If personhood was so important…

I mean to ask in what facet of life other than the topic of abortion do we consider the distinction between person and human being to be of any material consequence. It seems that this person/human being distinction is important (even to pro-choicers) only when discussing abortion. For example (and not to color this discussion) when someone is on trial for murder, the defense doesn’t try to force the prosecution to prove that the deceased was a full person, and not merely a human being, when defending himself.

The point of my question is that if personhood is of such importance to securing rights, why isn’t this discussion had in other venues? After all, newborns do not possess the personhood qualities required to protect a pre-birth human being from abortion and yet are afforded all the rights and protections as a 5 year-old. It seems in the case of newborns merely being outside the womb is enough.


  1. Amen! Most pro-lifers are pro-life until this side of the vagina. Emphasizing our personhood as a nation could cure so much. How about adding this to gun discussion.

    • Sacredstruggler

      This is a common complaint from the pro-abortion side: Pro-lifers only care about the baby til it’s born. But this complaint is wrongly applied because they refuse to differentiate who it is that is responsible for the new life created. For some reason, the pro-abortion crowd doesn’t think the parents of a child bear the responsibility for caring for it, as if they hold the same responsibility (or lack there of) to their own child as they do for a stranger. HERE is my post on this issue.

      As far as the gun discussion, what does this have to do with abortion? Do you know any pro-lifers who support the wrongful use of guns to murder innocent people? Or are you suggesting that pro-lifers are only pro-life when it comes to pre-born babies? Maybe you mistake the issue. Pro-lifers are pro innocent life. Do you think that in order to be consistent, one must render themselves defenseless by disarming themselves? That’s kinda nonsense, don’t you think?

      • I can see why you hold your sign in your picture. You’re obviously offended even when people agree with you. Most pro-lifers don’t think about the system that many of unwanted kids would get put into. They don’t want to fund it and/or they don’t adopt. They don’t want to pay for poor family’s healthcare or anything else that comes in the typical “unwanted” pregnancy demographic.

        And seeing the personhood in people as a nation would help grow a conscious in the people who commit these atrocious gun crimes. That’s the real issue with gun control, it’s really about the mental health issues and lack of humanization that these shooters have.

        i wonder how many followers you have to attack even I agreed with you. Jeez.

        • It’s not that Pro-lifers don’t want programs funded, they just don’t want them to be a way of life. We believe, as should everyone, that people should stand up and take care of themselves. I don’t believe society bears the responsibility of caring for children, the child’s parents do. If children are unwanted, that is the parent’s thing to deal with? By and large, pro-lifers and Christians as groups adopt at higher rates than other demographics. Even if they didn’t, they don’t need to adopt to be able to speak out against killing children just like I don’t need to be willing to take in battered women to speak out against domestic violence.

          • That’s like saying you can stand and preach against child abuse while a child starves in front of you, but it’s not your responsibility to help them; it’s the parents.

            • There is a difference between helping and assuming responsibility. That is the distinction you and others miss. No one opposes helping, it’s assuming responsibility that we object to.

              More importantly, you have a couple times now dismissed the idea that the child’s parents are ultimately responsible for the care of their child. Why is that? Do you believe the parent bears that responsibility? Because you keep putting it back on people like me to step up and provide.

              • I’m not going to worry about pandering with politics and asking who’s responsibility is it to defend this life while a child is dying. That’s why. I’m going to save the child then worry about all the superficial bullshit. That’s what fundamentalism in politics on both sides does. Disregards the real issue. It doesn’t matter whose responsibility it is to take care of it. You see a child dying, you have the power to stop it, so you stop it. What’s your problem with that?

              • SS

                The problem is that it’s not just helping out, you suggest that full assumption by a stranger is better than parental responsibility. You refuse to acknowledge that parents bear the responsibility for raising their children and instead deride strangers for not stepping up to be parents. Where is your disdain for neglectful parents?

