“Personhood” should only be for People.

Posted on | November 7, 2011 | 25 Comments

There is a movement called Personhood USA.  It is a “movement” to designate that life begins at the moment of fertilization.

I bring this up for a few very important reasons… first and foremost because no matter what your position is on abortion, this movement is ridiculous. And I do not use that word lightly.  For the most part, I’m not sure how to characterize my position on abortion so I’m not going to get into that.  So let’s put aside the abortion debate for now and just focus on what it means to have the classification of “person.”

Based on our Constitution, certain rights have been extended to all individuals who are considered “persons.” These rights include, among others, the right to bear arms, the right to enjoy privacy in your own home, the right not to be killed or abused, and the right to practice your religion.  Now, clearly the “right of personhood” that this movement focuses on is the right not to be killed or abused and okay, I get that.  But by identifying the moment of conception as the moment when ALL rights of personhood are bestowed upon a fetus?

That’s just crazy talk.

Let’s forget about the right not to be abused or killed.  Let’s move right past that into all the other rights that are bestowed upon persons, like the right to privacy.  Privacy? So by saying a fetus has all the rights of personhood, does that mean that they have the right to privacy? No more ultrasounds or blood tests? No more “Is it a boy or a girl?” No more printed out photographs without written consent?

Doesn’t make sense right?

How about the fact that this would be a “person” who is solely and uniquely indebted to one single, solitary other person for its very existence.  And not in the way that a severely handicapped individual requires constant aid, but in the way that, forgive the parallel, a leech latches on to another life form to become stronger and bigger and more able to function.  By giving the fetus the full rights of “personhood” you put that fetus at odds with the full “person” who is providing its every need.

Let’s move away from the fetus/mother aspect and place this in a different context.  Let’s say that a leg is deemed to be a life form all by itself.  Let’s say that someone, somewhere says that legs deserve the rights of personhood because they are legs, and therefore part and parcel of human life.  Then let’s say that you’re walking down the street one day and you step on a nail.  It hurts, but you don’t pay it much attention… until the gangrene sets in.  By the time you finally reach the doctor, they tell you that the only option you have is to amputate the leg or lose your life.  But, of course, they can’t amputate the leg because it’s a person and they can’t just go around, willy nilly, killing people.

So even though the leg is fully dependent on the rest of  you and even though the leg is slowly dying all on its own, you will have to die because the leg has the right to live out its last days… even if it means taking you with it.

Seems silly, right?

It is silly.  By giving full rights of personhood to a fetus, doctors will be unable to make decisions that would save an actual full person’s life.  If a pregnant woman is in a car accident and she is, lets say, hemorrhaging uncontrollably and the doctors know that the best way to save her life is to remove the fetus and place the mother in a medically induced coma… they can’t do that.  Their hands are tied.  They can’t do anything to save the mother that might, in any way, injure the unborn child. Regardless if the egg is barely implanted.  Regardless if the fetus will die anyway.  Just regardless.

So let’s just call this “movement” what it really is… a movement to halt the tide of women’s rights in this country.  This “movement” is a thinly veiled attempt to “remind” women that we are not worth nearly as much as our bodies.  Don’t believe me? Look around.  Check out the billboards and advertisements.  Look at the fact that women are insuring their breasts and asses.  Look at the fact that INSURANCE COMPANIES are insuring pieces of women. 

We’re worth more than our parts, ladies.  We’re worth more than our legs and breasts and asses and even more than our wombs.  These types of “movements” aren’t about preventing abortion, they’re about exercising control.  Because let’s face it… for centuries women have been finding ways to end unwanted pregnancies.  Putting a law out there that calls it murder isn’t going to change anything except the consequence.

There are better ways to stem the alleged tide of rampant abortions that are apparently making people crazy.  There are ways to educate women AND MEN on better ideas of birth control.  These types of laws don’t go to the root of the problem, they just punish without knowing the facts, without giving room for negotiation, without giving room to understand human nature.

There will always be circumstances when abortion is the right call.  There will always, unfortunately, be little girls who are raped and women whose bodies can not tolerate the rigors of pregnancy.  There will always be situations when it is the right call to terminate the growing fetus for the good of the woman growing it. 

These laws don’t allow for exceptions. 

