A Fertilized Egg Is Not a Person

Recently I discussed Mike Huckabee’s opposition to abortion. He really means it. A February 26 article from the Rocky Mountain News states:

A proposed ballot measure that would define personhood as a fertilized egg picked up the endorsement of Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, an ordained Baptist minister.

In a statement Monday, Huckabee said the amendment proposed by 20-year-old Kristi Burton and her group, Colorado for Equal Rights, would send a clear message that every human life has value.

Here is the text of the proposal:

Be it Enacted by the People of the State of Colorado:

SECTION 1. Article II of the constitution of the state of Colorado is amended BY THE ADDITION OF A NEW SECTION to read:

Section 31. Person defined. As used in sections 3, 6, and 25 of Article II of the state constitution, the terms “person” or “persons” shall include any human being from the moment of fertilization.

And here is what those three sections state:

Section 3. Inalienable rights.

All persons have certain natural, essential and inalienable rights, among which may be reckoned the right of enjoying and defending their lives and liberties; of acquiring, possessing and protecting property; and of seeking and obtaining their safety and happiness.

Section 6. Equality of justice.

Courts of justice shall be open to every person, and a speedy remedy afforded for every injury to person, property or character; and right and justice should be administered without sale, denial or delay.

Section 25. Due process of law.

No person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property, without due process of law.

Here I will briefly recapitulate the case against the proposal.

A fertilized egg is not a person. It is (in the right circumstances) a potential person, but a potential is not an actual person. A fertilized egg is human in the sense that it contains human DNA, but that is the case with every cell in our bodies. The distinction between a potential and actual person applies throughout gestation, but it is particularly obvious in the case of a fertilized egg. A fertilized egg soon becomes a clump of undifferentiated cells; certainly it cannot function or live independently.

A fertilized egg is not a person and therefore does not have rights. A woman has an absolute right to abort a fertilized egg and older embryo. (This is true even if the pregnancy resulted from irresponsible behavior.)

What would be some of the implications of treating a fertilized egg as a person?

The measure, if enforced (which is another matter), would outlaw all abortions, even in the case of rape, incest, severe damage to the embryo, and danger to the woman’s life. The measure would probably outlaw the use of all “morning after” medications. That means that women, and/or their doctors, and/or the producers and suppliers of items used for abortion, would be subject to criminal prosecution and punishment.

It so happens that a large percentage of pregnancies are naturally terminated by women’s bodies. It is also the case that sometimes a fertilized egg begins to grow outside of the uterus; this is called an ectopic pregnancy.

Treating a fertilized egg as a person, then, would require a criminal investigation into any terminated pregnancy in which the women was suspected of inducing her body’s rejection of the egg, embryo, or fetus. Serious enforcement of the measure would require the machinations of a police state. Treating a fertilized egg as a person would also require the woman to risk and often surrender her life in the case of dangerous pregnancies, including ectopic ones.

The measure is hideously immoral and ghastly in its implications.

One thought on “A Fertilized Egg Is Not a Person

  1. Elisheva Hannah Levin

    Excellent analysis.

    I have often wondered if we would end up with the miscarriage police. There are other implications of this as well. A pregnant woman may be required to surrender her right to self-determination in matters related to her pregnancy and childbirth as a matter of course. This already happens, especially to poor women, in high profile cases. For example, a few years back a pregnant woman in the upper midwest was jailed for the rest of her pregnancy when it was discovered that she was smoking pot. Official said it was ‘to protect her fetus.’ In other cases, courts have forced laboring women to undergo medical procedures against their own will in order to ‘protect the baby.’

    It is all very frightening indeed.

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