              • Deflection from the issue.

              • Where’s your care for the child?

              • NAS, what’s misleading? Nothing I said has been inaccurate.

                SS, caring for the child does not require me to assume parental responsibility. Don’t think no one notices you have yet to condemn neglectful parents.

              • What good does whining about their shameful acts do for the children? I can’t do anything about that. I can’t make them be good parents unless they have the desire. Believe me, it’s my job. I can only focus on what I can do. Whining and condemning is really just delaying action. By politicking and complaining about not wanting to take responsibility we become complicit in the children’s suffering.

                So where’s Your care for the child. Oh great skirter?

              • Wait just a second. You can’t make them be good parents, so their children then become my responsibility, and if I don’t assume that responsibility, its my bad? I’m calling BS on that. How about instead of trying to shame me into taking care of their children, you shame them into taking care of their own.

                Tell you what, I’ll quit my job and stop feeding my kids. I’ll email you my address so you can start sending money to help the poor helpless children. Unless of course you’re a heartless monster who wont help kids.

              • Get over it. You have to get into reality. Kids who would have been aborted are about 30% from Christian and or Catholic households. The kids that we’re trying to prevent from getting abortions have parents who are arguing that abortions should be illegal. They’re begging the law to hold their own kids accountable, but won’t do it themselves. They push off their own responsibility and then whine like you. But like you they don’t give a shit about the kids that are actually paying the price. And yes, if it was in my power and you didn’t feed your kids; I would.
                Don’t you get it, it’s not about you. It’s about the kids.

                And guess what in all of that, I still didn’t hear you say you give a shit about the lives of the kids.

              • And also, hopeless as it is, I work everyday to try to elicit the desire to do better in the parents of the kids I work with. But if I can’t, I can inspire those kids and help them out regardless. The parents are always the headache for me.

  2. “why isn’t this discussion had in other venues?”

    Because it only matters when the human body is still developing within the womb, probably. For example: a human that is 5 years old is not significantly different, biologically, from a human that is 75 years old. A fertilized egg, on the other hand, is significantly different from a 5 year old human.

    “newborns do not possess the personhood qualities ”

    Sure they do. At least the personhood qualities as I understand them. I don’t know what you think personhood means.

    • NAS

      Those who suggest “personhood” is a prerequisite for not being killed in the womb it generally means self-awareness, the ability to reflect, temporal projection, the ability to act beyond instinct, etc. Newborns do not psychologically or philosophically pass the “personhood” test to those who insist on its imposition. They will, however, allow for a pass for them, because it’s outside the womb.

  3. You’re right. Newborns do not meet their criteria for personhood. We don’t protect an infant because they meet the personhood criteria, or because the mother wants them. We protect them because they meet the “living human being” criteria.

  4. “What’s your problem with that?”

    For some, though perhaps not for Barron, it’s more about punishing the woman for having sex than it is about ‘saving a baby’. As long as the woman is sufficiently punished, they don’t care about anything else.

    Again, that’s for some, but not all, pro-lifers.

  5. What does it say about you (hypothetically) if you force a woman who was raped to have her rapist’s child?

    • NAS

      I’m sure you know that abortions because of rape accounts for less than 1% of abortions right? Are you really going to try to argue for abortion based on the rarest of exceptions?

      But let’s just take that rarity. In a civilized society, how should we treat those whose father committed a crime, or those who remind us of a traumatic event? What does abortion a child conceived in rape accomplish? Do you think the woman will forget she’s been raped? Will she not be reminded of it everyday by any number of things?

  6. “Are you really going to try to argue for abortion based on the rarest of exceptions?”

    Maybe. I’m more bringing up a sticking point for many people. If abortion is okay in cases of rape, or cases that would lead to death of the mother, then we need to look at why its okay then and not okay in other places. Regardless of how little those things may happen.

    “What does abortion a child conceived in rape accomplish?”

