Tag Archives: pro-life

Let’s Talk About the Real Issue: Defining Personhood

Bernie Sanders went to Liberty University. Hoo-ray for discourse. Students there asked him, after he had said he and they would disagree on abortion, why he is concerned about the lives of the poor but not the lives of the unborn.  (NPR has the story here).

His (wholly unshocking) Democratic answer was that he doesn’t believe the government should interfere in a women’s private medical decisions.

But, that doesn’t answer the students’ question. It feels like an avoidance if you are pro-life. The question neither side will agree to talk about directly is when does life start? As a die-hard supporter of legal abortion, if you tell me a mother killed her 8 month old in-the-womb child, I’d be horrified and I would call it ending a life. If a mother aborts a 12 week old fetus, it is clearly a medical procedure.

What does this sound like to a pro-lifer? I can imagine it sounds like “A pregnant woman can decide to kill a baby when she wants to.” So Sanders answer is bewildering if not horrific.

For pro-lifers, I assume, life starts at conception. For pro-choicers, it is somewhere else. But there is a line over which once you cross, a fetus is a life.

As I understand it, Roe v. Wade was ALWAYS a compromise about this question. And, as a society, we have to find a workable compromise.

Sanders and other pro-choicers might undercut some of the fervor of “they are killing unborn babies” if they would just shoot straight. I propose something like this: “It’s not a baby yet. We need a set of rules for society and law about when it is a baby. If your religion has a different set of rules, fine. Freedom of religion. But where we disagree is not about protecting the unborn baby, which we ALL support, but about WHO gets to decide what is an unborn baby. You want it to be decided by religion. But that is not workable in our democracy. If you are going to live in this democracy, you have to come to terms with a legal basis for this decision and not try to use religion to force your definition on all of us.”

Would this convince pro-lifers? Probably not. But at the very least, it is more honest and doesn’t leave pro-choicers in the weird position of seeming like we are saying that baby-killing is a medical decision.

At best, reasonable pro-lifers could maybe be brought into a conversation about when we are going to say personhood begins. And if they want to talk about this, maybe we can also talk about where it should not go (corporations as political citizens).

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