Tuesday, November 15, 2011

On "Personhood" v. Roe

Midst an essay reviewing a new book by R. Spitzer (SJ) we find some material on Roe (and its close cousin, Dred Scott):

...The fact is, as Spitzer points out, from Blackstone and previous decisions of State Courts, legal precedent existed that the human fetus at all its stages was a human person. The Court simply ignored this background.

Spitzer’s analysis of the legal, linguistic, and metaphysical use of the word “person” in every instance identifies it with a human being protected both by natural and constitutional law. Why the Court could not find the word “person” in previous Court decisions was simple. The issue never came up before. It would be, Spitzer suggests, like saying that because the old maps did not show the existence of the American continent, therefore, it did not exist.

No longer is there any doubt that the fertilized human zygote from its beginning is an independent human life separate from the mother. Spitzer cites the work of Jerome Lejeune on the DNA of the human fetus. This work became known a few years after the decision, but the Court has not recognized its force. The Court equivalently said that, if it is in doubt about whether a thing is human, we can assume that it is not. This is a principle directly contrary to reason. If in doubt about a thing’s humanity, we do not act until we find out.

The book?  Ten Universal Principles.

It remains a mystery why certain "pro-life" groups are opposed to the Personhood Amendment.  The State of Mississippi rejected it, but when you read the news-accounts, it's clear that Planned Parenthood's line of attack was largely from hedonism.

Should be no surprise.


Badger Catholic said...

Yep, expect more neutral stances for bishop conferences too. We don't want to offend anybody ya know.

Grim said...

That principle isn't directly contrary to reason: it's just contrary to another principle that is derived from reason.

To be directly contrary to reason, the principle would have to lead to a contradiction. For example, it could lead to the conclusion that the fetus both is and is not a person, in the same sense and at the same time.

What this runs afoul of is, rather, our common sense. I like to argue from an analogy to deer hunters. Let us say that a deer hunter sees what might be a deer, but might also be Mrs. Robinson out for a walk in the woods. It would be very convenient for the hunter if it is a deer, because then he can feed his family. If he pulls the trigger without being sure, is he blameworthy if it turns out to be Mrs. Robinson?

I think nearly anyone would say yes; and so now we have our contradiction. It's not reason itself that the principle contradicts, though, but the common sense principle.

Jim said...

A zygote is not Mrs. Robinson.

Grim said...

Of course it was, once.

Anonymous said...

Life begins at erection.