Being Human Parts
Some people don’t get the message, no matter how clear it’s made to them. Two years ago, conservative groups in Colorado tried to pass Amendment 48, which would have defined a person as “any human being from the moment of fertilization.” It was defeated 73% to 27%. That’s almost three to one against this kind of definition. The anti-abortion crowd–and this measure was clearly aimed at making abortion illegal–did not give up, however. This year we have Amendment 62, which once again to include a definition of “personhood” in the state constitution: “…the term “person” shall apply to every human being from the beginning of the biological development of that human being.” This would make abortion illegal and make any possibly make some scientific experimentation illegal as well.
I blogged about this two years ago. It is far too radical, and it endangers the lives of women. In countries where abortion is flat out illegal at any stage, where this kind of definition is in place, the death rate of pregnant women is extremely high. Why? Because definitions like the above make it murderous to perform an abortion, even when a pregnancy with no chance of survival (such as an ectopic one) endangers the life of the mother.
Setting that aside, the definition of “personhood” will always be a messy one. When a baby is born, they have few defining characteristics. Look at a nursery full of babies, have their names listed off, then have them rearranged and try to name them. If you’re not a parent to one of those kids, you’re going to have trouble doing it, I promise you. It takes time for defining physical attributes to appear, and personality traits take years to develop.
Still, there is no question in my mind that sometime before the moment of birth a fetus becomes human. Not at the moment of conception, not at the moment of birth, but at some undefinable point in between. I state that it is undefinable because I think that, like everything else where people are involved, it varies from one individual to the next.
Let’s look at this another way. Say somebody puts the plan to build a car in front of you. You have the knowledge and skills to follow this plan, but at the moment it’s put in front of you, it is just a plan. This is like fertilization: The genetics are all there, the plan is in place, but construction hasn’t really begun.
So somebody hands you some parts and you start putting them together. In human development, cells start dividing like mad, slowly building a person. At some point, what you’re constructing stops being a collection of parts. It may not be a car yet, but it isn’t just a plan anymore. It becomes worth more to finish the plan, to complete the car, than it is to take the thing apart and forget about it. Same with that fetus: At some point, it has the major parts in place, but still has a bit of development left before it is finished.
Putting Amendment 62 into this analogy, the proponents of this measure would charge you full price for a the parts and plans of a car because, by their definition, it’s already a vehicle. Arguably, like the plan and parts, there is some value to a fertilized egg, but it is certainly not the same value as a complete “person.” Heck, the fertilized egg doesn’t even have the parts yet, just the potential to develop them. At the start of the car’s construction in this analogy, it’s like having all of the parts on order, but only a few of them are on hand.
Amendment 62 is a dangerously bad idea. Just like Amendment 48, it goes way too far in attempting to define a human being. If you live in Colorado, please vote No on this extreme measure.