Is it wise to grant personhood to a fetus?

How cruel can life be? I don’t think most of us are willing to really fathom the depth of pain, suffering and death that goes on in the world on any given day. Luckily, as human beings we are mostly isolated from the horrors and cruelty of nature. Well, most of the time, anyways.

A few months ago, a friend of mine (who will obviously remain nameless) who was pregnant with a baby girl was told the fetus suffered from a rare disorder called anencephaly, and an abortion would be needed (if you are faint of heart, I don’t suggest reading up on it). Anencephaly is a developmental disorder that occurs during day 23 to 26 of pregnancy; the time when the neural tube (a kind of precursor to the brain) fails to properly “close”. The result is a baby without a brain.

Any infant born with this condition will live only a few hours, and it’s normally recommended the pregnancy be terminated at this point, both to avoid any undo risks for the mother, and avoid the actual horrors of bringing such a child to term (they are often terribly disfigured, sometimes missing the entire top of the head).

Of course if it was up to a pro-lifer, my friend would not have been allowed to terminate the pregnancy. It was not an easy decision for her, but in the end she had to concede the pregnancy had been a failure. It was difficult for her to accept, but life moves on.

So here is a video about clever legislation that is being tabled in a number of conservative states in the US. These bills are intended to completely remove the rights women have over their bodies in favor of a very childish notion of the ‘sanctity’ of life. These government officials obviously have no real understanding of medicine, but what they do know is how to get votes, and there are enough pro-lifers to ensure their re-election if they claim to have saved hundreds of babies from termination.

Look guys, life is cruel and weird, and we cannot start giving full blown rights to organisms that have only yet begun to develop. There are many instances when abortions are unwanted but still necessary. That’s the thing most pro-lifers will never admit to, even when they themselves are faced with an unpleasant reality (after all, religious conservatives are more likely to get abortions than secular women). We can’t create laws that take reality for granted. Although I can appreciate their zeal in trying to preserve life, abortions are still needed even if they aren’t very well liked.

Comments (4)

  • avatar

    John the Baptist

    So because there are times when life leaves us with hard choices, we should damn an entire class of human beings to be sub-persons?

    Unfortunately your friend was urged by society to compound the distress of having a handicapped child with killing the child. She was deprived the ability of getting to know her child even for one day.
    The fact that a child is missing part of its brain does not make it a monster or subhuman any more than a child who has an extra chromosome.

    The incidence of anencephaly is 1:200,000 and you would have us damn 33% of all babies in the womb so that that child can be killed before it is born?

    Also, the video you posted is quite frankly ridiculous. Again you would damn 1/3 of the human race to death because there are a few cases where concern for the child has resulted in harm to the mother? Wouldn’t it be easier to find a way to improve doctor’s diagnosis and recommendations while respecting both patients?

    You should read some Nat Hentoff so that you are convinced that not all those who wish to respect the innocent preborn children are religious.

  • avatar


    I apologize in advance if my post is about to start a flame war, but I tried and tried to find a way not to but I can not let the previous comment go unchallenged.

    How much more blatantly male, sexist and apathetic can one person be. I can only assume that the first commenter has never been in any kind of situation where he have had to make such a hard choice. Here’s the funny thing neither have I. The difference being that being the owner of a uterus means that this is exactly the kind of thing you have to think about the second you become sexually active. Maybe that is why I have an easier time empathizing with any woman who has ever had to make the decision to not go through with a pregnancy for any reason.

    The example given in the original post is exactly the epitome of the worst thing that could ever happen to a woman who wants to give birth to a child. It is NEVER EVER EVER, a thing that any woman wants to do. I can not even begin to imagine the excruciating emotional turmoil that any woman that has been in this situation would go through.

    The comment was written as if this law is to keep people from getting to make the choice to carry a baby in that situation to term if she so wished. I really don’t think that is the case. I know that I have no desire to stop a woman in that situation from carrying the baby to term, if she thinks that is what she wants to do and feels that it would help in the process of letting go or whatever case she may make for doing so. But instead the previous commenter speaks as though he would take away her right to choose not to go through the mental anguish that it may cause her.

    The video In NO way damns 1/3 of the population from being born. In fact I’m quite curious as to how closely you listened to what the women in said video. All they want is to be protected from being strapped down to beds and being visited at there door from DA’s and cops dragging them to hospitals to have a surgery that they feel is unnecessary, you know informed consent and all that jazz. I’ll put it to you this way, if you don’t think that people should be given the right to do with their reproductive organs how would you feel if someone made a law that men, if deemed necessary had to be strapped to a bed and given a vasectomy, and if they refused the police could show up put you in a car and have someone strap the man down and have someone forcibly perform surgery on that mans reproductive organs.

    Ok, I’ll stop now or I’ll be at it all day. Thanks for posting the video man.

  • avatar


    I was listening to episode 52 today. I was curious as to why both of you asserted you are pro-choice but definitely want to see the number of abortions go down. If you do not truly see a fetus as a life, an an abortion not as an act of cruelty, why would you use such a blanket statement as wanting to see the amount of abortions decrease overall? Is this assuming that many women are forced into having abortions? I would almost say I want to see MORE abortions, as that would indicate to me a greater number of women with the freedom to attain them. What is the downside, unless a fetus is indeed a life?

  • avatar


    The fact that a child is missing part of its brain does not make it a monster or subhuman any more than a child who has an extra chromosome.

    Read more carefully. The child had NO brain. It could not think, move, or feel emotion. It might be horribly disfigured. I suppose giveing birth to a partially headless, brainless baby would be much less emotionally damaging then aborting it. [/sarcasm]

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