    Other than not forcing a woman, against her will, to undergo pregnancy and childbirth? And to be reminded every second of that process that she was violated and assaulted? Does the woman have no rights at all in this scenario?

    I do not view a fertilized egg as a human or a person. So trying to compare a fertilized egg to a child will not be an effective argument against me. If you have nothing other than that, then we might as well agree to disagree.

    • Well, I remember you saying that you believe a fertilized egg is not human even in the face of all medical evidence to the contrary.

      And just so we’re clear, you seem to be saying that you believe it is OK to kill a human being because they remind you of a traumatic event, is that right? Is that what you’d consider civilized? Does this flow from your worldview, and if so, shouldn’t you re-think it?

  7. “And just so we’re clear, you seem to be saying that you believe it is OK to kill a human being because they remind you of a traumatic event, is that right?”


    I’m saying if a woman is raped, she should be allowed to abort any fetus within a reasonable amount of time if she so desires.

    That’s clear. What you wrote is simplistic and misleading.

  8. Personhood is mainly a legal construct. Someone’s humanity may be recognized, but they are considered inferior in some way, therefore they are not persons under the law and are not granted the same rights and privileges as legally recognized “persons.” Women were not allowed to vote because they were not “persons” under the law.

    Enslavement of people with higher melanin contact was originally justified because they were considered less evolved and not truly human. (Similar arguments were used to justify killing Jews and enslaving the Irish.) When that excuse could no longer be used and slavery was abolished, people with dark skin were still not considered “persons” under the law for many years.

    Basically, legal recognition of personhood is arbitrary and has more to do with societal views of the time period. A modern equivalent that could be used is euthanasia of the severely disabled. I’ve encountered arguments to defend such acts that are based on the indivual’s inablility to interact with anyone.

    With abortion, the only way to logically defend it is to deny the humanity of the unborn. Since that is no longer possible, based on our improved medical knowledge, defenders of abortion have to fall back onto the personhood argument. Sure, the fetus is human, but it’s not really a person until…. When? You have those who argue that, until the moment of complete birth, the infant is not legally a person, which is how we can have partial birth abortions. Others argue to the point of viability; when the fetus can be expected to survive outside the womb. That marker, however, is dependant on our own medical technology, and can change. There are also arguments made that if there is no heartbeat yet, or if there is no brain function, then the fetus is not yet a person. That pushes acceptibility back to a point where many women don’t even know they are pregnant yet.

    Then there are who use the personhood argument that are quite fine with the idea of not considering infants as non-persons and that “post birth abortions” should be acceptable.

    As for the claim that pre-born children do not have personalities, etc., that’s pretty rediculous. I’ve had two children and, even in utero, they had noticably different personalities. My husband used to play with my older daughter by pressing different areas on my belly, then we’d wait and watch as she twisted and turned to reach the spot and push back. I had to put a stop to the game because it felt so weird! Clearly, she had enough awareness to interact with us, even from the womb. I simply cannot understand how any women who has been through a pregancy can possibly believe that a fetus is not a unique person that just happens to be inside their body and developmentally dependant on them. There are plenty of tests that have been done that show that the pre-born are aware of the world outside their mother’s womb. They recognise voices, respond to stimuli in different ways, and recognise threats. They are not empty blobs.

    Oh, and the whole idea that people who are against abortion are somehow trying to “punish” women for having sex is probably one of the most laughable arguments I’ve ever encountered. Seriously? How pathetically condescending of women. Obviously, we’re just too stupid and incapable of making choices and taking responsibility of our own actions. The rape and incest argument is just as condescending. Clearly, those who make those arguments do not believe women are capable of differentiating between an innocent child and the crime that happened to produce that child, and are too emotionally immature to grow beyond that crime. Just as clearly, all those people out there who were concieved in rape do not deserve to live. They should have been killed to spare their mother’s any possible emotional trauma that other people think they must have. I mean, it’s not like the resulting children might actually be viewed as the one good thing that might have resulted from the crime, helping their mothers heal and overcome trauma.

