My dictionary tells me that a “person” is a human being, distinguished from an animal or thing and includes any so-called inferior human being. As a legal term, a “person” can also be a corporation of any other legal entity recognized by law. A “fetus” is the unborn or unhatched offspring of any vertebrate. With this information we could properly re-phrase our question with respect to the human fetus and ask, ” Is the unborn human offspring a human being?”
“Human” applies to whatever is characteristic of man as man; therefore we can speak of such things as human nature, human body, etc. For example, we can say the human body develops to maturity over a period of eighteen years. We don’t often argue that adolescents are not human, and we don’t propose that our child or infant is not human. By what authority then do we alter our thinking to dehumanize that, which is also fully human, the unborn child?
The unborn are outside the protection of the law
Certainly birth does not change an animal into a human. Birth is merely a change in residency and eating habits for one who is about to enter the nest stage of human life.
The authority to dehumanize the unborn child comes not from genetics, or biology, and certainly not from fetology, but from the above-mentioned definition of “person” as a legal entity. In the passage, or interpretation, or enforcement of some arbitrary law we can ascribe or deny personhood at will, usually for some convenient social or economic purpose. By placing unborn human beings outside the protection of the law, it becomes possible to legally deny their basic rights.
History tells us that Indians were not considered legal persons and so their land was taken by force. Blacks were declared non-persons so they could be bought and sold as slaves. Under the Third Reich the rights of personhood were withdrawn from the insane, the crippled, the aged, the retarded, and eventually all unwanted minorities. Today in Canada, doctors manipulate the law and diagnose “mental health” to facilitate the killing of over 65,000 unborn babies each year.
Canadian law has traditionally given rights to the unborn
Remember our definition indicated that a “person” as a legal term could include a corporation or any other legal entity recognized by law. In 1959, in the Declaration of Human Rights, the United Nations stated: “The child, by reason of its physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection before as well as after birth.” Canadian law has traditionally given rights to the unborn child such as the right to inherit property under a will, and the right to compensation for injuries sustained while still in the womb, such as was paid for damages caused by the drug thalidomide.
Studies in fetology have recently led to a whole new range of medical procedures, including fetal surgery, which would require that we now view the unborn child as a patient. This tends to further depersonalize the human fetus and has led to some very obvious inconsistencies in hospitals where on one floor heroic efforts help the unborn and on another, unborn babies are being systematically and intentionally killed.
We cannot deny the humanity of the unborn
Scientifically, we cannot deny the humanity of the unborn child. Legally, we can proceed to dehumanize the unborn child only as we disregard history, reject our traditional system of ethics, and sacrifice the integrity and credibility of our Canadian justice system.
George Gilmore is a contributor from Nova Scotia.