Links to articles and resources on personhood:
- Rethinking Pro-Life Strategy: Robert Muise, Thomas More Law Center
- Unborn Victims of Violence Act
Catholic Church Teaching
“Thus the fruit of human generation, from the first moment of its existence, that is to say, from the moment the zygote has formed, demands the unconditional respect that is morally due to the human being in his bodily and spiritual totality. The human being is to be respected and treated as a person from the moment of conception; and therefore from that same moment his rights as a person must be recognized, among which in the first place is the inviolable right, of every innocent human being, to life.”
– Congregation For The Doctrine Of The Faith Instruction (On Certain Bioethical Questions), 4.
“This boundless and almost incomprehensible love of God for the human being reveals the degree to which the human person deserves to be loved in himself, independently of any other consideration – intelligence, beauty, health, youth, integrity, and so forth. In short, human life is always a good, for it ‘is a manifestation of God in the world, a sign of his presence, a trace of his glory’.”
– Pope John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae, 34.
The Basis and Strategy of Personhood
Reprinted with permission, www.personhoodusa.com
When the term “Person” is granted to a human being, it refers to the presence of a particular set of characteristics that grant that individual certain rights such as the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. In other words, to be a person is to be protected by a series of God- given and constitutionally protected rights.
Pro-abortion groups know that if we clearly define the pre-born baby as a person, then the unborn will have the same right to life as all Americans do! This Amendment has the promise plugging the “Blackmun Hole,” a startling admission that if personhood could be established for the pre-born, the arguments in Roe v. Wade would collapse.
Justice Harry Blackmun wrote in the majority opinion for Roe v. Wade in 1973, “The appellee and certain amici [pro-lifers] argue that the fetus is a ‘person’ within the language and meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment. In support of this, they outline at length and in detail the well-known facts of fetal development. If this suggestion of personhood is established, the appellant’s case, of course, collapses, for the fetus’ right to life would then be guaranteed specifically by the Amendment.”
During Blackmun’s time, the “well-known facts of fetal development” were a far cry from what is known today. Ultrasonography and DNA testing were yet to be invented. In 1973, most held that “life” began at “quickening,” or when a woman first feels movement of the baby in the womb at 18 to 24 weeks. Some even held to the “Recapitulation Theory,” the scientifically debunked notion that the human baby underwent his entire evolutionary cycle in the womb, being first a simple one-celled creature, then later a fish, then later a mammal, then finally a human, which of course now seems absurd.
The science of fetology in 1973 was not able to prove, as it can now, that a fully human and unique individual exists at the moment of fertilization and continues to grow through various stages of development in a continuum (barring tragedy) until natural death from old age.
If the Court considers the humanity of the pre-born child, for which there is overwhelming scientific evidence, it could restore the legal protections of person-hood to the pre-born under the 14th Amendment as Blackmun foretold, stopping abortion in a few and then in all fifty states!
There are essentially two issues which must be resolved concerning unborn embryos and fetuses. The first is, “Are they human beings?” The second is, “Should they be recognized as persons under the law?” We’ve already established that there is no debate on the first question. It is a matter of plain, objective science. Embryos and fetuses are fully and individually human from the moment of fertilization on. If this were not true, if unborn children were not demonstrably human, there would be no need to even talk about rights of personhood. “Removing a fetus” would be the moral equivalent of pulling a tooth. This, however, is not the case, and so the debate must now enter the political arena.
There is a very real sense in which the need to answer this second question is, in itself, an absurdity. If you look up the word “person” in your average dictionary (we’ll use Webster’s), you’ll find something like this:
Person n. A human being.
A person, simply put, is a human being. This fact should be enough. The intrinsic humanity of unborn children, by definition, makes them persons and should, therefore, guarantee their protection under the law. For more than thirty years, however, this has not been the case. The situation we are left with is this. In America today, there is a huge and singular group of living human beings who have no protection under the law and are being killed en masse every day. Is that not astounding?! It is astounding, but not wholly unprecedented.
There have been at least two other instances in American history in which specific groups of human beings were stripped of their rights of personhood as a means of justifying their horrible mistreatment. African-Americans and Native-Americansboth felt the brunt of a system which denied their humanity, stripped their personhood and subjected them to horrors beyond measure. While the legal framework that made such injustice possible has now been removed, it remains firmly in place for unborn Americans.
There remains a group of human beings in the U.S. today for which being human is not enough. The inconvenience of their existence has resulted in a legal loophole of shameful proportions. What is a person? A person is a human being – unless, of course, you haven’t been born yet, in which case we’ll define personhood in any way possible so as to exclude you, kill you and forget you.