13 Nov, 11 | by Iain Brassington
Phew, I thought, when I heard that Measure 26, the proposal to redefine “personhood” to cover the unborn, had been thrown out by the electorate of Mississippi. To catch up: the prosaically-named piece of legislation would have
amend[ed] the Mississippi Constitution to define the word “person” or “persons”, as those terms are used in Article III of the state constitution, to include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning, or the functional equivalent thereof.
(In the end, 58% of the electorate voted against it; it is, for now, dead.)
In the light of this, it’s a bit of a disappointment to learn that there’s still a live-and-kicking (if you’ll excuse the expression) attempt to achieve the same thing, only this time on a national level: H.R. 212 IH aims to protect all human life from the moment of conception.
A curious feature of such attempts is the weight they put on defining the moment at which life starts; thus HR 212 specifically states that
the life of each human being begins with fertilization, cloning, or its functional equivalent, irrespective of sex, health, function or disability, defect, stage of biological development, or condition of dependency, at which time every human being shall have all the legal and constitutional attributes and privileges of personhood
- a point that is singularly unimportant. What counts is not when a (discrete) human life begins, but when that life becomes morally important enough to warrant legal protection. But, still: let’s imagine a world in which one of these proposals, or one significantly like them, makes it on to the statute books. Leaving aside, too, the difference between the meanings of the word “personhood” in the mouth of the lawyer, the philosopher, and the person on the street, would they make all that much of a difference? more…