A Person Is a Person--No Matter What the Politics Dictate

March 4, 2011 09:00 AM

(Part III--continued from yesterday)

Personhood has been the cornerstone of American Life League’s mission since its founding in April of 1979. At that time we used the word “conception” to define the beginning of a human being’s life. Over time we realized that “conception” had been co-opted by the pro-abortion movement for the purposes of marketing the pill.

As Webster’s defines it, conception is “the process of becoming pregnant, involving fertilization or implantation or both.” This is, of course, oxymoronic since the preborn child actually implants himself in his mother’s womb eight days after his life has begun. Clearly, the term “conception” could no longer be used. 

In the early 1980s American Life League, and pro-life writers like Charles Provan, began defining the beginning of human life as “conception/fertilization.” At the time we were certain that this term would, if used consistently, prevent the direct killing of any preborn child. Our personhood terminology changed again.

Most recently we have grown to understand that there are certain phenomena that made it possible for a human being to be asexually reproduced. Such human beings could not be included in personhood protection if the term conception/fertilization was used. These preborn humans come into existence through parthenogenesis, cloning and monozygotic twinning—to name a few. 

Therefore American Life League once again updated the language; we now address all human persons from their actual beginning by using the phrase, “from the beginning of their biological development.” 

This terminology ensures that no preborn child is left behind. We must understand and acknowledge that science has moved forward, and therefore we must update our language to keep up with what is occurring—whether or not we approve of practices such as human cloning. Modern technologies, genetic manipulation and other immoral practices do result in human lives. Whether or not we approve of those practices, the person in question is undoubtedly a human being and we must take care not to exclude a single one. Our job is to protect the human rights of preborn children and, in that pursuit, we must be exact.

American Life League has taken care to monitor every personhood proposal that has been submitted to us for review. American Life League cannot, for example, endorse the Iowa proposal because it states, “from the moment of conception.” 

In North Dakota, a proposed personhood law has already passed the house but is under review prior to a vote in the Senate. Concerned with perceived loopholes and language problems, North Dakota lawmakers are presently consulting with experts. 

There are other examples of personhood proposals that do not adhere to the scientific, ethical and logical principles that must be pursued if the end result is to be the total protection of every human being’s human rights. Various state and federal lawmakers who draft such proposals have to keep this in mind: the state does not endow human beings with personhood; God takes care of that. What the state can and should do is recognize these persons as members of the human family, thus making it impossible to kill preborn children in in vitro fertilization laboratories, with chemicals such as the birth control pill which can abort prior to implantation, or through medical or surgical abortions. 

Two principles can and should be used to guide the drafting of language designed to address human personhood:
1. It is never permissible to do evil that good may come of it. (Romans 3:8)
2. A small error in the beginning leads to a multitude of errors in the end. (Thomas Aquinas)

The goal is to take whatever measures we can to assure protection whether or not the language is politically correct, popular in the polls or successful at the ballot box. Every effort to achieve legal recognition for the inalienable right to life is an opportunity to teach truth. 

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