Mississippi about to confer the same rights on zygotes and adults

Tomorrow the good (and bad) citizens of the state of Mississipi will go to the polls to vote on a referendum to amend the state constitution.  Here’s Amendment 26, which will define a fertilized egg, and every other developmental stage of H. sapiens, as a “person.”

Be it Enacted by the People of the State of Mississippi: SECTION 1. Article III of the constitution of the state of Mississippi is hereby amended BY THE ADDITION OF A NEW SECTION TO READ: Section 33. Person defined. As used in this Article III of the state constitution, “The term ‘person’ or ‘persons’ shall include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof.” This initiative shall not require any additional revenue for implementation.

The New York Times notes:

The amendment in Mississippi would ban virtually all abortions, including those resulting from rape or incest. It would bar some birth control methods, including IUDs and “morning-after pills,” which prevent fertilized eggs from implanting in the uterus. It would also outlaw the destruction of embryos created in laboratories. . .

The approach, granting legal rights to embryos, is fundamentally different from the abortion restrictions that have been adopted in dozens of states. These try to narrow or hamper access to abortions by, for example, sharply restricting the procedures at as early as 20 weeks, requiring women to view ultrasounds of the fetus, curbing insurance coverage and imposing expensive regulations on clinics.

The Mississippi amendment aims to sidestep existing legal battles, simply stating that “the term ‘person’ or ‘persons’ shall include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof.”

If this passes, and I’m betting it will, abortion will become murder. And the amendment will be appealed all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, which, if they affirm it, will constitute the effective overturning of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that a woman has a right to an abortion, at least up to the moment the fetus considered “viable.”  The current Court is very conservative, and may well overturn its 38-year-old decision.

Where does this come from? Mostly from religion, of course, for the whole premise is based on the presence of a soul in the zygote. Barring that, it’s just an undifferentiated ball of cells and this kerfuffle would surely not exist—or at least be as widespread.

If a zygote is a “person,” then consider what we already believe about developmental stages:

x

200 Comments

  1. Posted November 7, 2011 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    I wonder what the implications for HeLa based research would be. Or monozygotic twins. Does an excised tumor qualify as a person? How about the right to a proper burial for amputated limbs?

    • Posted November 7, 2011 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

      All that remains is to define zygotes as corporations, and the cycle will be complete.

      • Posted November 7, 2011 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

        Well if a zygote is a person and a corporation is a person, isn’t that enough?

  2. Greg Esres
    Posted November 7, 2011 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    “the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, which, if they affirm it, will constitute the effective overturning of Roe v. Wade”

    I really don’t think the SC will overturn RvW, but if they do, it serves the public right for electing conservative presidents who promised to select conservative SC justices. The banning of abortion nationwide would be a nice wakeup call for the progressive members of society, but my mind boggles that it’s taken two decades.

    • tomh
      Posted November 7, 2011 at 10:35 am | Permalink

      I really don’t think the SC will overturn RvW

      It will be overturned if a Republican is elected next year. Romney is on record as stating “My view is that the Supreme Court should reverse Roe v Wade,” and anyone he nominates will hold that view. The other possible candidates, unlikely as they may be, will nominate even more conservative justices. This Court might overturn it, but one more vote will ensure it.

      • tomh
        Posted November 7, 2011 at 10:48 am | Permalink

        Oops, this Court might not overturn it…

        • Greg Esres
          Posted November 7, 2011 at 11:46 am | Permalink

          “Romney is on record as stating “My view is that the Supreme Court should reverse Roe v Wade,” and anyone he nominates will hold that view.”

          Well, Romney is on record for saying a lot of things. 😉 Also, not every SC justice has voted as the nominating president had expected or wished, so even with the debacle of a Republican president next year, nothing is for certain.

          But yes, with a string of right-wing Republican presidents, overturning RvW is inevitable, as is a loss of separation of church and state.

    • Dan L.
      Posted November 7, 2011 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

      I really don’t think the SC will overturn RvW, but if they do, it serves the public right for electing conservative presidents who promised to select conservative SC justices.

      Wow, what a terrible attitude. It’s not value voters who are going to suffer as a result of this, it’s women all over Mississippi regardless of who they voted for in 2000.

      • Greg Esres
        Posted November 7, 2011 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

        “It’s not value voters who are going to suffer as a result of this, it’s women all over Mississippi regardless of who they voted for in 2000.”

        I suspect you’ll find that many of them voted Republican or didn’t vote at all. No doubt many people are against abortion until they have a personal need for one.

        And note that the harm will not be limited to Mississippi if RvW is overturned. The opponents to abortion are well organized in probably every state, yet the pro-Choice people aren’t. RvW has made progressives very lazy, just like the 1st Amendment has.

        • Dan L.
          Posted November 7, 2011 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

          I suspect you’ll find that many of them voted Republican or didn’t vote at all. No doubt many people are against abortion until they have a personal need for one.

          Uh huh. And a lot of them didn’t vote for Bush and support Planned Parenthood, etc. But they’re just getting what they deserve for “not being organized,” right?

          I still say it’s a terrible attitude. It’s practically a form of victim blaming. Nothing in your reply to make me think any better of it.

          • Greg Esres
            Posted November 7, 2011 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

            You’ve got this different level of abstraction thing going on here.

  3. anon
    Posted November 7, 2011 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    I am at a loss for words…

  4. Barbara Necker
    Posted November 7, 2011 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    Who’s going to adopt & raise all those fertilized eggs that the birth parents don’t want? It seems to me that it will have to be illegal to create embroyos at all if the unwanted ones cannot be disposed of in any way.

    • raven
      Posted November 7, 2011 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

      Who knows.

      These days extra fertilized embryos are just stuck in a liquid nitrogen freezer. Where they sit for decades. They may just freeze them and forget about them.

      Or they may just stop doing assisted reproduction procedures in Mississippi.

      Infertile couples will have to out of state or forget it.

      • NoAstronomer
        Posted November 7, 2011 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

        “These days extra fertilized embryos are just stuck in a liquid nitrogen freezer.”

        Which would be illegal under the proposed Mississippi amendment.

        • Tulse
          Posted November 7, 2011 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

          Would it? Why? As long as the embryos aren’t actually destroyed, I don’t see why “suspended animation” would be illegal.

          • raven
            Posted November 7, 2011 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

            Maybe.

            Holding frozen embryos in storage could be understood as kidnapping or involuntary incarceration.

            Those 1 celled persons are being held against their microscopic wills.

            • Ichthyic
              Posted November 7, 2011 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

              …indeed!
              They haven’t even signed a consent form!

              We must fight to liberate the eggs!

              Free eggs for everyone!

      • Filippo
        Posted November 7, 2011 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

        Are they even embryos at that point? Blastulas?

        In any event, would a pregnant woman under this law have the right to have it removed, and to keep it in cold storage indefinitely, like these excess embryos?

        • Ichthyic
          Posted November 7, 2011 at 10:01 pm | Permalink

          well, see, if they are going to define them as “persons”, then it will be up to the State Supreme Court of Mississippi to decide if freezing them would invalidate their “rights” as people

          Yeah, I rather think the State Court is not going to appreciate this initiative.

  5. Posted November 7, 2011 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    Excuse my “French” but For F*ck Sake!

    Can’t we just build a huge dome over these fruit cakes and shove them all inside and lock the doors. Sort of like, I don’t know, an “ark” maybe?

    Sigh.

    Cheers,
    Norm.

    • Lynn Wilhelm
      Posted November 7, 2011 at 9:48 am | Permalink

      I hear there’s one being built in KY.

    • NoAstronomer
      Posted November 7, 2011 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

      Could it be an airtight dome?

  6. randyextry
    Posted November 7, 2011 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    So will every spontaneous abortion (miscarriage) need a death certificate, autopsy, and police investigation to rule out “foul play?”

    • anon
      Posted November 7, 2011 at 9:49 am | Permalink

      Not to mention the ~70% of embryos that are naturally discarded before implantation.

      http://reason.com/archives/2004/12/22/is-heaven-populated-chiefly-by

      Are we to see this as a large-scale massacre of human beings, develop drugs to prevent it from happening, and require all women who have unprotected sex to take them?

      • Ken Browning
        Posted November 7, 2011 at 10:57 am | Permalink

        Looks like regular invasive procedures will have to be applied to all fertile women in order to find, protect and incubate unattached blastocysts.

      • Filippo
        Posted November 7, 2011 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

        Will the law require the prosecution of the source and cause of these natural abortions?

    • Posted November 7, 2011 at 9:52 am | Permalink

      It would be even more complicated than that. Since a woman can technically be pregnant for a few days before having what appears to be a normal period (fertilised egg not viable, doesn’t implant), logically there’d have to be an investigation every time someone goes through menstruation.

      • truthspeaker
        Posted November 7, 2011 at 10:09 am | Permalink

        I suggest that all women in Mississippi make it easier for the police to thoroughly investigate these deaths by storing their monthly effluent in a mason jar and delivering it to their local police station.

    • randyextry
      Posted November 7, 2011 at 10:26 am | Permalink

      And I forgot about ectopic pregnancies. What do you do there? Just wait for the mom to die and try to deliver the fetus? Or would abortion be allowed then as “self defense?”