  9. It is a biological and scientifical fact that we are talking about a human being (and yet someones deny that fact).
    Personhood is more tricky because it is a philosofical term and can be twisted in many ways. I relate it to conscious self-awareness and free will, which is more or less its usual meaning.
    As a legal term, I would vote for associate it to any human being which has these characteristics actually or potentially.
    As a common use term, I associate it to any human being.

    I agree with John that parents should be responsible for the children, save few exceptions such as in case of rape.

  10. Are you a Christian? If you don’t mind my asking of course.

    • SS

      Of course I am. But I don’t agree that helping g someone in need, like a neglected child requires me to assume parental responsibility, especially when their parent still has custody of that child but chooses to not provide a caring and nurturing environment for them. I also don’t believe that it is reasonable to say “if you aren’t willing to assume parental responsibility for an unwanted child, it is morally permissible to kill the child”.

      • I didn’t mean to insult you in anyway, some of my community was wondering and though I had assumed you were I had to check, because it would make the discussion a very different one. That’s all.

        • I’m not insulted in the least. I think we might have differing views as to what constitutes a Christian. Feel free to call me out like your inlaws anytime.

          • Haha. I love them, but I don’t get it.

            perhaps we do, though I don’t see how we could. A Christian believes that Jesus died to save the world for everyone’s sins and their specifically. If you don’t believe that Christ is messiah I don’t think you’re a Christian. Perhaps the rest is responsibilities and semantics.

  11. Hey John, I like the community that you have built here and respect the discussion. My question after reading through all of your comments is why are you so worried about making parents who don’t act as they should act the way you want them to?

    Your admission to discipleship of Christ makes me ask the question. You don’t really believe that your stance toward the situation will make the Kingdom of Heaven more of a reality in this world do you? I for sure understand your frustration with people who don’t take parenthood seriously, whether pre or post birth.

    What I am failing to understand is the stance that abdicating responsibility for children put into terrible situations makes this world a better place or is a Christian stance. You can’t force a non-Christian to follow your moral code, according to Scripture they are incapable.

    I don’t know at what point someone becomes a person, but it doesn’t really matter as far as my responsibility goes. In opposition to some of the people that have posted, it is not clear scientifically or theologically. (People who think that it is a black and white issue have weak theology and a weak medical background.) I am responsible to make people’s world more like the KOG. My commission is not just to do good things, but to take responsibility to love at the most sacrificial level ( I don’t always do that the best, but I strive and wish to).

    If I want to change the actions of irresponsible parents, I do so by allowing the grace of Christ to transform me and spill out on those who need it most. You don’t want the church to take “parental responsibility” for children in terrible situations. Why not? If a terrible parent is incapable of acting like Christ in their child’s life because they haven’t been transformed by the grace of God, then to whom would you leave the responsibility of showing God’s love? God’s love is full of consistency/responsibility.

    The reality of my life is that I likely only have a few months to live. At age 28, my wife will be a widow with a two year old. One of the greatest things about being a Christian is the knowledge that there is a community of people who will take on the responsibility of loving my family as a father when I am gone and unable to do so.

    Maybe there is a difference in that the people you are talking about have done something wrong to be in the positions you describe, but there is something similar in that something is destroying them from the inside just as my cancer destroys my lungs. Maybe if those people see that we are there for their children the way the church is there for my little girl, then the evil that eats at their insides will start to go away.

    There is a good chance that our efforts to take responsibility won’t work, but Christ took responsibility for my crap when I didn’t deserve it. I have no choice but to try and do the same for others.

    Let me know what you think. I maybe misinterpreting what is bothering you most and would love to hear what you have to say. Abortion is something that bothers me deeply and I have many questions. I will also pub you to my community to bring some more people into your conversation. Thanks for talking about important stuff!



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