Humanity and Personhood

“Human” is a concrete term. We can easily define what a human is and what a human is not. A human is another term for Homo Sapien, a specific species of animal in the animal kingdom, which Merriam-Webster defines as “a bipedal primate mammal”. There are no homo sapiens that are not humans, and there are no humans that are not homo sapiens. A human’s life begins at conception and ends at death.

“Personhood” or “person” are ambiguously fluid terms. There’s no agreed upon definition. Some define it in terms of moral agency – having behavior that can be evaluated as moral or immoral. Others define personhood as possessing specific qualities and skills, such as language, reasoning, consciousness, intelligence, etc. Still others have legal definitions of personhood to include humans as well as corporations and animals such as pets.

While it’s fun and interesting and engaging to discuss such topics, the reality is that there is a group of humans being deemed as not persons, not having personhood, and therefore are not granted the same honor, respect, and rights as other humans, resulting in the ability to kill these humans.

An increasing argument in the pro-abortion community is “yes, the embryo is a human (because they know they have lost the battle with science), but the embryo is not a person, and that is why it is acceptable to kill it.”

If personhood is the dividing line between killing humans and protecting humans, then all humans have to be persons. Otherwise, it would be acceptable to kill humans that are not persons. This is morally reprehensible, as we have seen throughout history groups of humans that have not been considered as persons and have been killed. Obviously the one that comes quickest to mind is what the Jews have endured through their attempted extermination by the Nazis. But also comes to mind is Planned Parenthood’s founder Margaret Sanger who has said, “We do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population.”

Personhood does not rest upon a condition such as sentience, moral agency, use of language. Such ideas are complex, difficult to define, and unable to be agreed upon. Language, for example. What does it mean? Plants communicate. Are plants persons because they can communicate? Our blood cells communicate with other cells of our body. Does this mean our blood cells are persons? If language means spoken words, are humans who are mute not considered persons?

I’m no philosopher. I’m no lawyer. I’m not going to define personhood and claim that my definition is the only accurate one. But in a world where pets and corporations can be defined as persons, but not humans that happen to be in the embryonic and fetal stage of development, and therefore acceptable to kill these humans, then the definition of personhood has become unjust to all humanity.

It must stand to reason that all humans be protected from being intentionally killed.

Thomas White

Vice President

Pro Life Man