I was listening to NPR the other night when the BBC news came on to report about the defeat of the Mississippi “Personhood amendment”. The announcer said that the law in effect would outlaw abortion and went on to add “even in cases of rape or incest.”
First of all, I understand the point. Those are extremely hard circumstances to deal with as the victim or family of a victim. But the fact that he had to explicitly say that betrays a confused philosophy of the unborn on the side of the news agency. By virtue of even saying it, it implies the unborn is not valuable.
Just like we don’t kill infants and toddlers who were concieved through such unfortunate circumstances, if the unborn is a human being then it is equally unjust to kill them because they remind us of those circumstances. In other words, we don’t kill children for the crimes of their fathers.
I know the objection: “But a woman shouldn’t have to bear that burden since it was forced upon her against her will!” But here again, like the objections I’ve already mentioned, this finds a moral difficulty and tries to remedy it by setting the unborn’s value to zero. But that doesn’t tell us anything about the unborn. It avoids the question entirely. And if that answer is wrong, it is catastrophically wrong. The question is, is a child already in the world?
And that can only be answered by looking at the child and what he/she is, not by looking at the circumstances of their origins.
I’ve been having a back and forth online with someone over Mississippi’s Amendment 26 which states :
Be it Enacted by the People of the State of Mississippi: SECTION 1. Article III of the constitution of the state of Mississippi is hereby amended BY THE ADDITION OF A NEW SECTION TO READ: Section 33. Person defined. As used in this Article III of the state constitution, “The term ‘person’ or ‘persons’ shall include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof.” This initiative shall not require any additional revenue for implementation.
The purpose of this is to legally establish that there is no difference between humans and persons. All humans are persons, and all persons are human. One of the pro-abortion arguments is that the unborn may be human, but not a person. (Incidentally, this is the exact argument that was made about slaves in the 1800s. They were said not to be persons, therefore are not “created equal” with constitutional protection. A similar argument was in operation in Nazi Germany.)
What made me go and read the amendment (I’m not in Mississippi, so in one sense I don’t have a dog in this fight) was the rhetoric being used to object to the law. Some of the statements being thrown around:
- This law criminalizes any mistake with In Vitro Fertilization or any other miscarriage.
- Any woman who had cancer couldn’t get treatment because she’d be guilty of murder.
- The law dehumanizes the woman making the zygote (they love using “zygote”) more valuable.
- The law makes the woman nothing more than an incubator, subject to the dictates of the state.
I read so much of these type of comments that I came away with the impression that the law must be pages and pages long. I was surprised to find it barely more than a paragraph that did nothing but give legal value to the unborn. That’s quite a bit of information being derived from complete silence. (One might even say…an argument from silence)
Note how none of these center on the main issue. Is the unborn a valuable human being? Instead these objections say, “Look at all these things that might happen. So to fix these hypothetical moral difficulties we’ll just set the embryo’s value to zero.”
These are also misleading. The law does not criminalize anything, it merely establishes value. If there are moral and legal difficulties that might arise, then that needs to be worked out through precedence in the courts. The same way, to my knowledge, we handle every case involving “persons.”