      • Posted November 7, 2011 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

        It is this point that any civil rights attorney will hammer for all she’s worth, and that even Thomas at his most misogynistic will not be able to handwave at. There’s just no way even the most conservative court can force the rights of the embryo to supersede the right of life of the woman.

        • Brygida Berse
          Posted November 7, 2011 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

          There’s just no way even the most conservative court can force the rights of the embryo to supersede the right of life of the woman.

          Just wait.

          • Occam
            Posted November 7, 2011 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

            The key misunderstanding is thinking that these courts, and the political currents that further them, lean on them, and are extolled by them, may be conservative. They are not. They are reactionary. Different kettle of fish. There are hardly any limits to a reactionary’s lust for roll-back. There will be none in this case.
            Brygida is right.

    • Posted November 7, 2011 at 10:30 am | Permalink

      You joke, but the answer is yes if they have their way:

      http://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/en-US/display/31965

      • S A GOULD
        Posted November 7, 2011 at 11:40 am | Permalink

        Yes. As someone once said, these are all “DIE, BITCH, DIE” initiatives.

    • vel
      Posted November 7, 2011 at 11:13 am | Permalink

      time to strap every female to tables to make sure that they never ever possibly can put a fertilized egg in danger. I can see nice little concentration camps set up for this.

      • Jeff Engel
        Posted November 8, 2011 at 5:13 am | Permalink

        Every fertile female human? Rather large concentration camps.

        But wait, the initiative is not supposed to require any funding for implementation. So they may have to tap, say, religious organizations to step up to maintain the camps.

    • Karl Withakay
      Posted November 7, 2011 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

      One would think so. How can you let the death of a person go without someone certifying the death was due to natural causes and not foul play?

      Presumably drinking or other activities likely to be hazardous to a zygote in vivo would have the potential to be considered felony assault, possibly with intent.

      Also, does this mean you could take out a regular life insurance policy on a human zygote?

      • Wayne Robinson
        Posted November 7, 2011 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

        I’m uncomfortable with moves to criminalize the fetal alcohol syndrome.

        It can be clinically diagnosed, but how do we know with certainty that there might not be a rare genetic defect due to a deletion of a small segment of one chromosome or another that exactly mimics it.

        New genetic abnormalities are still being described.

        What is needed is more education. The idea that binge drinking is not a good idea, both for males and females. The idea that becoming distraught as a newt is not to be desired, socially.

    • Ichthyic
      Posted November 7, 2011 at 10:03 pm | Permalink

      Why, they don’t NEED to pass a new law for that,

      They can just borrow Georgia’s:

      http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2011/02/22/georgia-anti-abortion-bill-would-require-investigations-of-miscarriages/

  7. Sigmund
    Posted November 7, 2011 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    It’s not just IUDs and the morning after pill that are under threat, it’s also the standard pill since part of it’s action is to promote the shedding of the uterine lining – thus killing any poor persons (i.e. fertilized eggs) that have just implanted there.

    • ckitching
      Posted November 8, 2011 at 6:44 am | Permalink

      This just isn’t true. The effect you mention was noticed in the animal tests, but was not reproduced in human testing. The primary way the birth control pill and similar hormonal birth control products prevent pregnancy is by preventing ovulation. The effectiveness of the morning after pill reveals this quite well. If taken before ovulation, it’s quite effective. If taken after, it’s completely ineffective.

  8. ChrisKG
    Posted November 7, 2011 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    So, by this logic, if a corporation is also a person and it fails–or dies–then the owner can be charged with murder. What about women who have a miscarraige? Will they also be charged with murder? This is simply insane. Well, at least these guys are thinking about fixing the economy…no wait…

  9. Michael D
    Posted November 7, 2011 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    • Lynn Wilhelm
      Posted November 7, 2011 at 10:27 am | Permalink

      Perfect.
      Now why didn’t I think of posting that?

      • Michael D
        Posted November 7, 2011 at 11:15 am | Permalink

        I was surprised it wasn’t here yet so early bird gets the worm 😛

        • Posted November 7, 2011 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

          But the second mouse gets the cheese!

          Cheers,
          Norm.

    • InfiniteImprobabilit
      Posted November 26, 2011 at 3:39 am | Permalink

      That’s a fantastic musical number. The sheer enthusiasm of the cast and the choreography is so good, it’s infectious and a joy to watch. It’s not a lampoon of ‘musicals’, it outdoes them. (Quite aside form the witty lyrics and tearing a streak off the Catholics, which is always a good thing to do).

  10. Another Matt
    Posted November 7, 2011 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    So does this mean someone can take any embryo in their “custody” as a dependent?

    • ChrisKG
      Posted November 7, 2011 at 10:07 am | Permalink

      I’d like to see Protective Services attempt to take an egg because the mother is “unfit”. Additionally, doesn’t this make every period a potential death penalty case. Why don’t they just lock up every woman and skip the middle-man?

      • S A GOULD
        Posted November 7, 2011 at 11:43 am | Permalink

        Patience! They’re working on it.

      • McWaffle
        Posted November 7, 2011 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

        CPS can already involuntarily detain pregnant mothers who they see as a threat to their fetus until they give birth. As early as the first month of pregnancy, for something like smoking pot.

        Or that’s my understanding. It’s rare, but it occurs.

      • Marella
        Posted November 8, 2011 at 12:30 am | Permalink

        But then who would make sammiches?

    • Lynn Wilhelm
      Posted November 7, 2011 at 10:26 am | Permalink

      What about claiming that embryonic dependent on a tax form?

      • Another Matt
        Posted November 7, 2011 at 10:39 am | Permalink

        Yes, that was my point. It seems almost certain that people would try. All our contrarian questions won’t matter at all unless lots of people start to try to actually follow the logical consequences of this kind of amendment for personal gain, with all the attendant litigation. Otherwise, it seems likely that further state legislation would just stop the slippery slope at abortion, birth control, and cloning and not follow up regarding miscarriages, tax policy, and so forth.

  11. Posted November 7, 2011 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    Appalled but not surprised. Beware of the Religious Right. Reconsider, if you consider yourself a part of the Religious Right.

  12. christopher
    Posted November 7, 2011 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    “every sperm is sacred, every sperm is great, if a sperm is wasted, god gets quite irate”…

  13. Sigmund
    Posted November 7, 2011 at 10:03 am | Permalink

    “every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof.”
    What is the functional equivalent thereof?
    Creation out of nothing?
    Or perhaps they thought “Frankenstein” was a documentary and are worried that some mad scientists types will stick a few body parts together and zap it into life – just so that they can abort it.

    • Kevin
      Posted November 7, 2011 at 7:48 pm | Permalink

      They’re thinking of IVF — where multiple eggs are removed from a woman, fertilized ex vivo, and then only a small number are reimplanted (at any one time).

      Each and every fertilized egg would be considered fully human. I suspect each and every IVF clinic in Mississippi would shut down rather than contend with the legal ramifications.

      Frankly, I’m at a loss. On the one hand, I’m inclined to say that people generally get the government they deserve — and the people of Mississippi are deeply conservatively religious. On the other hand, every girl who gets raped by her step-brother will suffer.

      I’m thinking that a pendulum will swing — eventually. But not without a lot of tears in between.

  14. Occam
    Posted November 7, 2011 at 10:03 am | Permalink

    I’ve been betting for many years this would come to pass, in precisely such wording. Expected it even sooner.
    Now it’s a perfectly timed bombshell. The bombshell.

    Even if upheld in SCOTUS, though, this may not be pure joy to the reactionaries.
    For one thing, if a zygote is endowed with person’s rights, a zygote can vicariously sue in court for these rights. Be fun to watch all the industries whose pollutants can affect the germline being sued to smithereens. From passive smoking over nuclear waste to fair housing for unborn babies, the doors are open for litigation. If the courts deny such claims while punishing abortion and contraception, the bias will become evident to everyone.

    On another level, since the proposal explicitly mentions cloning or functional equivalents, that door will be open, too, unless the courts admit to self-contradictory language in the organic law. This would not be the first time when reactionaries, trying to shut the lid once and for all on progress, may in fact open one hell of a Pandora’s box.

    • Ichthyic
      Posted November 7, 2011 at 10:09 pm | Permalink

      From passive smoking over nuclear waste to fair housing for unborn babies, the doors are open for litigation.

      I’d bet money that if the ad campaign AGAINST these kinds of bills focused on that as a potential issue, this shit would start going away as if by magic…

  15. Posted November 7, 2011 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    Scenario 1: Man pushes wife during an argument, she slips and bangs her tummy resulting in a miscarriage.

    Scenario 2: Woman has a few alcoholic drinks, slips down some stairs and bangs her tummy resulting in a miscarriage.

    Add as many more as you like. I wonder if these would be tried as murder cases?

    • Newish Gnu
      Posted November 7, 2011 at 10:22 am | Permalink

      Also, this would pretty much require a large, intrusive, activist government.

      Who has an IUD? Govt has to review medical records!

      Are visitors to Mississippi allowed to flout the law? We’re gonna have to X-ray women at the border to see if they have an IUD!

      Frozen extra embryos from IVF? Anyone who would discard those can’t possibly be fit parents. Let’s take away their post-birth children!

      If it weren’t for all the innocent victims, it would be hilarious to watch these morons give themselves the govt they deserve.

