In 2008, when presidential candidate Obama was asked to give his opinion on this question he famously deferred with the line: “That’s above my pay grade.” Boston College professor Peter Kreeft suggests that the answer to this question is rather straightforward and commonsensical. He points out that ‘if personhood is only a developing, gradual thing, then none of us is ever fully a person, because we continue to grow, at least intellectually and emotionally and spiritually.’ He concludes that a human is a person in virtue of being not in virtue of functioning. The only real point of distinction then is the moment of conception when a human with all of his or her potential comes to be. He admits that while this fact is forthright it is not often easy to see. Our emotions often cloud our judgment and move us act in ways that are more convenient than true.
Our impassioned governor and, I fear, our state legislators are poised to pass a law which is in equal parts convenient and cowardly. It is convenient for them to accept the emotive rants and rationalizations of the powerful pro-abortion lobby. It is cowardly for them to lower the medical standards for abortion procedures while denying a young woman the accurate information she should have before making a choice that will affect her and others for life. And it remains unconscionable that they fail to uphold the fundamental right to life for any unborn person.
In several other states, we observe legislative moves to limit abortions that are more in line with commonsense. 38 states require that parents be informed of a minor’s decision to have an abortion, 26 states require that a woman seeking abortion wait at least 24 hours after counseling before receiving the procedure, and 17 states now require that abortion counseling include information about fetal pain or negative psychological effects. Concerning the new law in North Dakota to ban abortions after detecting a heartbeat, Governor Jack Dalrymple himself wonders whether this law would survive a court challenge. He contends that it “is nevertheless a legitimate attempt by a state legislature to discover the boundaries of Roe v. Wade.” Credit must be given to these efforts to provide women with information as well as expand the right to life for the unborn.
In his 1954 children’s book Horton Hears A Who, Theodor Geisel, under the name of Dr. Seuss, tells the story of an elephant who discovers a microscopic community called “Whoville” living in a speck of dust. While no one can see these microscopic “whos”, Horton with his big ears can hear them and seeks to protect them even as he is being ridiculed by his neighbors and tormented by his enemies. While suffering this ongoing abuse he heroically responds: "even though you can’t see or hear them at all, a person’s a person, no matter how small."
While legislators in New York and other coastal states continue to remain tone deaf to the truth about personhood, it seems that in the American heartland, they are beginning to hear a “who” as life begins. At Cross Road, we hope that our new mothers will hear it too.