Identifying the Human Being Requires No Debate

Judie Brown
March 7, 2013
Reproduced with Permission

Most people do not follow the so-called "personhood" political scene, but if they did it might be helpful if one could see that words can be used to complicate even the most basic fact. For example, if you look at the person closest to you right now, what do you see? Is it a human being, a Martian, or a monkey?

Sound like a stupid question? Of course! There is no question that the individual is a human being. But wait! You are not thinking in pragmatic terms or you might want to debate what it means to be a person.

Unlike those who want to change the conversation in order to suit what is defined as politically prudent, we can consider reality. There is a logical progression that we can follow that will take us from the scientific fact to the recognition of person without even thinking about it.

Each and every one of us is an individual who begins our existence because of the union of human sperm and human egg or, as in some rare cases, because of an asexual process such as the one that results in monozygotic twins. Other such examples would include human cloning and other processes that are initiated in laboratories. Either way, if you are a scientist or even a first year biology student, you know and understand how each human being begins regardless of the process employed.

So if we acknowledge this indisputable fact, we can then agree that the human individual is indeed a human being - a person. He is one of us, period!

So where is the debate coming from if not from those who want to muddy the waters or attempt to count how many angels can stand on the head of a pin? In politics, such a discussion can go on for a very long time. If not, we would never have confronted more than 40 years of decriminalized killing through surgical abortion.

Recently in South Carolina, proponents of human personhood proposed a law which says in part:

(C) The General Assembly acknowledges personhood is God-given, as all men are created in the image of God.

(D) The General Assembly finds the Preamble to the Constitution of the State of South Carolina contains the sovereign peoples' acknowledgment of God as the source of constitutional liberty saying: "We the people of the State of South Carolina, in Convention assembled, grateful to God for our liberties, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the preservation and perpetuation of the same."

(E) The General Assembly finds a human being is a person at fertilization.

Two things are fundamentally wrong in this language. The first, as Wesley J. Smith points out, is that the proposal violates the First Amendment. He states, "To declare that a law is explicitly based on a religious belief, e.g., that 'personhood is God-given' and that 'all men are created in the image of God,' is unquestionably to turn the law into the establishment of religion." And, as Smith points out, such language "won't pass Constitutional muster."

The second problem, which is far more egregious, is that by using the word "fertilization" the proposal leaves out any individual who is created asexually, thus denying total protection for all people, which is precisely what the bill purports to accomplish!

This is pure folly, but it is the stuff of politics.

There are other politically convenient reasons why many, even among proponents of human personhood, would prefer not to discuss unpopular but factually accurate methods of abortion.

For example, the most popular birth control chemicals and devices can abort children. Add to this the fact that the practice of in vitro fertilization and other reproductive technologies result in many preborn human beings being aborted.

But once we define abortion properly, regardless of what may be politically popular, we can see that identifying the human being requires no debate.

It is so obvious! So let's get on with defending every one of us from creation to death.