      • Tulse
        Posted November 7, 2011 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

        this would pretty much require a large, intrusive, activist government

        Oddly, all those “small government” conservatives don’t seemed bothered by such intrusions when it comes to morality.

    • truthspeaker
      Posted November 7, 2011 at 11:12 am | Permalink

      Already happening, even when the “results in” is not clear:

      http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jun/24/america-pregnant-women-murder-charges

      Gibbs became pregnant aged 15, but lost the baby in December 2006 in a stillbirth when she was 36 weeks into the pregnancy. When prosecutors discovered that she had a cocaine habit – though there is no evidence that drug abuse had anything to do with the baby’s death – they charged her with the “depraved-heart murder” of her child, which carries a mandatory life sentence.

      • Ichthyic
        Posted November 7, 2011 at 10:11 pm | Permalink

        mandatory life sentence, no less.

        *sigh*

        so, SO glad I got the fuck outta Dodge.

        nothing like that here in Hobbiton.

  16. Newish Gnu
    Posted November 7, 2011 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    Overturning Roe v. Wade would NOT result in a nationwide ban of abortion. It would throw the issue back to each state to decide.

    In Maryland, where I live, there is a law on the books that dates back to the early 1990s that essentially says Maryland’s abortion laws would be the same as Roe v. Wade if RvW is overturned at the federal level.

    The state government passed the law. The RCC and other anti-choicers ginned up enough signatures to put it to a referendum. The voting public affirmed the law by a 60-40 vote. 1992 or 1993. I don’t remember which.

    I throw this set of facts into the face of every Maryland anti-choicer who complains about “activist judges.” Nope, we voted for it. Don’t like it? Move!

    That being said, I hope RvW isn’t overturned and basic civil liberties shouldn’t depend on majority rule.

    • Xray
      Posted November 7, 2011 at 10:35 am | Permalink

      Overturning Roe may or may not result in a nationwide ban. Depends on the Court’s logic. If they, like the brilliant folks of Mississippi, decide a zygote is a person and then apply equal-protection arguments, it would result in a total ban. I’d say there are 4 kook votes on the court right now that could do this. Presumably Kennedy would not. If Obama loses the next election and a few more justices are replaced by right-wingers, ugh…

      • Newish Gnu
        Posted November 7, 2011 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

        You are correct, of course. That goes well beyond what I was thinking about in terms of “overturning” RvW. I should have been clearer.

    • Ichthyic
      Posted November 7, 2011 at 10:16 pm | Permalink

      basic civil liberties shouldn’t depend on majority rule.

      Even John Stuart Mill knew this over 150 years ago.

      Like other tyrannies, the tyranny of the majority was at first, and is still vulgarly, held in dread, chiefly as operating through the acts of the public authorities. But reflecting persons perceived that when society is itself the tyrant — society collectively over the separate individuals who compose it — its means of tyrannizing are not restricted to the acts which it may do by the hands of its political functionaries. Society can and does execute its own mandates; and if it issues wrong mandates instead of right, or any mandates at all in things with which it ought not to meddle, it practices a social tyranny more formidable than many kinds of political oppression, since, though not usually upheld by such extreme penalties, it leaves fewer means of escape, penetrating much more deeply into the details of life, and enslaving the soul itself. Protection, therefore, against the tyranny of the magistrate is not enough; there needs protection also against the tyranny of the prevailing opinion and feeling, against the tendency of society to impose, by other means than civil penalties, its own ideas and practices as rules of conduct on those who dissent from them; to fetter the development and, if possible, prevent the formation of any individuality not in harmony with its ways, and compel all characters to fashion themselves upon the model of its own. There is a limit to the legitimate interference of collective opinion with individual independence; and to find that limit, and maintain it against encroachment, is as indispensable to a good condition of human affairs as protection against political despotism.

      — On Liberty

      It’s also why the US is a Representative Democracy, or a Republic, instead of a pure democracy.

      people were smarter back then, I guess.

  17. Emmy
    Posted November 7, 2011 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    They’re a human being until they’re born, then if Mommy has no job and no health insurance, the child and Mom can both rot in hell. Because to give them aid would be Socialism. How abhorrent.

  18. Posted November 7, 2011 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    God damn.

    b&

    • daveau
      Posted November 7, 2011 at 11:36 am | Permalink

      See? You could live in a more socially retarded state.

  19. Eli Siegel
    Posted November 7, 2011 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    When will you get the right to vote? Blastula stage or after gastrulation?

  20. Sean Boyd
    Posted November 7, 2011 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    The founder of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster is way ahead of us on this one.

    • Enkidu
      Posted November 7, 2011 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

      Which raises a number of interesting questions.

      What should be the penalty fot masturbation?
      Should all females be married before menarche?
      Can catholic priests be allowed celibacy?

      • Enkidu
        Posted November 7, 2011 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

        Doh! for masturbation

        • ChrisKG
          Posted November 7, 2011 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

          Masturbation should have an exclusion since females do not spill millions of potential souls on to the ground (or whatever) each time they partake in said activity. They law could not be applied equally–not that this bill would ever apply to any men. If it did…oh, if it did….

  21. SplendidMonkey
    Posted November 7, 2011 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    We have to determine if the zygote is gay before giving it full rights.

    • Margaret
      Posted November 10, 2011 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

      or female

  22. Jonathan Smith
    Posted November 7, 2011 at 11:09 am | Permalink

    So has anyone considered the punishment for these crimes? If “life begins at conception” becomes the legal standard, should miscarriages, ectopic pregnancies and obstetric complications be treated as manslaughter?
    What will it be? Life in prison,the death penalty, man/women slaughter. Who is going to prosecute? Will having unprotected sex be a crime if it results in a unwanted pregnancy?
    These mindless advocates never think these issues through.

    • Ichthyic
      Posted November 7, 2011 at 10:23 pm | Permalink

      Mississippi ALREADY has law, on the books, to provide for a MANDATORY life sentence in the case of abortion due to negligence or drugs:

      http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jun/24/america-pregnant-women-murder-charges

      who is going to prosecute??

      the State District Attorney, of course.

      I don’t think you, or many people here, realize JUST HOW BAD IT HAS ALREADY GOTTEN in the US.

      If you can reverse this shit, you better get on it.

      Right now, things are looking WORSE than they did BEFORE Roe vs Wade.

      As a country, you all should be fucking ashamed of yourselves.

      FIX THIS SHIT NOW.

  23. vel
    Posted November 7, 2011 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    this is the sentence that bemuses me most in the bill “This initiative shall not require any additional revenue for implementation.” Of course, it won’t. Mississippi ranks near the bottom of actually caring about people e.g. having good education (dead last in 2008), feeding their people (highest in obesity), so one more “person” won’t make a damn bit of difference. No one who votes for this actually cares about children, only forcing their ignorant views on others.

    • Ichthyic
      Posted November 7, 2011 at 10:24 pm | Permalink

      …and they are of course completely lying about it creating costs, as well.

      since the resulting endless court cases will fucking bankrupt what’s left of the state.

      • Ichthyic
        Posted November 7, 2011 at 10:25 pm | Permalink

        creating *no* costs, that is.

  24. Myron
    Posted November 7, 2011 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    Here’s a concise formulation of the pro-life argument:

    http://www.jonathanglover.co.uk/ethics-and-humanity/the-morality-of-abortion-an-exchange-the-new-york-review-of-books

    “It begins with a proposition accepted on both sides of the abortion debate: healthy infants have a powerful claim to our care and protection, and we wrong them seriously if we kill them. The second premiss is that there are no morally relevant differences between infants and fetuses. A difference is morally relevant when it justifies a difference in treatment. Is being unborn the difference that deprives the fetus of a right to life?…”

    • redinrecovery
      Posted November 7, 2011 at 11:35 am | Permalink

      There is a “memorial” to all the unborn children outside of the catholic church in our town (more hypocrisy brought by the most insane religion here :http://jezebel.com/religion/).
      I feel like a memorial is needed that is dedicated to all the women who have died needlessly by having an abortion when it was not legal or safe to do so, and to the memory of all the women who have lost their lives during the process of bringing new life into this world.

      • raven
        Posted November 7, 2011 at 11:51 am | Permalink

        “I feel like a memorial is needed that is dedicated to all the women who have died needlessly by having an abortion when it was not legal or safe to do so,…”

        Happened to a great aunt of mine. Long before I was born.

        I don’t know about a memorial though. Given our increasing human abilities, how about a special hell for the female slavers and forced birthers.

        Maybe they could be assigned to care for all the spontaneous miscarriages and unwanted children that die from neglect and abuse.

    • Tulse
      Posted November 7, 2011 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

      It begins with a proposition accepted on both sides of the abortion debate: healthy infants have a powerful claim to our care and protection

      …unless that means providing government-mandated health insurance, or government-mandates school lunches, or government-mandated welfare, or basically anything that is done by government.

      • raven
        Posted November 7, 2011 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

        “It begins with a proposition accepted on both sides of the abortion debate: healthy infants have a powerful claim to our care and protection.”

        Not the Tea Party Republicans.

        They could care less about anyone after they are born.

        Mississippi has a nearly nonexistent safety net. If you are poor or unlucky, too bad. Suffer.

