matter.

    Abortion is illegal as part of clause 734C, part 6.
    Muslims may be arrested based on the 1797 ruling, section 4b.
    Homosexuals can be legally hunted and slaughtered as a result of…

    You get the idea.

  4. says

    Barton has previously made this claim, referencing the writings of James Wilson:

    With consistency, beautiful and undeviating, human life, from its commencement to its close, is protected by the common law. In the contemplation of law, life begins when the infant is first able to stir in the womb. By the law, life is protected not only from immediate destruction, but from every degree of actual violence, and, in some cases, from every degree of danger.

    The ONLY way the Seventh Amendment has anything to do with this passage is if Barton is interpreting it to mean the United States has bound itself to follow “common law”.

    Of course, since English common law at the time prohibited abortion only after “quickening”, it would seem that David Barton is, in fact, saying abortions during the first trimester are just fine.

  5. says

    I can’t get the sound here, but that shirt he’s wearing totally sinks his credibility. My parents used to put me in jammies more dignified than that.

  6. DaveL says

    Clearly he means that if the father objects to the fetus making use of his property (i.e. the woman), he must bring a civil action against it, which under the 7th Amendment requires a trial by jury.

    The good news is, we now have a lower bound for Barton’s estimation of a woman’s worth.

  7. Reginald Selkirk says

    Note to future government founders: do no put specific cash values in your constitution. It makes you look silly after a few centuries of inflation.

  8. Chiroptera says

    I think that a good case can be made that if a woman sets the rental cost of her uterus for 9 months to be more than $20, and if the fetus files a suit claiming a right to reside in it, the trial must be by jury.

    At least, that’s the only way I can make sense of this.

  9. keithb says

    Maybe he is saying that if some lower court/jury somewhere, found that “abortion = murder” is a “fact”, that it could not be overturned by a higher court, and as such becomes de facto law.

    What would he say about Loving vs West Va?

  10. Hercules Grytpype-Thynne says

    What’s Barton’s official position on flag desecration? If that shirt doesn’t qualify then I don’t know what does.

  11. d cwilson says

    I’ll file this in the same place as his claim that the Constitution quotes the Babble “verbatim”. He just pulls these ideas out of his ass and throws in whatever reference he wants, knowing most of his audience will never check.

  12. Larry says

    Yet another example of the MSU christofacist theory of jurisprudence. Otherwise known as Making Shit Up.

  13. slc1 says

    Re danielkast @ #4

    Of course, since English common law at the time prohibited abortion only after “quickening”,

    Oddly enough, this was the position of Thomas Aquinas.

  14. eric says

    keith @10:

    Maybe he is saying that if some lower court/jury somewhere, found that “abortion = murder” is a “fact”, that it could not be overturned by a higher court, and as such becomes de facto law.

    Nope, that still doesn’t work. The amendment clearly implies that common law jury rulings can be re-examined, as long as the courts also use common law to do the re-examining. IANAL but (in addition to the primary effect of protecting the right of trial by jury), this is seems to be a protection against ad hoc overturning of judicial decisions. It is not, however, a protection against normal judicial overturning of (lower court) judicial decisions.

    I think danielklast has the right idea. Barton’s just doing an idiotic word match. He found some old sentence that appears pro-life* and mentions “common law.” Then he looked for amendments that say also use the words “common law,” and decided that since the amendment uses words found in his quote, it must be talking about abortion. Utterly silly. I’d say grasping at straws but that really gives grasping at straws a bad name.

    *But, as daniel also said, it doesn’t support the life-begins-at-conception idea at all.

  15. alanb says

    Well, I say that abortion is legal under the 3rd amendment, no quartering of troops without the consent of the Owner. Makes just as much sense.

  16. garnetstar says

    No surprise, but yet another whopper: the founders did not “recognize abortion as a crime, way back in the beginning”.

    The first state statute outlawing abortion was passed in 1821, and it took until 1900 before every state had outlawed it.

    Apparently it was sometimes treated as a violation of common law, whatever that may mean, but I recall once reading advertisements from doctors outlining their services in a newspaper from 1879. Abortion was listed as a medical procedure they provided.

  17. says

    From the Weatherford Star-Telegram of 20 July 2012:

    Citing James Wilson, one of the signers of the Constitution, Barton said human life is protected by Common Law as part of the Seventh Amendment and that once there is life, it is to be protected by that law.

    “That’s why Roe vs. Wade is an act of judicial activism because it went against the [amendment],” Barton said.

  18. lofgren says

    I think the thinking goes something like this:

    If a fetus is alive, then:
    The woman who possesses it still has control of her autonomy, so:
    She may, as a matter of self-defense, choose to expel the parasitic mutant beast which intends to claw its way forth from her nether regions at great risk to her body and mind.

    However,
    If this can instead be seen as a disagreement between mother and unborn child, then:
    The value of the child and woman’s lives are clearly worth more than $20, so:
    The woman cannot expel the fetus without first finding it guilty of something by a trial by jury.

    Or something.

  19. says

    Muzakbox @1:

    I guess a woman’s uterus is worth more than $20. Or the sperm inside it is….or something. But clearly abortion is about ownership. And the woman clearly doesn’t have it.

    Of course not. Her father does.

  20. greg1466 says

    I also like how he had to make the quick correction from you have rights just because you’re born to because you’re conceived. Kind of killed his whole argument right there it seems.

  21. grumpyoldfart says

    His plan will work though – every fundie who watches that video will now assume that the 7th amendment prohibits abortion and they will carry that idea with them until the day they die. Some his younger viewers will be re-telling the lie in fifty or sixty years from now. The cat is out of the bag…

  22. Nentuaby says

    Note to future government founders: do no put specific cash values in your constitution. It makes you look silly after a few centuries of inflation.

    To be fair to them, they were not referencing ‘cash’– i.e. fiat currency. They were talking about the Spanish dollar, a bullion coin containing just over 25 grams of fine silver. The US dollar didn’t even exist yet at the time the constitution was framed. If later interpretations of the amendment had been a bit less silly, it would equate to somewhere around $500 today.

  23. Doug Little says

    Does it count as flag burning if by chance that horrible shirt he is wearing were to accidently catch fire?

  24. dingojack says

    Doug Little – presumably from his pants, which are already well and truly alight.
    Dingo
    —–
    PS: Nentuaby – um no, not fiat money, you could exchange it for real cash. (But let’s not get into that argument again :D )

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