Before you latch on to the idea that “personhood” is a good idea for a newly fertilized egg, do your research, think about your daughters… think about what you want for them and for their lives.  And understand that this “movement” is nothing more than a way to exercise control over women… something men have been trying to do for far too long.


25 Responses to ““Personhood” should only be for People.”

  1. Michelle Hall
    November 7th, 2011 @ 8:34 am


  2. Anonymous
    November 7th, 2011 @ 8:49 am

    I agree with you that in the end, especially when it comes down to a life-or-death situation, it is up to the mother & her immediate family (if the mother is incapacitated) to decide what to do. I agree we shouldn’t strip this right from the woman, but we can’t force the other decision as well (of course I’m talking about a situation where the fetus is viable outside the womb). If a mother decides she wants to protect her child’s life over her own, would the law then deem her choice a suicide, since the child is not a human being?

    I guess the problem, as it’s always been with abortion, is where to draw the line. At what point does the fetus become a human being? When its heart beats, when it can move and respond to stimuli, when it develops genetalia? I’m not saying there is an answer, but some of the opposite extremes are just as hard to swallow for me, the partial abortion stuff is pretty barbaric to me.

    I personally feel that abortion needs to remain a legal option for women, because there will always be circumstances or situations where it is truly the only way to go. But i think what bugs me about the whole debate is that it is always about “choice” right? Don’t these same women who insist on having the choice of what to do with their bodies AFTER getting pregnant be responsible also for what they choose to do with their bodies BEFORE getting pregnant? Having unprotected sex is a choice too. (And I’m obviously not talking about Rape/Incest, etc). I wish people didn’t use abortion as a way to skirt their own responsibilities of taking care of the very same body that they don’t want anyone else to exert control over.

    (Sorry, I did get a bit into my feelings on abortion there… but I do agree with you… mostly!)

  3. Anonymous
    November 7th, 2011 @ 8:53 am

    And I agree with you! Abortion should NEVER be a means of birth control. That said, it should also not be illegal. So we reach the point where we’re exactly where we are. It is a personal decision between the woman and her doctor and one she will have to undoubtedly live with for the rest of her life.

  4. Erica
    November 7th, 2011 @ 10:27 am

    Sending much applause. I am pro choice. There, I said it. But, my CHOICE is to allow an unborn child to continue to grow toward life, unless there is some medical danger to the mother, as you say, the actual person here. If we’re going to debate the issue of when “personhood” begins, I think it begins whenever a being could survive independently of its’ mother (with allowances made for the help that medical knowledge and technology can give in today’s world). My twins were born at 31 weeks…at the time of birth, they were early, and thus in the NICU and survived with the aid of today’s medical technology, and were most definitely “persons”. Had I went into preterm labor at 20 weeks gestation…probably they wouldn’t have survived, even with today’s medical technology. So, by my definition, at 20 weeks gestation, the twins I was pregnant with most likely wouldn’t have been “persons”. I know there are 24 & 25 week miracles out there, and clearly there are bans on late term abortions, and that is because, in my belief you are killing someone who could have survived, even if it is with the assistance of medical knowledge and technology. I completely agree with your views on giving “personhood” status to a few cells. Those cells could not grow further, even with assistance, outside a mother’s womb, into a healthy person, so…a few cells are not a person. A potential person, sure, but not an actual person deserving of rights just yet.

  5. Anonymous
    November 7th, 2011 @ 10:46 am

    I agree with you, but I struggle with the idea that a 20 or even 15 week old fetus is not a person — I mean they have brains, a heart, arms, legs, etc… If we have a loved one dependent on life support to survive, do we consider them no longer a person?

    (I ask this rhetorically — not directed at you specifically — I remember the nuchal translucency test when I was 13 weeks pregnant. She was bouncing all around there, moving, etc… to me, that was a life, it was my daughter whether she came to term or not)

    – Heather

  6. Cathy
    November 7th, 2011 @ 10:50 am

    YES, Violina23. Those are some of my same thoughts. I struggled with infertility, and when I read “giving ‘personhood’ status to a few cells” , I was immediately reminded of how it felt to see those “few cells” for the first time (5/20/10), and how my heart leapt and tears flowed when I saw that tiny little beating heart in my baby girl who was barely a centimeter in size.