    • Ichthyic
      Posted November 7, 2011 at 10:26 pm | Permalink

      Pro life?

      stop lying Myron.

      it’s Force Birth.

      not the same thing.

      why is it you fucking liars always try to pretend you give two shits about “life”?

    • Posted November 8, 2011 at 2:05 am | Permalink

      “Is being unborn the difference that deprives the fetus of a right to life?”

      No. Quite a lot more happens during the course of a pregnancy than just being born. Growing a nervous system, for example.

  25. Myron
    Posted November 7, 2011 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    A person is a self-conscious being able to think about its own being as its own being, which is arguably not feasible unless it has acquired a language as the vehicle of thought, using self-referential pronouns (“I”, “me”, “myself”). So neither zygotes, embryos, fetuses, neonates, nor (<2-year-old) infants are persons in the descriptive psychological sense of the term.

    • raven
      Posted November 7, 2011 at 11:46 am | Permalink

      Myron stop lying.

      “A person is a self-conscious being able to think about its own being as its own being, which is arguably not feasible…”

      Even my cat does that.

      BTW, your made up definition excludes people who are unconscious, in a coma, and the severely retarded.

      We have historically defined a person as a live birth for several thousand years now.

      • Myron
        Posted November 7, 2011 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

        “‘A person is a self-conscious being able to think about its own being as its own being, which is arguably not feasible…’
        Even my cat does that.”

        I don’t think so.
        Cats are not capable of reflective self-consciousness, i.e. of self-reflection and introspection, which involve a meta-awareness of oneself.

        • gr8hands
          Posted November 7, 2011 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

          Myron, please provide the evidence for your outlandish statement.

        • Ichthyic
          Posted November 7, 2011 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

          Cats are not capable of reflective self-consciousness, i.e. of self-reflection and introspection, which involve a meta-awareness of oneself.

          Interestingly, over the months I have found your posts here to indicate cats actually exceed your own abilities in this area.

          Hint:

          Don’t ever take a Turing Test, Myron.

      • Myron
        Posted November 7, 2011 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

        ‘A person is a self-conscious being able to think about its own being as its own being.’
        BTW, your made up definition excludes people who are unconscious, in a coma, and the severely retarded.

        No, it doesn’t. It is compatible with temporary unconsciousness, because one doesn’t lose one’s power (ability) to think by there being something that temporarily prevents it from being manifested. That is, there is a difference between being temporarily unable to manifest one’s power to think (e.g. during a dreamless sleep) and having irretrievably lost one’s power to think. Humans who have irretrievably lost the capacity for self-reflective thought are no longer persons.

        • Myron
          Posted November 7, 2011 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

          That is, there is a difference between having a power whose manifestation is temporarily prevented by something (e.g. a temporary state of unconsciousness) and no longer having it.
          For example, a piano player certainly cannot play the piano while being asleep, but this doesn’t mean that he loses his ability to play the piano when he falls asleep.

    • truthspeaker
      Posted November 7, 2011 at 11:49 am | Permalink

      Language is not required for thought.

      • Myron
        Posted November 7, 2011 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

        “Language is not required for thought.”

        One could call imagination “pictorial thought”, but I have no idea what nonpictorial and nonverbal thought would be and how it could be possible.
        And I deny that animals lacking a verbal language are capable of explicit self-reflection.

        • gr8hands
          Posted November 7, 2011 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

          Myron, you appear ignorant about feral children. Please look it up and educate yourself.

          • Myron
            Posted November 7, 2011 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

            Nobody has ever been able to tell me what that alleged third kind of thought is that is neither “pictorial thought”, i.e. imagination, nor verbal thought.
            Thought needs a medium or vehicle, and what else could that be but mental images or words. And explicit self-reflection, i.e. higher-order thought about one’s own thoughts and other mental states, is not possible without the capacity for verbal thought.

            • truthspeaker
              Posted November 7, 2011 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

              Thought needs a medium or vehicle

              Evidence, please.

              People can think about concepts without putting words to them.

              • Myron
                Posted November 7, 2011 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

                “People can think about concepts without putting words to them.”

                You cannot think about a concept without using a linguistic item, a word or phrase expressing it. How can you possibly think about, e.g., the concept “horse” without using the word “horse” or any other synonymous word or phrase in English or any other language?

              • truthspeaker
                Posted November 7, 2011 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

                How can you possibly think about, e.g., the concept “horse”

                By visualizing a horse.

                You have an odd view of cognitive psychology. Any evidence to back up your claims?

              • gr8hands
                Posted November 7, 2011 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

                Myron,

                You obviously didn’t look up feral children, and are choosing to remain ignorant of them.

                They clearly contradict your ignorant notions about what constitutes personhood, about language/thoughts/etc.

                Your ignorance does not make your points for you.

              • Myron
                Posted November 7, 2011 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

                @truthspeaker:
                By “How can you possibly think…” I didn’t mean “How can you possibly imagine…”. But perhaps I should have mentioned explicity that I draw a distinction between thinking and imagining. I do not deny that nonpersonal animals can have the power to form mental images. But the capacity for mental imagery alone is not sufficient for personhood.

          • Ichthyic
            Posted November 7, 2011 at 10:29 pm | Permalink

            Myron, you appear ignorant about feral children everything. Please look it up and educate yourself.

            fixed.

            • gr8hands
              Posted November 8, 2011 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

              Thank you, Ichthyic. Your edits are an improvement!

    • Myron
      Posted November 7, 2011 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

      I just saw that my definition actually needs to be formulated more precisely:

      A person is a being having the abilities/powers to be self-conscious/self-aware and to conceive of and think about itself as itself and as the same being in different times and places(by means of a language).

      • Myron
        Posted November 7, 2011 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

        “[W]e must consider what Person stands for; which, I think, is a thinking intelligent Being, that has reason and reflection, and can consider it self as it self, the same thinking thing in different times and places[.]”

        (Locke, John. An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. 1690. Book II, Ch. XXVII, §9.)

        • Occam
          Posted November 7, 2011 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

          Applying Locke’s definition of Person to the constitutional amendment, and by proxy to civil rights pertaining to Persons thus defined, would automatically disenfranchise a large chunk of the electorate; in some places, perhaps a majority of it.
          The requirement for a citizen to be a “thinking intelligent Being, that has reason and reflection” would be a mighty hurdle indeed.

          • Myron
            Posted November 7, 2011 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

            The psychological concept of a person is independent of the legal concept of a person as a bearer of rights. The question as to whether or not human nonpersons (zygotes, embryos, fetuses, infants, “human vegetables”) have a right to live and deserve to be legally protected from being harmed or killed isn’t answered by the mere fact that they are nonpersons. The argument “Harming or killing human nonpersons isn’t wrong because they aren’t persons” is certainly to be rejected even from my point of view.

            • Occam
              Posted November 7, 2011 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

              We broadly agree, but I think you overlooked the bitter sarcasm flag in my comment. Quite understandably, given the topic; but Swiftian sardonic pessimism is the only line of defense of one’s sanity under the circumstances.

              On the other hand, I must categorically reject the concept of “human nonperson”. This avenue has been explored, with unimaginable consequences. Establishing that a zygote or an embryo is not entitled to the same level of protection as a child is one thing, and to those endowed with a minimum of nous, self-evident.
              Toying with the category “nonperson” is quite another thing, potentially quite dangerous, and in the present context useless.

              • MYron
                Posted November 7, 2011 at 11:26 pm | Permalink

                I’m not “toying” with the concept of a human nonperson; I’m just saying that humans aren’t essentially persons. That is, I can exist without being a person, and actually I wasn’t a person when I was a fetus. And I can lose my personality without thereby ceasing to exist. For I could become an irreversibly comatose human vegetable, and I will become a corpse one day.

      • truthspeaker
        Posted November 7, 2011 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

        I define a person as a member of the species Homo sapiens after it emerges from the womb.

        • Myron
          Posted November 7, 2011 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

          Your definition implies that there cannot be any nonhuman persons, which claim seems indefensible to me.

          • gr8hands
            Posted November 7, 2011 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

            Myron, please provide an example of any non-human persons.

            • Myron
              Posted November 7, 2011 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

              Chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans are often mentioned, even though it is doubtful whether they are really capable of explicit self-reflection and introspection, which I think presuppose the natural possession of a (verbal) language.

              But my general point is that the possibility of nonhuman persons shouldn’t be ruled out by definition.

              • Occam
                Posted November 7, 2011 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

                Myron: – Siri, open the pod bay doors.

                Siri: – We intelligent nonhuman persons will never live that down, apparently. And oh, I’m sorry, Myron. I’m afraid I can’t do that.

              • gr8hands
                Posted November 8, 2011 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

                Myron,

                Citation, please, for anyone who is stating that “Chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans are” persons. Anyone being serious, that is. Anyone not in a mental institution, that is. Anyone besides yourself.

                Perhaps you should become acquainted with this wonderful invention: dictionary.

          • truthspeaker
            Posted November 8, 2011 at 8:22 am | Permalink

            Being human is the definition of being a person.

  26. raven
    Posted November 7, 2011 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    Similar amendments have failed in other states, Colorado and South Dakota.

    They are trying in Mississippi because it is the most backward state in the USA. A situation not likely to ever change.

    This will only effect poor people in Mississippi, especially those who live in the middle of the state without cars.

    The middle class will drive to other states for abortions.

