Pragmatists Against Human Personhood

May 1, 2009 09:00 AM

Human: having human form, human attributes

Personhood: the legal recognition of a human being's full status as a human person that applies to all human beings, irrespective of age, health, function, physical or mental dependency, or method of reproduction, from the beginning of their biological development
American Life League is engaged in the ongoing development of what we now call human personhood apologetics.* When we see arguments against proposals that address human personhood, we examine them in order to discern how to effectively convince people who oppose our efforts that they are not addressing the subject – the preborn child – in the proper way. Here are a few such arguments, followed by our response to each:

So-called personhood amendments do not seek to give more information to women or counsel them to seek alternatives to abortion. Instead, such bills challenge the U.S. Supreme Court ‘s 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling.

This argument is not really an argument but an explanation of what opponents see as the major defect in proposed human personhood amendments. But it is erroneous. The effort to pursue human personhood challenges both of the 1973 Supreme Court decisions at their core, not the periphery. We are certain that if the Supreme Court took Blackmun's argument seriously, Roe, Doe and their progeny would fall. Therefore, giving more information to women or counseling them to seek alternatives to abortion is a need that is separate from defending human personhood. In fact, once human personhood is recognized in the law, abortion itself would be defined as a crime against human rights, civil rights and equal rights. It would, in fact, be recognized as the act of murder that it is.

A second argument against pursuing human personhood goes like this:

As it stands, there is still a majority on the Court that would uphold decriminalized abortion. Not only would an unfavorable decision strengthen abortion-“rights” case law, but it also invites the Court to define when life begins, which they have not done to date.

This argument is based on a total lack of understanding of the impact the Supreme Court’s post-1973 abortion decisions have had. After all, each such decision has recognized the legitimacy of Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton by recognizing the legal status of abortion. As the five Catholic Supreme Court justices said in the Gonzales v. Carhart  decision,

Where it has a rational basis to act, and it does not impose an undue burden, the State may use its regulatory power to bar certain procedures and substitute others, all in furtherance of its legitimate interests in regulating the medical profession in order to promote respect for life, including life of the unborn. The Act's ban on abortions that involve partial delivery of a living fetus furthers the Government's objectives. No one would dispute that, for many, D&E is a procedure itself laden with the power to devalue human life. Congress could nonetheless conclude that the type of abortion proscribed by the Act requires specific regulation because it implicates additional ethical and moral concerns that justify a special prohibition.

Obviously, the Supreme Court is strengthening abortion “rights” every time any case involving abortion comes its way! As a matter of fact, the Supreme Court has repeatedly recognized the legitimacy of abortion as long as the "undue burden" does not affect a mother's “right” to kill her preborn child. So, arguing that personhood proposals would somehow set the pro-life movement back is ridiculous!

Furthermore, the Supreme Court has not been asked to address the scientific evidence regarding when a human being begins since 1971, when it heard the oral arguments preceding its 1973 decisions. At that time, the Court simply refused to hear the facts.
Here is a third argument against personhood proposals:

Ultimately, it will be public sentiment that will bring an end to abortion in the United States and not forced, untimely or imprudent legislation. The incrementalist strategy is sound, prudent and effective, and … it gives far more than it takes.

To argue that focusing on the central fact that aborting a preborn child is wrong because that child is a human person is not forced, untimely or imprudent. It is accurate, hopeful and necessary. Arguments that suggest otherwise expose the sordid truth that at least a few pro-life leaders are repeatedly leading pro-life Americans to agree that abortion for rape, incest and the life of the mother is acceptable. Such an incrementalist position provides the Courts with additional reasons to affirm Roe v. Wade.

Those who oppose personhood proposals are lost in a rhetorical fog, and to that we say, please let us help you find your way!

The fourth argument comes from a Catholic priest who opposes the human personhood effort:

The question we must ask ourselves is this: What is greater – my uncompromised moral position or the innocent lives of the unborn?

This is perhaps one of the most tired, self-serving statements I have seen. Oddly enough, it always comes from those who refuse to address the factual evidence regarding the personhood of the preborn child. If we as pro-life Americans are honest, and I think most of us are, we would take the time to examine what has contributed to the perpetuation of what the Supreme Court refers to as protecting abortion when an "undue burden" is imposed on expectant mothers. Clearly, the Court, like most culture-of -death proponents, finds it more "realistic" to continue the status quo than to bite the bullet and join with those of us who have changed course and do recognize that the past 36 years have delivered defeat after defeat for preborn human persons.

The "uncompromised moral position" is that our pro-life identity obligates us to do all we can to focus on the human person whose existence is acknowledged by so few, to recognize his individuality and humanize him for one and all. Regulating the murder of these preborn persons by employing flawed incrementalist propositions will not accomplish this goal. Such proposals actually contradict personhood and are designed to appease politicians, not save the preborn. How can a single one of us be satisfied with regulating what is, at its core, an act of murder?

So, while some will continue to argue against the pursuit of human personhood for any number of trumped-up reasons, the human personhood movement will be guided by the lessons it has learned from the failures of those who have surrendered to the Supreme Court’s version of what human beings should and should not be, based on a totally false "undue burden" argument.

May those who seek to undermine the human personhood movement recognize the facts and acknowledge the failures of the past. May they finally understand that merely regulating such a heinous crime has resulted in death and perpetuated the "undue burden" myth. May they examine their opposition and see what we see … a positive, proactive affirmation of human beings whose civil rights, human rights and equal rights are being violated at least 3,000 times a day, 365 days a year, by acts of murder … acts of abortion.

*Human Personhood Apologetics II coming soon!

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