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Tags: abortion | roe v wade | personhood

After Roe: We the People Shall Define Who is a Person

plastic models showing the stages of development of a human fetus

Ralph Benko By Tuesday, 05 July 2022 11:37 AM EDT Current | Bio | Archive

The Supreme Court’s unfinding of a constitutional right to abortion paves a way to restore some dignity and harmony to the American body politic. Those qualities were damaged when the Supreme Court usurped our authority in 1973.

The pro-Roe and no-Roe factions have spent nearly 50 years wallowing in the unseemly luxury of talking past each other. Now, by, after long confusion, defining our terms, America is likely to regain its social balance.

Through fuzzy thinking (or fuzzy rhetoric), “pro-lifers” (my camp) and “pro-choicers” have compromised America’s ability to get clear.

So let’s get clear. Good law will follow.

As I wrote here last May, “Whether you believe that a fetus lacks personhood (making the gravida's ‘right to choose’ sacrosanct) or that an unborn baby is a person (who cannot be deprived of life without due process of law), more than life is at stake.”

The Supreme Court, by usurping our authority to decide upon personhood, generated a national conversation befuddled by collapsed distinctions.

First and worst brick in our tower of babble: opposing abortion is not about “life.” A carrot has life. Nobody, even vegans, objects to killing (and eating!) a carrot.

Calling ourselves “pro-life” is, in the words of Wolfgang Pauli, “not even wrong.” It’s a recipe for confusion.

Everybody’s “pro-life.” Nobody absolutely. It’s a spectrum.

Second, this is not about “choice.” It’s about agency.

We all, pro-Roe and no-Roe, are all in for agency … so long as it is exercised morally. Agency without morality is nihilism.

Even my most enthusiastically progressive frenemies aren’t nihilists. Progressives, bless their hearts, trending sentimental, are prone to fight for whales and trees.

Of course they would oppose a “right” to “choose” to kill a person, if a baby were so recognized. They’d fight passionately!

Calling themselves “pro-choice” obscures their existential stance: nonpersonhood of the unborn. An unborn baby, indisputably, is human. Personhood is something more.

The real question? When does a human become a legal person?

Most religions have given thought to this. We, the governed-giving-consent, are not bound by law to our faiths. Yet the thoughts of the spiritual sages enrich our discernment.

In Roman Catholicism, personhood attaches at conception.

In Orthodox Judaism, per the Babylonian Talmud Yevamot 69b, the Sages conclude: the embryo is considered to be mere water until the fortieth day.” Yet (except to protect the mother’s life) “the destruction of an unborn child is a grave offence, although not murder.”

Protestant views vary. Evangelical Christians trend most protective of the life of the unborn, Meanwhile, for example, Lutherans (contra Martin Luther in his Commentary on Genesis, Chapter 25, verses 1-4) hold that abortion should be permitted prior to the unborn’s viability.

All this provides food for thought. Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptists coined the “wall of separation between church and state” to protect the church from the state, not the state from the church.

So, to be clear, the question, now properly returned to we, the people, is not an argument between “pro-life” and “pro-choice.” The waiting debate’s about when an unborn baby becomes a person.

Good law proceeds organically from getting clear on this.

Now let’s get crystal clear. The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution states plainly, “No person … shall be deprived of life … without due process of law.”

So, as soon as an unborn child is recognized as a person that baby’s life is protected by the Constitution (except when legitimately sacrificed to protect the mother’s life), no matter how inconvenient. Open and shut.

So, when does personhood attach?

At conception? On Day 41? At viability?

Or, as the extremists hold, not until after the child emerges from the womb?

The Supreme Court has now properly referred the job of defining personhood (and, with it, attendant constitutional protections) back to we, the people. From this we may hope for a more dignified outcome.

As President Biden recognized in his post-Roe remarks “And with your vote, you can act. You can have the final word.”

Yes. So be it.

Defining “personhood” won’t be easy. It’s been debated for centuries.

Boethius defined a person as naturæ rationalis individua substantia, “an individual substance of a rational nature.” I’m partial to Boethius’s definition.

Why? It makes explicit the, to me, self-evident truth that progressives, because patently irrational, don’t quite rise to “personhood.”

Deny the status of personhood to the unborn right up to birth? Let the left be hoist on its own petard.

However, as a “live-and-let-live” kind of guy I am willing to enter a national living room conversation that might conclude that even progressives have personhood. I will abide by the ensuing national consensus.

Thank you, Supreme Court!

Welcome, citizens, back to duty.

In America the gravest matters properly belong to we, the people.

Who is a person?

Ralph Benko, co-author of "The Capitalist Manifesto" and chairman and co-founder of "The Capitalist League," is the founder of The Prosperity Caucus and is an original Kemp-era member of the Supply-Side revolution that propelled the Dow from 814 to its current heights and world GDP from $11T to $94T. Read Ralph Benko's reports — More Here.

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The Supreme Court's unfinding of a constitutional right to abortion paves a way to restore some dignity and harmony to the American body politic.
abortion, roe v wade, personhood
Tuesday, 05 July 2022 11:37 AM
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