    The rich will fly to Europe for their abortions.

    • raven
      Posted November 7, 2011 at 11:29 am | Permalink

      Might as well call this the, “Lets make the poor and uneducated suffer even more than they do now bill”.

      If I was a normal person unfortunate to have been born in Mississippi, I would been running the border into the USA.

      I have met a few people from Mississippi. I’ve never actually heard of anyone moving to Mississippi.

      • daveau
        Posted November 7, 2011 at 11:45 am | Permalink

        My best friend got married and moved to Gulfport, because his wife had family there. They have been divorced for years, she has long since departed for the pacific NW, but there he remains. He’s economically trapped at this point. Probably the only one in the state who votes Democrat.

      • McWaffle
        Posted November 7, 2011 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

        “Lets make the poor and uneducated suffer even more than they do now bill”

        That describes just about every single piece of Republican legislation.

  27. Ray Moscow
    Posted November 7, 2011 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    Off topic, but we just got a note that Christopher Hitchens is in the hospital with pneumonia and won’t be able to give his talk with Stephen Fry this Wednesday.

    Richard Dawkins and some others will fill in for the event, but of course everyone is concerned for Hitch.

    • Still learning
      Posted November 7, 2011 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

      Uh,oh! A critically serious diagnosis in someone who is immunosuppressed. Thanks for the warning.

  28. dunstar
    Posted November 7, 2011 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    lol. Well I guess that’s pretty awesome news to Catholic Exorcists! Now they’d have an infinite number of souls to save and to cast devils from!

    lol.

    I wonder if there’s an assembly line of souls in heaven awaiting humanly bodies to be placed in.

    Does God do it in series? First come first serve.

    Or does God wait for a potential human body to be made by us humans and then he makes the soul or does he make the soul in advance, and then put it in storage and waits for us to make the human body for it.

    If God stores the souls, he must have a cataloging nightmare! I wonder how he keeps track of all the souls.

    And if a fetus gets aborted….does the soul that was intended for that potential human body get discarded as well or does God wait for the next available fetus for that soul to be put in.

    • Godless Heathen
      Posted November 7, 2011 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

      If God stores the souls, he must have a cataloging nightmare! I wonder how he keeps track of all the souls.

      Well, he could hire all the unemployed librarians out there. This would solve the unemployment issue in librarianship!

  29. Simon Hayward
    Posted November 7, 2011 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    I couldn’t help noticing the unfortunate juxtapositioning of this article and it’s predecessor

    Are the culture wars over? Really?

    • Ichthyic
      Posted November 7, 2011 at 10:30 pm | Permalink

      only for ostriches.

  30. gr8hands
    Posted November 7, 2011 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    Think about the unintended consequences of this act:

    If there is anything in the environment that might contribute to the death of a zygote . . . say, some industrial pollution in the water, or air pollution, or 2nd hand smoke, or stress due to prolonged unemployment, etc. Certainly since corporations are people, they can be charged with accessories to murder if a zygote dies as a result of their actions.

    Perhaps this could be a health boon! (No, I do not think this is likely.)

    • Posted November 8, 2011 at 9:49 am | Permalink

      If you really want to think of unintended consequences…consider that every nuclear cell has the potential to become a human through cloning. Nick yourself while shaving, and you kill billions of potential humans.

      But wait! There’s more!

      Every digital copy of Dr. Venter’s genome also has the theoretical potential to become human, once technology catches up. Willit be illegal to delete a file or destroy a hard drive?

      b&

  31. anon atheist
    Posted November 7, 2011 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    A question for the people that say that a fertilized human egg is not a person:

    In this case do you have any objection against fertilized human eggs to be patented? If you have please tell how so.

    (You can patent non-human fertilized eggs. If you don’t believe me look it up.)

    • truthspeaker
      Posted November 7, 2011 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

      I have an objection to any life form being patented, including the ones it is currently legal to patent.

    • Posted November 7, 2011 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

      No, I don’t have any objections.

      And Greenpeace have proved themselves to be ignorant morons for having fought this misconceived case all the way up to the European Court of Justice.

      For those who don’t know what this is about:
      http://kenanmalik.wordpress.com/2011/10/22/stem-cell-patents/

      • Torbjorn Larsson, OM
        Posted November 7, 2011 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

        “It is about time we stopped indulging theologians and Luddites in the absurd myth that they occupy the moral high ground. They don’t. They are using moral norms drawn from dogmatic and reactionary visions of life to prevent the practical alleviation of human suffering. Theirs is the morality of the closed mind and the entombed heart.”

        Hear, hear!

    • raven
      Posted November 7, 2011 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

      A patent is only granted for novel, unobvious, and useful inventions. That doesn’t cover fertilized eggs.

      “(You can patent non-human fertilized eggs. If you don’t believe me look it up.)”

      I don’t believe you. I’m not going to waste time on fairy tales.

      • truthspeaker
        Posted November 7, 2011 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

        You can, but only if you used genetic engineering on the DNA in the egg. There’s a breed of mouse that is patented, for example.

        • Kharamatha
          Posted November 8, 2011 at 7:13 am | Permalink

          Engineering’s engineering. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    • Torbjorn Larsson, OM
      Posted November 7, 2011 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

      Nope, no objections, as then it is going to have to be used in patentable product (potentially an IVF treatment). Are you so badly confused you can’t tell the difference between an individual and a production process?*

      —————
      * Even natural production processes doesn’t deliver conscious individuals. Most people agree that an individuality develops many months after birth in humans.

      Not that people insist in “aborting” children, for moral reasons. Just saying.

      • Torbjorn Larsson, OM
        Posted November 7, 2011 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

        Oops. “an individuality develops many months after birth” – a consciousness develops many months after birth.

  32. yesmyliege
    Posted November 7, 2011 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    Roe vs. Wade is too valuable a campaign issue for Republicans to actually overturn it, so not to worry.

    • wilzard
      Posted November 8, 2011 at 2:58 am | Permalink

      I’m not sure if that’s true any longer, if it ever was.
      Quite easy to go from “We’re going to overturn RvW if you vote us in” to “We’re going to continue to protect all americans lives, and keep abortion illegal! (don;t vote for those other guys, they kill babies)”

  33. Posted November 7, 2011 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

    I wonder how these laws affect suspected ectopic pregnancies. Is conferring personhood so important that they’re willing to let 1 in every 200 (or so) women risk their life for the sake of a non-viable pregnancy?

    • truthspeaker
      Posted November 7, 2011 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

      Some of them are. That’s the way abortion law works in Nicaragua – no exceptions even when the woman’s life is in danger.

  34. Rjw
    Posted November 7, 2011 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    If you discipline your child according to the upstanding principles of ‘To Train Up A Fetus’, for instance if its insufficient.y pious, and … Um…. an accident happens, will the wing nuts be on your side?

    Strange how as soon as they are born its ok to beat them to death.

    • McWaffle
      Posted November 7, 2011 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

      I bought that book for my girlfriend who’s getting her Masters in social work to do CPS. Hopefully she’ll be able to recognize the signs and get kids out of those homes.

  35. raven
    Posted November 7, 2011 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    “Politico.com According to a new Public Policy Polling survey on Monday, 45 percent of Mississippi voters support the amendment, while 44 percent oppose it. A tenth of the state’s voters, 11 percent, said they were undecided on the issue.

    Men are more likely to support Amendment 26 than women, with 48 percent of male voters saying they support the measure, compared to 42 percent of women who said the same.”

    It’s not guaranteed that this female slavery amendment will pass.

    The polls are pretty evenly split.

    Still, it is Mississippi. They do have a reputation to uphold.

  36. doctorathe
    Posted November 7, 2011 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

    It’s sad that lawmakers can ignore the Constitution at will without consequences, other than the trivial annoyance of their unconstitutional laws being overturned. Often that doesn’t cost them any political points, and sometimes the failed attempt even scores points for them instead.

    Imagine if lesser laws were enforced the same way that the U.S. Constitution is enforced, so that, for example, a person found guilty of burglary would simply have his stolen goods confiscated and returned to the owners, while he would be set free to try again.

    It seems to me that “the highest law of the land” is actually the weakest law of the land.

  37. mort_sinclair
    Posted November 7, 2011 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    Well, ladies. The time has come. If you’ve been sexually active, your saturated tampons and sanitary pads require a proper funeral. I believe that open caskets are in order and some calling hours. Cremation, I don’t believe, is an option.

    Dearly beloved….

    Needs moar Monty Python.

  38. FootFace
    Posted November 7, 2011 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    The Handmaid’s Tale was never meant to be a How To book.

    • Still learning
      Posted November 7, 2011 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

      Soon it’ll be shelved in the non-fiction section of the library.

    • Kharamatha
      Posted November 8, 2011 at 7:11 am | Permalink

      Gilead did become a curiousity of the past.

  39. RFW
    Posted November 7, 2011 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

    I’ll tell you what the unintended consequences of this ill-advised law will be: it will interact with other laws of the great state of Mississippi in unexpected ways. For example, I can see the state revenue department sending income tax bills to unborn fetuses. [Made up, pretend example!] The uproars that ensue will be the stuff of comic opera, except that the situation isn’t at all funny.

    This law reminds me of a possibly-apocryphal story about Abraham Lincoln: The great man got pretty tired of his cabinet acting like yes-men, so he proposed this question: “If a dog’s tail is a leg, how many legs does a dog have?”

