How “Personhood” Arguments Can Harm the Pro-life Movement

April 3, 2014

It’s important that “Personhood” amendments and bills are crafted carefully, taking into account all lives, and the rare exceptions where life and life hang in a tragic balance.


Abortion, without a shadow of a doubt, is a procedure that kills human offspring. Whether by abortifacients such as the “Plan-B” pill which releases hormones into a woman’s system interrupting the attachment of a newly conceived human to the inside of her uterus, thus killing it, gruesome late-term methods such as “Partial-birth abortion,” or the post birth killings done by monsters such as Curtis Gosnell, abortion is the unjust taking of a baby’s life.

There are instances, however, when abortion may be necessary. Although many states were loosening restrictions on abortion in the 1960s, it was the case of Roe vs. Wade enacted as law an activist Supreme Court that made abortion-on-demand a “right” through contortions and “penumbras” of inferred Constitutional privacy rights. Militant feminists, then and now, embrace abortion-on-demand as the one right that deserves to be defended 24/7, from cradle to grave, for females from puberty to menopause. Planned Parenthood, which makes its wealth providing abortions, and other militant organizations–including the Democrat Part–continue to oppose any and all restrictions on abortion, despite a growing body of visual and medical evidence that even very tiny humans have identifiable features, recognize and differentiate human voices, and suffer great pain during abortion procedures.

Militant feminists, NARAL, NOW, Planned Parenthood, etc., represent an extreme point of view and philosophy that the value of a life is not intrinsic, but to be judged arbitrarily upon the whim of a woman who may be carrying life in her womb. The religion of Abortion requires complete faithfulness to its extremist tenets, and anyone who defends life at any stage by trying to restrict abortion-on-demand is deemed heretical.

There is a well-intentioned extreme at the other end of the spectrum, however. “Personhood” groups and initiatives, by and large, deem ALL abortion for any reason also as heretical. Their argument is sound insofar that life begins at conception, and a human offspring growing in the womb from day one is endowed with the same Right to Life that God gave to all. But, tragically, there are instances–though rare compared to on-demand abortions–when one life must be measured against another, and abortion has to be considered.

Those rare instances are:

Legal and religious exceptions for these situations does not mean that women should, or will choose abortion. But most churches and pro-life organizations agree that women in these extraordinary and painful situations, where they had no choice and did not become pregnant because of their own recklessness or immoral conduct, should have options available that preserve their physical health and mental well-being.

The National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) does not take a “no exceptions” stand on the issue, but their state affiliates have discretion to formulate their own policies regarding rape, incest, and life of the mother cases.

The LifeNews website acknowledges the rare “hard cases” where the life of the mother (ectopic pregnancy, for example) must be balanced against the life of the growing baby.

The great Billy Graham, as well as many churches support exemptions, but emphasize that abortion is a grave matter wherein the pregnant woman, her loved ones, clergy, and doctor should take into account the life of the child conceived through an unjust act. The policy statement on abortion of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon or LDS), a staunchly pro-life Christian church, reads:

Human life is a sacred gift from God. Elective abortion for personal or social convenience is contrary to the will and the commandments of God. Church members who submit to, perform, encourage, pay for, or arrange for such abortions may lose their membership in the Church.

In today’s society, abortion has become a common practice, defended by deceptive arguments. Latter-day prophets have denounced abortion, referring to the Lord’s declaration, “Thou shalt not . . . kill, nor do anything like unto it” (D&C 59:6). Their counsel on the matter is clear: Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints must not submit to, perform, encourage, pay for, or arrange for an abortion. Church members who encourage an abortion in any way may be subject to Church discipline.

Church leaders have said that some exceptional circumstances may justify an abortion, such as when pregnancy is the result of incest or rape, when the life or health of the mother is judged by competent medical authority to be in serious jeopardy, or when the fetus is known by competent medical authority to have severe defects that will not allow the baby to survive beyond birth. But even these circumstances do not automatically justify an abortion. Those who face such circumstances should consider abortion only after consulting with their local Church leaders and receiving a confirmation through earnest prayer.

Ideally abortion would not be a political issue but rather limited to the extremely rare instances that necessitate medical intervention. Many pro-life activists living today were conceived due to the rape of their mothers. They are living testaments to the fact that abortion in any case ends the life of an individual. The arguments in the pro-life community are of degrees and have, unfortunately become political. But politics matter, and when a pro-life candidate loses to an abortion-on-demand advocate because the pro-life candidate has been branded as “ant-life” or “pro-abortion,” Planned Parenthood loves it, abortion-on-demand is reinforced, and more unborn babies die for the whim of the moment or convenience of the parent(s).

Cory Gardner, a pro-life senate candidate from Colorado poised to challenge Democrat and Obamacare defender, Mark Udall in the 2014 midterms, was hammered recently in the national and state media for “flip-flopping” on his pro-life stance. Gardner flip-flopped on nothing, but simply clarified his stance on “contraception” vs. “abortion” by saying that he does not support legislation limiting access to some common contraceptives.  Although the “personhood” lobbies have the best of intentions, when they attack pro-life conservatives they strengthen and promote the very anti-life candidates and causes which they say they oppose.

“Personhood” initiatives have worried some in the field of “infertility” because language in some proposed abortion bans could also end up banning in-vitro fertilization. These matters are personal and highly sensitive, and for some parents, their only hope to conceive children who are genetically related to them. Personhood initiatives that seek to prosecute those who harm an unborn child through neglect or criminal activity serve an important purpose, and reinforce the truth that the right to life should be defended. But in the long run, no one is well served– especially those moms and babies who should have options other than abortion–by knee-jerk reactions and  ad-hominem assaults on the public figures and candidates whose goal is to limit abortion-on-demand and ultimately restore the unalienable right to life for all.

Politicians must appeal to as many Americans as possible. Pro-abortion extremist comprise a shrinking minority. But pro-life Americans who believe in abortion exceptions for rape, incest, and life of the mother cases, should not be dismissed nor derided. They may not be purists, but they vote for conservative causes and respect the right to life. It’s important that “Personhood” amendments and bills are crafted carefully, taking into account all lives, and the rare exceptions where life and life hang in a tragic balance.

by Marjorie Haun  4/3/14

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