Could destroying a one-celled organism make you a murderer? In
, Mississippi , and a handful of other states, voters will make that call on Nov. 8. Ohio
It seems as if the Star Ledger emphasizes the fact that the human embryo is one-celled in an attempt to play down its significance. This, however, does not disprove the pro-life argument that one has a right to life from the moment of their life if they are human, criteria that the one-celled embryo succeeds in fulfilling.
That being said, it is good to see the Star Ledger being at least scientifically accurate, referring to the embryo as an organism instead of only “one-celled.” Referring to the embryo as an organism, even if one-celled, implies that they recognize that the embryo is a distinct and whole living being.
These states are considering adding “personhood amendments” to their state constitutions. If passed, a fertilized human egg would be considered a legal person—and any action that destroys one would be viewed as murder.
Obviously, that would mean no abortions—even in the case of rape, incest, and possibly ectopic or other risky pregnancies. But the implications don’t stop there.
A woman using an IUD? The morning after pill? Any contraceptive preventing the egg’s implantation? A murderer.
Concerning this passage there are a couple of noteworthy problems. For one, it seems that the Star Ledger departed from the science here. Referring to the embryo as a “fertilized human egg” is a misnomer. It implies that the embryo is nothing more than the woman’s egg with the man’s sperm implanted in it; in other words, it implies that no individual human life exists. This is simply not the case, however. When conception occurs, the sperm and the egg actually die, or cease to exist, and bring about a new human individual. This is evident by the whole new set of
DNA within the embryo, DNA that is separate from the mother’s and the father’s.
Second, the Star Ledger is right in saying that this would mean no abortions in cases of rape and incest, but wrong when saying it may also affect ectopic or other risky pregnancies. While it may affect direct abortions in such a way, no sensible pro-lifer would suggest that, in situations of ectopic pregnancy, the mother should keep the pregnancy, despite the fact that she will most surely die. Removal of the fallopian tube that houses the embryo, without intending the death of the embryo, is usually seen by all pro-lifers as an acceptable alternative to direct abortion since it is direct abortion that pro-lifers truly seek to make illegal.
Third, the Star Ledger goes through a list of contraceptives that would be illegal to use if the Personhood Amendment passes. This is true. However, what the Star Ledger may not realize is that such contraceptives may very well cause the death of an embryo. They bring up the implantation of the embryo as if the lack of the implantation makes it the illegalization of said contraceptives ridiculous. The pro-life position, however, says that all acts that bring about the death of a whole distinct living human organism are prima facie, or generally, wrong. Thus, regardless of whether pregnancy starts at conception or later when the embryo implants, it does not change the fact that these contraceptives kill an individual human being that, if the pro-life position is correct, has the right to life.
Fourthly, the Star Ledger says that the women who do these things will be considered murderers. Legally, however, this does not make sense. The abortionists are the ones who do the abortions. The women simply give their consent. Hence the women would, at worst, be considered accomplices to murder; it is the abortionists that would be considered murderers. Furthermore, it is very possible, likely in fact, that many of these women would also be considered victims, victims for being coerced/forced into getting these abortions and for the psychological effects that they can have on them.
It could also criminalize in vitro fertilization, which often results in the destruction of unimplanted embryos.
This is a possibility. It is also possible, however, for people to work around this by saying that the unimplanted embryos that come about as a result of in vitro fertilization were not originally intended to be killed, but to be used for good.
I don’t actually agree with that. I’m just saying that that is one way for in vitro fertilizations to be left un-criminalized.
One doctor cited by the times notes many fertilized eggs naturally fail to develop beyond that [embryo] stage. Perhaps those would count as suicides.
This is a ridiculous statement. But it is best to start off by saying that it is true that many embryos do naturally die before forming further into the pregnancy. Sometimes, for instance, they, on their own, fail to implant in the lining of the uterus.
That being said, the horribly thought-out pot shot above contradicts itself. The statement recognizes that embryos naturally die (sometimes) on their own. However, the statement that they should count as suicides implies that they are not dying naturally; people who commit suicides are people who don’t do die as a result of natural processes but as a result of their own choosing. Thus, by the Star Ledger’s own language, embryos are not committing suicide when they die naturally because they a) DIE NATURALLY and b) do not choose it, for they cannot choose anything at the stage of their development.
The New York Times reported the amendments have drawn opposition from quarters beyond the pro-choice movement. Roman Catholic leaders and National Right to Life have both refused to back them, fearing winning the battle for personhood amendments could lead to legal battles that would cost the larger war on Roe v. Wade.
The Star Ledger states in this passage that Catholic leaders and the National Right to Life will not back personhood amendments because if they pass then they will make costs for other legal cases in the future that much worse. This, of course, implies hypocrisy (that pro-life leaders want to defend life but are not willing to provide financial support for future important legal battles) which, if true, would be a serious charge. The charge, however, is unfounded.
For example, in Florida 9 Catholic Bishops gave their disapproval of the Personhood Amendment trying to be passed in the state. The reasons ultimately come down to this:
- The Amendment does not have a good shot at becoming law anyway
- Even if it does pass, there is virtual certainty that it will be found as unconstitutional
- Even if it makes it to the Supreme Court, because there is a large majority of pro-choicers on the Supreme Court, it would only lead to a “reaffirmation of Roe” and, thus, lead to a loss of the momentum that the pro-life movement has been making
- Thus, all the material, resources, and money that would be used for this unfeasible goal would, for the time being, be better spent on smaller “incremental” laws that are, slowly but surely, making a difference
Now some pro-lifers say in response, “Well that basically seems to suggest that these bishops don’t want to support the bill because it risks fighting the Roe v. Wade. But that is exactly what pro-lifers should want to do.” However, this is not what the bishops are saying. They would agree that challenging Roe v. Wade is what we eventually need to do. However, they feel that challenging it now, and in this way, would not only end up in failure (they consider this to be a certainty) but also end up causing the pro-life movement to lose ground in the struggle to protect the unborn.
Thus, these organizations not supporting the Personhood Amendment is not due to their being afraid of fighting against Roe v. Wade and it is not due to their not wanting to contribute money/resources to fighting Roe v. Wade; it is due to them not wanting to use money/resources to what they feel is, currently, a hopeless and, ultimately, counter-intuitive plan. To be clear, I am not stating agreement or disagreement with these organizations on this issue; but it seems quite clear that pro-lifers’ non-support of this bill is not necessarily due to there not being fully committed to the pro-life position.
But regardless of one’s stance on abortion, the law is a dangerous idea. It could land women’s health, family planning, even basic biology in the already-full hands of the criminal justice system.
And that’s not where they belong.
Ending the article like this is puzzling. The Star Ledger says that this is dangerous regardless of one’s stance on abortion. Yet if they consider everything they said in the article to be part of “women’s health, family planning, and even basic biology” then one’s stance on abortion cannot be considered “regardless.” One’s very position on abortion is what determines if the issues stated above are right or wrong. This contradiction goes unnoticed, though.
Of course, the very thing that they leave out is what shows how biased the Star Ledger is: this bill does not consider only the women and their health; it also considers the unborn. The fact that the Star Ledger leaves them out of what gets put in the “already-full hands of the criminal justice system” shows how much they do not understand how one’s stance on abortion shapes the circumstances surrounding the Personhood Amendment.