By Jon Russell, National Coordinator of Medical Students for Life of America
After all the advancements in medical science, which show us that human life definitely begins at fertilization, abortion advocates and some in the pro-life movement struggle with the issue of personhood. They ask the question: “when does personhood begin?” While those who advocate for the legality of abortion often admit that they don’t know or care to know when the personhood of a human begins, some will acknowledge that the human embryo or fetus has personhood rights but then claim the rights of the mother carrying the child trump the rights of the child. While I’m looking forward to addressing this logically fallible argument in a future article, it’s not the subject for the day.
I want to address the small minority of pro-lifers who claim that the human embryo(s) created for in vitro fertilization (IVF) or used in embryonic stem cell research may not be persons because they were not conceived through sexual intercourse. Some of these pro-lifers such as well-known pro-life physician Dr. Paul Byrne have made the case that these human embryos, made outside of sexual intercourse, are soulless and therefore cannot be considered persons. This line of “soulless” thinking beckons the question, What if a child is born as a result of IVF? Does that “soulless” child have a right to life? This dangerous line of reasoning condemns every human created through in vitro fertilization and destroyed through embryonic stem cell research to be beyond the realm of our concern for persons.
Setting aside the deep ethical concerns many of us have about IVF or our disdain for the unproven science of embryonic stem cell research, if we accept the argument that we must defend every human beings life from “conception/fertilization to its natural end” but cannot state that personhood rights also begin with conception, then we will stand with our hands tied beside Dr. Byrne (and Planned Parenthood). Our premise of our entire human rights movement falls quickly apart. This is the very logical fallacy that abortion advocates suffer from; they don’t believe in determining when personhood begins for humans and therefor anyone can say rights begin at any time most convenient to them. This fallacy is what drives some philosophers to even claim that children may be “put to death” or “left to die” after birth until a random point in time when it is determined they have value, are conscience, or can have the mental capacity to want to live.
So why is having the discussion of personhood rights important? It is important because as science continues to advance, the human embryo will increasingly be the object of destruction. If we allow for and tolerate the destruction of any human embryo, we have lost the entire argument of the intrinsic value of every human person starting at the point of fertilization. To this point there can be no compromise.