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What the 'After-Birth Abortion' and 'Personhood' Debates Have in Common


Mar 5 2012
If there is 'no moral difference' between infants and fetuses, where do we draw the line?

Such language makes more justifiable recent attempts to define "personhood" to include unborn children. Personhood legislation was defeated last November in Mississippi and before that in Colorado, but renewed attempts are ongoing in several states, including in Wisconsin and Oklahoma. Attempts in Utah and Virginia have been dropped. (Oddly, corporations in the United States have long enjoyed legal personhood status.)

Yet even among pro-life advocates, views on personhood legislation are not uniform. The practical and political ramifications of passing constitutional amendments defining a "person" as "every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof" are not entirely clear. Some who favor other efforts restricting abortion say such laws are silly or symbolic at best, sloppy or dangerous at worst. This may be true.

But it's also true that symbols are important. Symbols have power. None should recognize this more than we of a faith in which our symbols bleed over into substance. But when legalized abortion turns into an argument for killing newborns, any debate about symbol vs. substance is dead in the water.

Related Topics:Abortion; Children; Politics

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What the 'After-Birth Abortion' and 'Personhood' Debates Have in ...