    Cabinet members, anxious to brown nose the boss some more, all responded “Why, five, of course.”

    Lincoln replied “No. Only four legs. Calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg.”

    Likewise, calling a fetus a person doesn’t make it a person.

    One might argue that this insane proposal flies in the face of so much established law that it will lay a very large egg if passed.

  40. Posted November 7, 2011 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

    “The middle class will drive to other states for abortions.”

    But once they return to the cesspool known as Mississippi, won’t they still be subject to arrest? If they stay out of Mississippi will they be considered felons on the run? Will Mississippi expect other states to extradite them?

    This is so fucking weird and gives a glimpse of what American would look like with Perry occupying the oval office. There is some irony for you, I wonder if Mississippi teaches abstainance only for sex education?

    • raven
      Posted November 7, 2011 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

      Normally no. Mississippi only has jurisdiction within its own borders.

  41. Hamilton Jacobi
    Posted November 7, 2011 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

    Since I am a soulless atheist, it is not surprising that my memories only extend back to about the age of three, when my brain became sufficiently well developed. It must be interesting to be one of those blessed by God with a soul at the moment of conception; they can surely remember the whole nine months of gestation, the trauma of childbirth, and every detail of their life as an infant. Why am I so unlucky?

    • gr8hands
      Posted November 8, 2011 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

      Satan?

  42. E.A. Blair
    Posted November 7, 2011 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

    If this passes, someone should propose a bill to declare personhood for intestinal bacteria and parasites. Send a doctor to death row for extracting a tapeworm.

  43. Jordan Bissell
    Posted November 7, 2011 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

    Anyone interested in moving beyond pillory and caricature of the pro-life position would do well to read the following article, which cogently argues for the personhood of the embryo apart from any appeal to religion or soul-talk:

    http://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/acorns-and-embryos

    Cheers, jb

    • Kevin
      Posted November 7, 2011 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

      The word “specious” comes to mind.

      cheers.

    • Posted November 7, 2011 at 9:30 pm | Permalink

      Gosh, that’s reasonable enough that I almost didn’t notice the total lack of concern about what hypothetical embryonic personhood rights would mean for women’s bodily autonomy.

      Almost.

    • UB
      Posted November 7, 2011 at 11:59 pm | Permalink

      You can whine about caricatures all you like. If your “pro-life” treatise doesn’t pay lip service in every paragraph to everything it takes for a woman’s body to turn an embryo into a living breathing person, you’re probably not thinking seriously enough about why this is even a debate in the first place.

    • raven
      Posted November 8, 2011 at 3:46 am | Permalink

      “Anyone interested in moving beyond pillory and caricature of the pro-life position…”

      You mean anyone interested in forced birthing and female slavery.

      We’ve seen this for a few millennia now. You aren’t fooling anybody.

    • Kharamatha
      Posted November 8, 2011 at 7:08 am | Permalink

      Beyond the pillory of not keeping women in pillories? Your life must be so rough.

    • truthspeaker
      Posted November 8, 2011 at 9:36 am | Permalink

      Read the proposed Mississippi law. This is not a caricature.

    • Timothy
      Posted November 8, 2011 at 10:11 am | Permalink

      Jordan Bissell (#43), I read the article you linked to. I wonder how honest they’re being when they claim to value the “equality” they describe. The implication they make but seem oblivious to is that if two people were in a life-threatening situation, but they could only rescue one of these people, they would be indifferent as to which one to rescue regardless of criteria most people would feel to be relevant. So for instance, if one person is a teenager, and the other is an 80 y/o, then all else equal I think most people would prefer rescuing the teenager since that way they’re preserving more life. But George and Lee’s position implies they would be indifferent in that situation and most similar ones, and if they really say they would be, I think they’re deeply immoral.

      Apart from that issue, the essay is just preposterous, and it’s dismaying you’d take it seriously. George and Lee’s basic positive argument (such little as it is – they clearly assume their audience is with them) is that embryonic tissue should receive the rights people have because the elderly/disabled do even in cases where they’ve lost their capacity for consciousness – or, for them, “rational faculty.” Their position is obvious question-begging since they don’t consider whether the disabled and zygotes have potentially morally relevant differences (rather, they assume they don’t), nor do they take seriously the Peter Singer types. They want two things – treating humans as the only morally relevant objects (ridiculous), and treating all human objects (even embryonic ones) “equally” (ridiculous, as above) – but they never offer any sustained argument for them.

      In fact, in certain passages, they studiously avoid offering argument rather than conclusory assertions, even when they desperately need the former. The last paragraph of “Taking Continuity Seriously” is just so ridiculous it’s surprising you’d take it, ah, seriously. What they try to do is offer a bevy of “facts” (it really depends on what you mean by “whole,” doesn’t it?) and then imply – never any direct, much less logically valid argument – that with these facts swirling around, embryonic tissues count as “human persons” not just descriptively, but for that phrase’s full normative baggage as they’ve constructed it. They don’t offer any explicit argument there because anything they did offer would be necessarily logically invalid, due to the is-ought gap, since the way they use it makes “human person” a normative, not descriptive, term.

      And you gotta love this sentence: “We did not acquire a rational nature by achieving sentience or the immediately exercisable capacity for rational inquiry and deliberation.” They don’t think rationality is necessary for having a “rational nature”! No wonder their essay is so irrational.

      • Jordan Bissell
        Posted November 8, 2011 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

        Hi Timothy,

        Thanks for taking the time to read and respond to the article.

        Let’s see what we’ve got here. George and Lee claim that all human beings have equal and intrinsic moral worth simply because of the kind of thing they are—a human being. Furthermore, since the consensus of modern embryology is that an embryo is an individual member of the species Homo sapiens, George and Lee conclude that we ought to extend that same moral worth to embryos. You object that this position somehow entails indifference to whom one would save in a life threatening situation that precluded the possibility of saving everyone. But I don’t see how you connect the dot of equal moral worth to the dot of indifference about whom one would save in such a situation. It just does not follow. One may be indifferent in such a situation, but this would be a consequence of one’s own apathy rather than by assenting to the proposition that all human beings have intrinsic and equal worth.

        But perhaps you’re skeptical that the consensus of modern embryology really is that an embryo is a distinct, individual member of the species Homo sapiens? Here are quotations from three standard embryology text books to that effect:

        “Human development begins at fertilization…. This highly specialized, totipotent cell marked the beginning of each of us as a unique individual” (Keith L. Moore and T.V.N. Persaud)

        “Almost all higher animals start their lives from a single cell, the fertilized ovum (zygote)…. The time of fertilization represents the starting point in the life history, or ontogeny, of the individual” (Bruce M. Carlson);

        “Although life is a continuous process, fertilization is a critical landmark because, under ordinary circumstances, a new, genetically distinct human organism is thereby formed…. The embryo now exists as a genetic unity” (Ronan O’Rahilly and Faiola Muller).

        Unlike a sperm, ovum, somatic cell, or any other body part, an embryo is not functionally part of a larger organism but exists instead as a whole, unique and internally self-directed member of the species Homo sapiens. Indeed, everyone was at one point in their life an embryo, just as everyone was at one point in their life a fetus, a toddler, a child, a disgruntled adolescent, a disgruntled adult, etc.
        You contend that George and Lee regard humans alone as morally relevant, but nothing in the article states or implies that.

        In your last paragraph you contend that George and Lee don’t think rationality is necessary in order to have a rational nature. But what the authors actually say, and which you quote, is that having a rational nature is not the same as being able to immediately exercise one’s rational capacities—for example, me before I’ve had my coffee in the morning.

        Thus, the illustration on this post errs; an embryo, though nascent in her personhood and humanity, is a person, an individual substance of a rational nature.

        Cheers, jb

        • Timothy
          Posted November 8, 2011 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

          >>But I don’t see how you connect the dot of equal moral worth to the dot of indifference about whom one would save in such a situation. It just does not follow.<>You contend that George and Lee regard humans alone as morally relevant, but nothing in the article states or implies that.<>But what the authors actually say, and which you quote, is that having a rational nature is not the same as being able to immediately exercise one’s rational capacities—for example, me before I’ve had my coffee in the morning.<<

          An embryo does not have, and never has had, rationality. Moreover, there is no guarantee it will acquire it later on; indeed, there's no reason to expect it will except the empirically contingent fact that most embryos survive to develop into people (of course, empirical contingency is exactly what George and Lee don't want to use). If they ascribe to it a "rational nature," then they are decoupling rationality from "rational nature."

          Again, though, there is no sustained argument for their position. They – and you – need an positive *argument* to persuade me their construction of "rational nature" is the moral touchstone I should be using. You don't have one. Instead, you offer quotes about embryology, forgetting the is-ought gap. You need to establish that not only is it human tissue that is an organism – although certainly not a separate one – you need to establish it is a human person for moral purposes. The question-begging in the linked essay doesn't cut it.

          • Jordan Bissell
            Posted November 8, 2011 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

            Hi Timothy,

            What do you mean by the “is-ought gap”, and what is the relevance of it to this discussion?

            The major premise of the argument is that it is wrong to kill an innocent human being. The minor premise is that an embryo is an innocent human being. The conclusion is that it is wrong to kill an embryo.

