Human Personhood — The Core Issue

The anniversary of the Roe v. Wade/Doe v. Bolton Supreme Court decisions decriminalizing abortion provides an excellent opportunity for pro-life Americans to reflect on what it means to be a human being.

Among the most profound responses to that query is, as Francis Fernandez writes in volume three of In Conversation with God, “The most important title bestowed on human dignity is that of being the only reality of visible creation that God has loved for itself, creating it in His own image and likeness and raising it to the order of grace.”

The fundamental principle that every human being is created by God in His image and likeness is the cornerstone of belief for the individual who recognizes God as his Creator, which is precisely what this nation’s founding fathers understood. This is why the Declaration of Independence contains this profound statement:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Human personhood is the only rational response to an arrogant Supreme Court that has given itself, over and over again, the authority to argue against human personhood and in defense of a woman’s right to choose to kill her own child.

The progeny of these cruel decisions, including human embryonic stem cell research, physician-assisted suicide, infanticide and more will continue to escalate until personhood is not just a word but a constitutional principle.

The Federal Human Personhood Amendment addresses this inhumane situation, specifying what we already know to be true but what the Courts have denied, “that legal personhood is granted to all human beings in the United States from the beginning of their biological development.”

Further, the text of the Amendment presents not only a clear case for recognizing the human person as having human rights from his beginning but sets forth undeniably accurate definitions which have become the hallmark for all human personhood amendments currently being pursued in the various states. The language declares …

Section 1.
The right to life is the paramount and most fundamental right of a person.

Section 2.
With respect to the right to life guaranteed to persons by the fifth and fourteenth articles of amendment to the Constitution of the United States, the word “person” applies to all human beings; irrespective of age, health, function, physical or mental ability, disability, dependence or method of reproduction; from the beginning of their biological development as human beings (i.e., as human organisms).

Section 3.
Congress and the several States, including territories under United States control, shall have concurrent power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Section 4.
Definitions

Human being: Any organism, including the single-cell human embryo, irrespective of the method of reproduction, who possesses a genome specific for and consistent with an individual member of the human species.

Human organism: An individual living human being, including the single-cell human embryo, who can react to stimuli, reproduce, grow and maintain homeostasis.

Human cell: The structural, functional and biological unit of all human organisms.

Human genome: The total amount of nuclear and extranuclear DNA genetic material that constitutes an organism as an individual member of the human species-including the single-cell human embryo.

Human embryo: The term is used to define all human beings from the beginning of the embryonic period of their biological development through eight weeks; irrespective of age, health, function, physical or mental ability, disability, dependence or method of reproduction; whether in vivo or in vitro.

Human fetus: The term is used to define all human beings from the beginning of the fetal period of their biological development (the beginning of nine weeks) through birth; irrespective of age, health, function, physical or mental ability, disability, dependence or method of reproduction; whether in vivo or in vitro.

Human personhood: The legal recognition of every human being’s full status as a human person, including all the rights that accrue thereto, that applies to all human beings; irrespective of age, health, function, physical or mental ability, disability, dependence or method of reproduction; from the beginning of their biological development as human beings (i.e., as human organisms).

This language leaves no doubt about the fact that an individual human being at every stage of his life has human rights, civil rights and equal rights.  These are, in fact, the very same rights envisioned by the founding fathers of this nation. Thus, it is not surprising that at long last the effort to protect human beings as human persons under the law and in the culture is catching on from coast to coast.

Recently, Deal Hudson wrote about this upsurge in support for the human personhood effort. Hudson discussed the growth of Personhood USA and the fact that even as the effort is growing, the Catholic bishops remain not merely silent but opposed to such efforts in much the same way as they were in the early 1980s.

As someone who has been around since the beginning of this struggle, it is clear that a history lesson is in order. The fact of the matter is that human personhood is not a new idea and it has not come on the scene just over the course of the past few years. It has been the bedrock principle of the pro-life struggle since the beginning. In fact, it was among the first principles enunciated by March for Life founder Nellie J. Gray. And the same principle has been repeated time and time again by many eloquent pro-life leaders including Dr. Charles E. Rice, Professor Emeritus at the University of Notre Dame Law School, who wrote about the right to life movement‘s progress from 1973 to 1983:

[T]he solution to legalized abortion, in constitutional terms, is the restoration to our basic law of the principle that all human beings are persons. This was the key focus of the right-to-life movement from 1973 through 1980, which made headway because it was united in the conviction that, whatever differences might exist over wording of amendments, exceptions, etc., the essential remedy is the restoration of personhood. People can be inspired by that insistence on personhood because they can understand that if the unborn child in the womb can be defined as a non-person and deprived of his right-to- life, so can his elder brother or his grandmother.

Seen in this context, the decision of the Catholic Bishops in January, 1981, not to support the Helms-Hyde Human Life Bill (which would have affirmed the personhood of all human beings …) and to support instead the Hatch Amendment was, in my opinion, an act of folly which aggravated a growing split in the pro-life movement. Although this is not the place for an extended discussion of the Hatch Amendment controversy, [35] it must be noted that the “legislative powers” approach to abortion proposed by Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and the simplified states’ rights version proposed by Senator Thomas Eagleton (D-Mo.) fail to introduce the fundamental notion of the personhood of the unborn. But the positivistic denial of personhood is the error of the abortion decisions that must be corrected. In this light, therefore, these approaches are gravely deficient.

It was-and is-this so-called split within the pro-life movement that continues to pit the ideology of incrementalism against proactive strategy dedicated to protecting the human rights of every single human being from his beginning. What is needed now, as we face the beginning of the 38th year of decriminalized abortion in America, is a renewal of that zeal which consumed us in the early 1970s. Then, as now, we should be defining ourselves not in terms of our politics but in terms of our understanding of the dignity of the human person.

Abortion is an act of cruelty.

Abortion is terrorism of the worst kind for it disregards humanity in deference to self interest, sexual pleasure and irresponsibility.

Abortion is the antithesis of true freedom that can only be established in concert with justice for all.

Personhood is the antidote; personhood is the truth; personhood is the goal.

Just imagine a March for Life attended by hundreds of thousands who have come to rejoice because America has finally ended the most heinous war against the innocent ever waged in the history of mankind: A March FOR Life in celebration of human personhood.

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  • Terri Kimmel

    Tragically, most often women are railroaded into committing abortion. It is not a free choice. It’s an irresponsible cultural default that has become mainstreamed because it was legalized.

    Abortion treats healthy femininity as a disease. It exploits women.

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