In our last class meeting we attempted to define what is meant by the term “personhood”. This article from the Las Vegas Review-Journal discusses why the definition of personhood matters a great deal to a great number of people. Within the last few years there has developed what can only be described as a “Personhood Movement” in which those opposed to the denial of basic human rights afforded to all persons by the U.S. Constitution are attempting to adjust the legal parameters of personhood so that certain parties who are not currently protected will be. The article reports that thirty states are presently seeking to get personhood initiatives onto ballots so that voters can decide who (and what) qualifies as a person and should therefore be protected by their God-given “inalienable rights”. In this particular case, the judge denied the initiative citing vague language, and stated that voters would not really understand what they were voting for nor would they comprehend the true magnitude of what the initiative calls for.
The determination of what is meant by "personhood" affects a diverse number of activities in this country. The one that is most hotly debated is abortion; for the simple fact that if the courts were to determine that personhood begins at conception, then Roe v. Wade would be overturned and abortion as well as some methods of birth control would become illegal. If legal personhood were to encompass, as it should, human physical disability and/or mental deficiency, then children born with physical and mental handicaps as well as elderly who are dependent upon others for care would also be granted greater protection.
I think what I find most ironic about the great personhood debate is that under current law actual human life (e.g., fetuses, infants with deformities, even the homeless in some cases) is not regarded as sacrosanct and worthy of protection, while other entities such as corporations and in the near future, apes and dolphins, are somehow deserving of such protection…a true reflection of the need for a re-prioritization of American, no human, values. Further, I am 100% in support of a woman’s right to choose: and by that I mean, barring the tragic instances of rape or incest, a woman has the right to choose not to engage in behaviors that will result in pregnancy in the first place. Planned Parenthood and some "pro-choice" supporters would have us all believe that women are victims of pregnancy…that somehow fetuses prey upon unsuspecting women in epidemic proportions. Unless the natural laws of reproduction have changed since my husband and I had our son two years ago I feel confident that this is, in fact, not the case. Regardless, I think it is evident that no matter how Americans have felt, or have claimed to have felt about “the least of us” in times past, hearts are changing and voices of advocacy for personhood are being heard.