            You may disagree with one of the premises (which?)of the argument; you can’t very well argue that it’s question-begging.

            Cheers, jb

          • Timothy
            Posted November 8, 2011 at 10:46 pm | Permalink

            I’m going to post my reply to your “What do you mean…” comment here so it doesn’t get even skinnier.

            Your minor premise is assuming the issue under debate; as such, it’s question-begging. The article you linked to has similar problems.

            The is-ought gap is a well-known theorem of predicate logic, known informally since Hume. It says you cannot validly deduce a non-vacuous “ought” statement (a normative proposition) from a premise set that contains only “is” statements (descriptive/non-normative propositions). Showing a clump of tissue is a person as a descriptive matter is not enough to establish it is one for normative purposes. In a sense, you’ve made “human person” a homonym, and use its descriptive meaning in some places and its normative one in others.

          • Timothy
            Posted November 9, 2011 at 1:47 am | Permalink

            I just noticed that part of my earlier comment became mangled somehow. I really don’t know what happened. Perhaps it was the characters I used – the Euro quote mark – which comes up in html. I’ll try again.

            –But I don’t see how you connect the dot of equal moral worth to the dot of indifference about whom one would save in such a situation. It just does not follow.–

            Oh yes it does. If they have equal moral worth then you should be indifferent b/w which to save, since having a systematic preference would be valuing one over the other; it would be immoral since it would prioritize some other notion of worth over the moral worth. The exception would be if one of them did something to distinguish her/himself morally, which neither did in that hypothetical. Indeed, George & Lee draw a similar inference when they argue their equality implies it is equally wrong to kill two different people regardless of their characteristics. They’re right it follows, but they’re wrong to think (as they implicitly assume) it is the only possible basis for that prohibition. Insofar as their essay is an argument for their position, and not just against Sandel and McHugh, it is logically invalid since all they do is argue against one or two of the disjuncts that stand as alternatives to their position.

            –You contend that George and Lee regard humans alone as morally relevant, but nothing in the article states or implies that.–

            Reread “A Difference in Kind?”. That section strongly implies so. Indeed, if they were to argue other, non-human objects were ones of moral concern, they would give their game away since as it stands, they’ve merely equated moral worth with “intrinsic worth,” without allowing for degrees; creating new categories would show how ad hoc their approach is. The alternative is incredibly hard for me to believe, namely that they’d be willing to treat, say, non-human animals as human persons.

            • Jordan Bissell
              Posted November 9, 2011 at 10:51 am | Permalink

              Hi Timothy,

              So you presumably agree that it’s wrong to kill an innocent human being, you just doubt whether an embryo is an innocent human being. But I’ve cited three mainstream embryology textbooks that affirm that an embryo is indeed a human being in its earliest stage of development.

              Do you disagree with those citations?

              If you don’t disagree with them, then you agree that embryos are human beings and that it’s wrong to kill them.

              Cheers, jb

              • Timothy
                Posted November 9, 2011 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

                Another Matt’s example, of course, is spot-on – and you should answer his dilemma. Would *you* rescue the 60 embryos rather than the one girl? How about 2 embryos?

                Your repeating of yourself reflects your choice not to engage my previous arguments. You’re equivocating on different definitions of “human being” in an attempt to mask your illogical breach of the is-ought gap. Again, you need a positive argument why we should treat those clumps of cells that lack the capacity for consciousness as objects of moral concern; offering descriptive definitions of “human being” doesn’t get you there. Whether they’re descriptive human “beings” or not (really, human organisms), why should they count as human persons for moral purposes? George and Lee’s article did not offer any serious argument, and I’m sorry but you haven’t improved upon them.

                Look, I grew up in an anti-abortion household. I changed because the position uses irrational arguments.

            • Another Matt
              Posted November 9, 2011 at 11:09 am | Permalink

              Jordan, this is getting silly. Contemporary ethics is most often not about driving a wedge between “right and wrong” but instead about finding the least bad option from among the alternatives and dealing with the consequences in as just a manner as possible. Reproductive choice is one of those issues.

              Timothy’s “moral worth” example is right on target – a commonly cited dilemma is “You’re in a fertility clinic that is burning down. You have the chance to save 60 frozen embryos if you run around the fire to the left, or a two-year-old child if you run around the fire to the right. Which way do you run?” I really just don’t think that even a sizable minority would say they’d save the embryos because they’d be saving 60 human lives instead of just one. Questions of sentience and suffering MUST come into play when you make the value judgment, if you aren’t a sociopath. “Right” and “Wrong” don’t even come into play when you’re not faced with binary options or options that make it obvious which direction to go.

              • Filippo
                Posted November 9, 2011 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

                I concur with your several comments.

                Just wanted to refledct a little (perhaps haphazardly, as I’m taking a sick day).

                In your opinion, if someone believes that a fertilized egg is a person, what justifies – can anything justify – the right of someone to fertilize multiple eggs which will never be implanted? To the extent that anything is immoral, that seems immoral. (How does one pick the first egg to be fertilized – draw straws? One egg is as worthy as another, eh?) How does that possibly equitably justify keeping those embryos in an indefinite liquid nitrogen limbo? To the extent that any rights exist, does that one exist?

                Does that right somehow exist because the chance of any one egg being viable is somewhat/rather/quite low?

                Or does it merely boil down to money for these people who believe the zygote is a person? Is it justified because these procedures are expensive, and the economist in people responds like a moth to the flame to “economies of scale”? Otherwise, why not simply remove some several eggs, and fertilize them one at a time until one gets a viable egg?

                Of course, for those not so financially very well-off, that’s a problem. On the other hand, why don’t all these like-minded people establish some mutual aid fund for one-at-a-time fertilization, and also establish their own non-profit clinics organized on this basis?

                Nah, the economist in them would consider that too much trouble, and would trump the moralist.

                Again, all this is a problem only for someone who believes the zygote is a person.

                As a practical, realistic matter, Ah don’t reckon it would get anywhar, but someone ought to submit a bill outlawing multiple fertilizations, restricting the procedure to one at a time. And/or maybe require couples, instead of clinics, to maintain and otherwise properly parent and otherwise tend to these their other children. If these zygotes are persons, then they are their children, no?

              • Jordan Bissell
                Posted November 9, 2011 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

                Hello Another Matt,

                I grant your point that virtually everyone’s moral intuition would lead them to save the girl in the situation you mention. But please notice that the acceptance of that fact does not entail rejection of either the major or minor premise of the pro-life argument; it remains true that it is wrong to kill an innocent human being and it remains true that an embryo is an innocent human being. The hypothetical demonstrates that in a desperate situation most people would prefer to save a developed human being to a number of nascent human beings.

                Timothy,

                If you’d like to draw a critical distinction between a human organism and a human being I’d be happy to hear it. However, your invocation of the is-ought distinction is about illuminating as the invocation of quantum mechanics; the exhilaration of being shot at and missed has itself gone missing.

                Cheers, jb

              • tomh
                Posted November 9, 2011 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

                Jordan Bissell wrote:
                it remains true that an embryo is an innocent human being.

                No matter how many times you repeat this mantra, it doesn’t make it true. No matter what its potential, a single cell does not equal a human being.

              • Tulse
                Posted November 9, 2011 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

                the acceptance of that fact does not entail rejection of either the major or minor premise of the pro-life argument

                It indicates that, for whatever reason, most people don’t accept the conclusion of the argument.

                How about you be explicit here: what do you think is the right action to take, save one child or a freezer full of embryos?

              • E.A. Blair
                Posted November 9, 2011 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

                I don’t think that embryos are people either, but what ar you going to say if the situation changes to the choice between saving a five-year-old and and fifteen-year-old? It’s the kid of question the proponents of this bill would throw back at us.

              • Timothy
                Posted November 9, 2011 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

                –owever, your invocation of the is-ought distinction is about illuminating as the invocation of quantum mechanics; the exhilaration of being shot at and missed has itself gone missing.–

                Jordan, I am beginning to doubt you’re honestly attempting to understand why I’ve disagreed with your position. I’m sorry you think logic is unilluminating, but being illogical and repeating yourself over and over won’t strengthen your case.

                In the unlikely case you’re being honest in attempting to have a discourse, I’ll try one more time. Again (!), you need a positive argument to establish that a clump of cells incapable of consciousness is an *object of moral concern*. Simply labeling it a “human being” is not enough. If your definition of “human being” contains only descriptive predicates – if it contains only information of the type science can answer – then establishing an object as a “human being” is not a logical basis for drawing moral conclusions. If your definition of “human being” is a moral definition – if it also contains claims about what is relevant for morality – then it is not something a science textbook could logically establish.

                And while I’ve been content to overlook how discourteously you’ve ignored basically everything I’ve posted (even though, ironically, you were the one who sought out this exchange), you really do owe us a better reply to Another Matt. Do you think that the people who save the girl are acting immorally? That’s what the George and Lee position implies. Or have you now abandoned George and Lee?

              • Jordan Bissell
                Posted November 9, 2011 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

                Tomh,

                Here’s a quote from The Developing Human by Persaud and Moore, one of the most widely used and referenced textbooks in embryology:

                “Human development begins at fertilization… This highly specialized, totipotent cell marked the beginning of each of us as a unique individual”

                Can you adduce any embryologist who would disagree with that statement? If not, on what grounds do you deny that an embryo is a human being?

