Personhood—Being Pro-life in the 21st Century

Personhood is the pro-life battle-ground of the 21st century. Throughout the history of the Church the doctrinal teaching of the “Sanctity of Life” (Genesis 1:26-27) has been the belief that Man is created Imago Dei (Latin: in the image of God) and therefore has worth at all stages of life. This is the bedrock of Western civilization’s  understanding and practice of human dignity.

We are told in the gospels that John the Baptist was known by God, called by God, named by God  and then filled by God with the holy Spirit while still in his mother’s womb. This is an example of the biblical worldview of Personhood.

Let’s contrast our biblical worldview with an emerging secular worldview. Peter Singer is the  DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University.

This excerpt was taken directly from his website’s FAQ’s:

"Q. You have been quoted as saying: "Killing a defective infant is not morally equivalent to killing a person. Sometimes it is not wrong at all." Is that quote accurate?

A. It is accurate, but can be misleading if read without an understanding of what I mean by the term ‘person’ . . .

He argues his case in his book, Unsanctifying Human Life. He believes that the “right to life” should be granted to all “persons” equally. Unfortunately, his definition of “person” is very narrow and excludes all pre-born children, disabled children, born infants (through 18 months) and the elderly infirm. He goes on to declare that his own mother probably wouldn’t be alive if he were the sole caregiver in his family.

One would think that Singer’s position would be considered on the loopy fringe of public policy discussions. Surprisingly, his prestigious position at Princeton and his vast international influence has earned him the acclaim of being one of the leading bioethicists of our day.  Don’t be surprised if twenty years from now we find his positions on “personhood” to be encased in our law, our hospitals, our research laboratories and universities. The Right to Life movement is “fifteen years behind the curve”, according to pro-life bioethicist Wesley Smith, “in addressing and responding to this threat.” Our narrow focus on being anti-abortion in the 20th century has not expanded, at a grassroots level, to embrace a host of issues which are emerging in the 21st century. Though national pro-life groups continue to warn of these emerging threats to human dignity the local grassroots supporter is not engaged. We need to adjust our strategy and message to one of Personhood, in order to successfully transition our base.

Destruction of human children at the embryonic level has now expanded beyond research laboratories to be enshrined as a “pro-creative right” of infertile couples seeking to become parents.  It is not uncommon to create between fifteen and twenty children at one time and then through the processes of selective reduction and pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) . . .  kill all but one of those children. When did it become acceptable for a couple’s “right to parent” to supersede another’s right to life? 

Drug companies and biotech businesses need human subjects to perfect their products. A steady supply of human embryos are needed in order to conduct these lethal experiments. Because fertility clinics can not possibly supply the large number of embryos needed, the biotech industry has resorted to a transgenic solution . . . combining 98% human DNA with 2% cow DNA to form a human-animal hybrid childknown as a “chimera.” Cornell University, May 2008, created a “glow in the dark” human child by crossing human genes with a fluorescent gene from an Australian jellyfish. A spokesman for the National Institutes of Health said, “the Cornell work would not be classified as gene therapy in need of federal review, because a test-tube embryo (child) is not considered a person under the regulations." 

Our effort to promote a culture of life in our day, require that we develop a clear and consistent message to alert our culture to the dangers that lie ahead if the definition of “person” is eroded and changed from its historical meaning. This is the clear battle-ground of the pro-life movement in the 21st century. Our website is our attempt to engage the 21st century with a clear “Sanctity of Human Life” foundation and we would encourage you to familiarize yourself with its resources and message.