Is This a Person?

Is This a Person? March 29, 2017


A bill currently in the Montana legislature seeks to amended the state constitution to define a “person” as “all members of the species homo sapiens at any stage of development, including the stage of fertilization or conception, regardless of age, health, level of functioning, or condition of dependency.”

If passed by the legislature and a subsequent ballot referendum, it would provide full legal protection as “persons” to fertilized eggs, zygotes, and embryos, thus effectively outlawing all forms of abortion, some forms of contraception, as well as in vitro fertilization and the treatment of ectopic pregnancies.

The bill’s sponsor, Republican Representative Derek Skees, views this as just a small part of the national “pro-life” movement that has been invigorated by Trump’s election. Skees said:

“We just won the presidency with a new president, and his position is pro-life. His vice president is pro-life. The majority of folks in both chambers in Washington, D.C., are Republican, and the majority of them are pro-life … We have some awesome opportunities within Trump’s eight years of presidency. We could have two more Supreme Court justices.”

Regardless of your general views about abortion, the idea that a cell, at the very moment of fertilization, suddenly becomes a person and therefore has a legal right to not be “deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law” is ludicrous. A zygote can’t see, hear, feel, taste, or smell. It can’t feel happiness or sadness. It can’t hope or dream. It can’t think. It’s simply not a person.

Our legal system should protect the rights of people, especially those who are most at-risk for having their rights infringed upon. But issues surrounding abortion are never as straightforward as those on the right would like us to believe. The scientific, philosophical, moral, and religious problems of abortion are all but intractable, and any ideology that tries to paint them as merely black or white is likely profoundly misguided on all of those fronts.

The proposed Montana amendment has nothing to with the dubious notion of being “pro-life” and everything to do with exerting arbitrary and unnecessary control on people’s lives. It’s a disturbing attempt to write into law idiosyncratic religious fundamentalism, that, if it just so happened to be of a slightly different flavor, would be at risk of being banned by the very same people.

But, if you still think that those cells are really a person, and that they deserve the same rights and privileges as all other people, then I begrudgingly admire your steadfastness. I only hope that your desire to preserve, at seemingly any cost, all living tissue that contains human DNA also extends to civilians being bombed in Iraq and Syria, to transgender women being killed in America, to homeless teenagers committing suicide, to refugees trying to escape almost certain death, and to countless other individuals whose status as a “person” is undeniably clear.


Image via Pixabay.

Dan WilkinsonDan Wilkinson
Dan is the Executive Editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians blog. He is a writer, graphic designer and IT specialist. He lives in Montana, is married and owns three cats.

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