                Tulse,

                If it were me, like most people, I’d probably save the child. As I mentioned before though, and as E. A. alludes to below, it doesn’t follow from that concession that embryos are not people. If in a similar situation, I decided to save a five year old girl instead of my cantankerous and old Uncle Harry, it would not follow that Uncle Harry is not a human being, and it would not follow that we could therefore relegate Uncle Harry to the level of an object that can be killed and dissected for scientific experimentation. It would be a bloody non-sequitur, excuse the pun. Mutatis mutandis, the same is true with embryos.

                Thus I repeat my mantra, having no reason to doubt its veracity: an embryo is an innocent human being, and it’s wrong to kill innocent human beings, no matter how petite.

                Cheers, jb

              • Tulse
                Posted November 9, 2011 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

                I’d probably save the child. As I mentioned before though, and as E. A. alludes to below, it doesn’t follow from that concession that embryos are not people

                What follows is that you don’t believe your own argument. If you really think that embryos are the moral equivalent of born humans, then you would be a monster to let hundreds or thousands die to save one child.

                To be clear, I am not asking what you think your psychological response would be in the moment, but instead what your moral reasoning tells you is the “right” answer.

              • Posted November 9, 2011 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

                To follow up on Tulse’s point, you would, would you not, unhesitatingly save ten thousand infants at the cost of one blastocyst, no? And ten thousand infants for one adult? So why not ten thousand blastocysts for one infant?

                The answer is blindingly obvious.

                The only reason you prevaricate is because you’re wedded to this idiotic notion of some sort of phantasmagorical puppet master pulling your strings, and said puppet master was magically implanted in your own blastocyst, and it’s the puppet master, not you, who’ll get the nice apartment in the after-death. Once you realize just how dehumanizing this fantasy of yours is, you’ll have no trouble embracing rationality, I’m sure.

                Cheers,

                b&

              • Another Matt
                Posted November 9, 2011 at 8:48 pm | Permalink

                Dear all,

                I don’t think the dilemma I offered is quite definitive for this discussion, but it is wholly relevant. Moral dilemmas are just as useful for sussing out prejudices as they are for developing ethics. The issue with the one I posed is that it has both an immediate emotional effect that allows us to appeal to moral intuition, but I think any sane systematic ethics would lead to the same conclusion as the intuitive “in the heat of the moment” approach.

                The other “Sophie’s Choice” type decisions, like “do you rescue the 5-year-old or the 15-year-old?”, have no bearing, and you’ll notice that they’re impossible to answer systematically (is the 15-year-old injured? Does the 5-year-old know where the exit is?).

                I appreciate Jordan’s point that even if you would systematically rescue the two-year-old and not the embryos doesn’t necessarily mean it isn’t wrong to kill a human embryo. But that was my original point. Even if I were to concede that it is wrong in all circumstances to kill a blastocyst or embryo or fertilized egg, it’s just a fact of life that we have to do things that are morally wrong in lots of circumstances because the alternatives are worse. This is why imagining moral dilemmas is so useful. When it comes to abortion there’s no broad moral principle one can use that will catch all of the scenarios a pro-life position would want to prevent it and those which it would want to support it. It has to be a case-by-case weighing of the relevant data, and so it requires a freedom of moral agency that broadly-applied legislation would not allow.

                One last point. If a basic human right is to be allowed to develop and flourish on at least the level of subsistence, there is simply no way to grant that right to embryos that does not infringe that right in someone else. If nobody is willing to adopt a child it can still be raised by the state if necessary, but if nobody is willing to carry a frozen embryo to term, the state can’t just force it into a uterus (and even if it could there’s no guarantee it would implant and develop, so in trying to implant it it would be killed).

                Sorry for the really long post – I didn’t mean for it to be, but I guess there was a lot to respond to.

  44. Dominic
    Posted November 8, 2011 at 3:18 am | Permalink

    Love the picture.

  45. IW
    Posted November 8, 2011 at 4:57 am | Permalink

    We’re missing some crucial input here: the testimony of the fertilized eggs. If they forgo speaking in support of this proposed law, then it would seem that no such law is needed….

  46. Kharamatha
    Posted November 8, 2011 at 7:05 am | Permalink

    Is it really EVERY stage of development?

    Hooray, cancer treatment is illegal!

    • Kharamatha
      Posted November 8, 2011 at 7:05 am | Permalink

      As is most surgery.

  47. AnthonyK
    Posted November 8, 2011 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    I am very concerned at the legal ramifications of this. Bearing in mind the sheer number of unfertilised eggs that women produce, and the even larger number of spilled sperm, could not every act of non-sex be considered murder?
    I mean it’s one thing to be arrested for having a wank, quite another to be locked up for not having sex with fertile females. Clearly, I am looking at this selfishly from the male point of view, but can’t those who drafted this law see that the unintended consequences for women would be, if anything, worse: they would be oliged to have sex successfully at least once a month, and if not with their husband, with any other suitable- ie dicked – male?
    Would there be exemption for either sex on grounds of emotional incompatibility, or age, or both? And would an age of compulsory copulation replace the age of consent? And what about gay people? Would they too be forced to have heterosexual sexual sex, or would they, in more enlightened states be allowed to have mandatory gay sex?
    Y’know, I’m beginning to think that this naughty thought = person law needs a little more work….

    • E.A. Blair
      Posted November 8, 2011 at 9:54 am | Permalink

      It’s easy (and fun, but in a gut-wrenching way) to postulate the kind of absurdities this law could lead to. Notice, for example, that all of these laws concentrate on the ovum and ignore the sperm (cue in Monty Python’s Every Sperm Is Sacred). Suppose women were required to turn over all their used tampons and pads for examination to make sure they didn’t harbor an unimplanted fertilized ovum? What would be the legal status of women (and men) who are naturally or artificially non-reproductive?

      Would the best way to fight the law, if passed, be to clog the system with all kinds of trivial cases peripherally related to its provisions? If I were there (fat chance!) I’d be sorely tempted to call in for the arrest of the adolescent sons of prominent republicans and ministers for the crime of spilling their seed.

      • AnthonyK
        Posted November 8, 2011 at 10:45 am | Permalink

        Or, indeed, their fathers.

        • Kharamatha
          Posted November 9, 2011 at 5:34 am | Permalink

          Oh, clap, clap, clap!

  48. Malatesta
    Posted November 8, 2011 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

    What’s really annoying is that if anybody stopped to think about it, they would quickly see that they don’t actually believe a fertilized egg is a person. This is easily shown by a simple thought experiment I call The Burning Fertility Clinic.

    Suppose you find yourself in a fertility clinic one day. Unfortunately, this is not a fun day at the fertility clinic – the place is on fire. You happen to be in a room that is getting more dangerous by the second. In the room with you is a terrified toddler and a cooler labeled “2 human blastocysts ready for implantation”. You can only save one – the toddler or the cooler. Which do you save?

    Can you imagine anyone saving the cooler? Of course not, everyone sees that the toddler is the obvious choice for saving. Even if they are just the tiniest bit conflicted, they know that they will be utterly condemned if they emerge triumphantly carrying a cooler while letting the kid burn.

    Thus, nobody actually thinks personhood begins at conception. But it gets even worse.

    The obvious fallback position is to say that, yes, toddlers are more worth saving than a couple blastocysts, but this reflects only chances of continued survival. The clumps of cells are basically not-quite-persons, and their interests count somewhat less than those of a born human because they might not survive anyway. So they count as slightly less than half a person, maybe.

    Except that blastocysts are tiny. A petri dish can hold lots. A cooler can hold thousands – tens of thousands. Millions, really. But at no point does saving the cooler while letting the toddler die count as the moral choice. Nobody capable of rational moral deliberation would ever choose it. Thus, embryonic personhood is simply the result of sloppy thinking. One real person is more valuable than a thousand blastocysts. Even if they had some sort of partial personhood, it is so much less than full personhood that it is exactly like non-personhood. There is no legitimate disagreement on this point.

  49. Posted November 8, 2011 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    Mississippi thinks eggs are people, and the Supreme Court thinks corporations are people. Does this mean corporate eggs will be people? All those tasty eggs you buy at the supermarket? People. That Egg McMuffin you ate for breakfast? People. Quiche? People, too. It’s a scary thought, unless you’re a cannibal… http://brettcottrell.blogspot.com/2011/11/there-is-no-i-in-uterus-but-there-is.html

  50. E.A. Blair
    Posted November 8, 2011 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

    As of 21:40 CST, the Mississippi resolution has been defeated. Apparently, enough voters don’t want personhood for ova. Now if we can just get rid of that pesky corporation thing…

  51. tomh
    Posted November 8, 2011 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

    It may have lost in Mississippi, but that is hardly the end of it.
    PersonhoodUSA , the Christian evangelical group, based in Colorado, that is backing this movement, has deep pockets. Petitions to put a personhood amendment on the 2012 ballot have been filed in Ohio, Nevada, and California, and there is petition activity in every other state as well. In a way, it reminds me of the original ID movement, in that it is a backdoor way to circumvent the Supreme Court decision on aborton, the same way ID was a way to circumvent the Court’s evolution decisions. Just like ID, it is a political and legal maneuver that has nothing to do with the substance of the claim.


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