  7. Anonymous
    November 7th, 2011 @ 11:04 am

    I like the idea of a heartbeat in my persons. Not just cells that might develop into a person. And I like the idea that a woman has the right to control her own body both before and after conception. That being said, I wept when I saw my son for the first time and I don’t think I could ever actually have an abortion unless circumstances were such that I knew the life inside me was never going to be an actual life outside of me… things like spina bifida and major major birth defects that would make his or her quality of life so very poor that to bring him or her into the world would be so sad for both of us… okay maybe then. But yeah, other than that I couldn’t do it. Maybe not even if it affected my own health… but I like having that be MY choice.

  8. Anonymous
    November 7th, 2011 @ 11:26 am

    Yeah, that’s exactly how I feel. I remember my dad telling me that if it turned out my baby DID have down syndrome, that I should abort it because it would ruin both of our lives. He meant well, but I don’t think I could have done it. But I don’t think I can judge people who DID decide to do it.

    I just wish it wasn’t so political and there wasn’t so much money involved in the whole debate. To me, abortion is not a feminist badge-of-honor, and there’s nothing glorious about it. It’s the people who actively encourage abortions, or the organizations that claim to be for women’s health and purposefully do NOT inform women of all their options, that upset me.

    – Heather

  9. Gunner0511
    November 8th, 2011 @ 3:22 pm

    You talk about choices all of which you are afforded because your mother chose not to abort you. I don’t know you personally, but I know that this world would be different if you weren’t here. I could keep going with this sentiment, but I won’t. When people have opinions on things like abortion, they generally cannot be changed, so I don’t try to.

  10. Anonymous
    November 8th, 2011 @ 3:44 pm

    I totally agree. Its why I specified that this particular debate isn’t about abortion at all.

  11. Cathy
    November 7th, 2011 @ 10:29 am

    First, I’ll respectfully agree to disagree, if that’s okay. The center of my knowledge regarding the Personhood movement focuses on the current “Initiative 26” taking place in Mississippi. There is a great deal of misinformation being put out there, but redefining personhood would not prevent aborting a pregnancy if it placed the mother’s life in danger (at least in Mississippi). This is confirmed, in part, by the exemption from prosecution contained in Miss. Code Ann. § 97-3-37, by the fact that the legislature has always recognized an exception to any abortion restrictions in favor of protecting the life of the mother and by Miss. Code Ann. § 97-3-17 which provides protection from criminal liability for accidental homicide. The latter statute serves as important confirmation of the protection extended to physicians where the “intent” of the termination of an ectopic pregnancy is saving the life of the mother and not ending the life of the child, even if that is the consequence of the action.

  12. Anonymous
    November 7th, 2011 @ 10:49 am

    It’s always okay to disagree! And thanks for the code sections, though I still stand by my original opinion that the idea of giving “personhood” status to a fertilized egg is ridiculous.

  13. Guest
    November 8th, 2011 @ 12:33 pm

    The problem with this is that the state constitution overrides the statutes. The statutes offer no protection whatsoever if someone decides to prosecute a woman or a doctor in these situations, as long as they are handed a judge who decides the statutes are unconstitutional based on the Mississippi constitutional provision. That is nowhere near as far-fetched as it might seem — there’s a distinct possibility this could occur, especially in a state as conservative as Mississippi. It doesn’t matter what the legislature says if a fundamentalist judge rules the other way, and then the state Supreme Court decides to back him or her up.

    Amending the state constitution is an extreme course of action that tends to have far-reaching consequences that the people who put forth the amendment never expect. Once it is in the constitution, people can use that provision to challenge all kinds of statutes, some of which you would never even imagine could be implicated.

    Regardless of how you feel about the issue, this is just about the worst possible way to go about it. In fact, there are a significant number of pro-life groups who oppose the amendment because they are afraid it could force the US Supreme Court into strengthening Roe v. Wade — which could then render this Mississippi constitutional amendment moot.

  14. Adrianne Farr
    November 7th, 2011 @ 11:44 am

    I also have to respectfully disagree. I was going to point out what Cathy pointed out, but since she’s been there I’ll skip that.

