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The Case Against Abortion: Personhood

Length: 3:10

Page Summary:

Whether the criteria is age, ability, or ethnicity, it is unjust and inaccurate to classify a group of human beings as "non-persons."

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Video Text/Dialogue:

QUESTION: Should unborn human beings be seen as persons under the law?

If you look up the word "person," you'll find: "a human being..."

Biologically, human embryos are individual human beings from fertilization.

But renowned, Princeton ethicist, Peter Singer, says this doesn't matter.

He prefers a less-inclusive definition (at least when it comes to humans): "a self-conscious or rational being."

Because he believes human rights should be based on function, he writes:

"...on any fair comparison of morally relevant characteristics... the calf, the pig and the much derided chicken come out well ahead of the fetus at any stage of pregnancy" (151)

"If we can put aside these emotionally moving but strictly irrelevant aspects of the killing of a baby we can see that the grounds for not killing persons do not apply to newborn infants." (171)

If rights depend on function, then Singer is correct. Abortion, infanticide, and the euthanization of the disabled, elderly or infirm can all be justified. Of course, we've seen this before.

AUSCHWITZ (BBC Video): "NARRATOR: In 1939, Hitler had authorized a scheme by which severely disabled children could be murdered. Then once the war began, this killing was extended to disabled adults as well." (and then to all "unwanted" persons)

Nazi propoganda videos justified the killing like this: "They are inferior to any animal. Can we burden future generations with such an inheritance?" Sound familiar?!

NEVER AGAIN!

"Human being" is not a functional designation. It is a species designation.  

Human embryos and fetuses have a personal, rational nature because they are human beings. Cognitive function increases over time, but the nature is there even in the womb.

In the Womb: Multiples (National Geographic Video): "Twins, and other multiples are known for a particular characteristic in utero. Scientists have even witnessed them playing games together. In one case, fraternal twins were regularly seen in scans cheek to cheek on each side of the dividing chorions. At about one year of age, these twins' favorite game was to stand on either side of a curtain and laugh as they touched each other through the fabric. Scientists think their prenatal behavior carried over into early childhood."

Whether the criteria is age, ability, or ethnicity…

It is unjust and inaccurate to classify a group of human beings as “non-persons."

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