    I will admit to never thinking quite this far through “personhood”, but would now have to say that following that same logic, one shouldn’t be considered a person until at least the age of majority. Right? Afterall, children have no right to privacy (at least from their parents) and all persons have a right to privacy? Of course removing “personhood” from children would all kinds of other terrible implications . . .

  15. Cathy
    November 7th, 2011 @ 11:48 am

    YES! I’m glad you said that because that’s what was running through my mind, but I wasn’t able to write it as clear and logically as you did. You’re exactly right. A child has none of the rights that the embryo would have in the above examples until they’re 18. Those decisions are always made by their parent/guardian, etc.

  16. Anonymous
    November 7th, 2011 @ 11:54 am

    I’ll respectfully disagree with that. A child is a living, breathing, moving person all on their own. They DO have a right to privacy, even if it’s not from their parents, they have the right from others. They have the right to practice religion and even, in many parts of our country, the right to bear arms. That certainly separates them from a fetus even if nothing else does.

  17. Mom-nom
    November 7th, 2011 @ 12:01 pm

    Interesting post. As someone who is strongly pro-life…in every situation other than when the mother is going to die without question, I obviously disagree. But, I love you.

    So, there’s that.

  18. Anonymous
    November 7th, 2011 @ 12:03 pm

    I don’t know what I am, to be honest. I am pro-something. I can’t think of a situation where I would have an abortion, but I don’t know because I’ve never been in a situation where it was a viable option. So I guess what it boils down to is I’m pro-no-one’s-business-but-mine-and-my-baby. Which makes me, um, Michael Jackson? (Without the kiddy porn)

  19. Jill
    November 7th, 2011 @ 7:32 pm

    Isn’t that pro-choice?

  20. Anonymous
    November 7th, 2011 @ 8:34 pm

    Maybe? But I don’t like the title. I feel like by saying I’m not pro-life, then I’m not, you know, for life. Which I am. Undoubtedly. I think we spend too much time pigeon-holing ourselves into catch phrases… and I think my opinions/beliefs go beyond one or the other. So I refuse to classify. Except to say that there is definitely no kiddy porn.

  21. Jackie H.
    November 8th, 2011 @ 3:13 pm

    I disagree, unless the mom is going to die or a teenager is being abused by some family member in a sexual manner. I personally believe a fetus can feel pain etc. from a early point there are even studies recently to back that up. I don’t bash anyone for their standing on abortion pro or against & I also dont think a lot of people are well versed in what actually happens during an abortion, it is disgusting & vile, to do that to a baby at any stage of gestation, even more so when it is almost full term which those do happen more often than people think.

  22. Jackie H.
    November 8th, 2011 @ 3:16 pm

    I also dont agree with letting a woman who gets pregnant over & over again just because she has continuous unprotected sex have abortions continuously, a person like that should be held responsible for their actions, that right there to me is just being selfish to her own needs.

  23. EJ Phillips
    November 8th, 2011 @ 11:16 pm

    I think this law is problematic for lots of reasons. But I do believe life begins at conception, but like most cases when peeps try to legislate morality this misses the mark. And we can talk about all the exceptions for which an abortion SHOULD be a viable choice, but the sad, sad, sad fact remains that statistics show that most women who have abortions do so to not have a baby. Particularly amongst minority groups. So the question should not be should these women be given a choice, but shouldnt they be given support so that their circumstances leave them with more than one choice. {Insert my soapbox pitch for changing our culture’s view on adoption.}

  24. EJ Phillips
    November 8th, 2011 @ 11:21 pm

    And also, I’m particularly grateful that one Hep C+, HIV +, drug addict didn’t take the advice of her doctor to get an abortion. Because I call her choice my daughter.

  25. Angela
    November 17th, 2011 @ 4:58 am

    Thank you for saying this and for saying so intelligently. I think people are uncomfortable with proclaiming what they are because the choices are “pro-life” and “pro-choice”. I think it is more like pro-choice and anti-choice. I am pro-life, believe me, it just happens that I am pro-life of the pregnant woman. Dr. Tiller said it best when he said, “I trust women”. How can we not trust each other to do what is best for our families, our bodies and our lives?

    And if this personhood nonsense went into law, would we have to investigate miscarriages, would the mother be at fault for eating sushi, drinking caffeinated beverages? What about elective C-sections or getting pregnant later in life and upping the odds for complications and birth defects?

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