Saturday, March 13, 2010

Considerations on Personhood II

I wrote last week about the defeat of Virginia House of Delegates Bill HR 112, which would have established legal personhood for all human beings from the moment of conception. It puzzled me that the Virginia Conference of Bishops declined to support this legislation, saying in response to my inquiries only that there is a disagreement on strategy within the pro-life movement--some pro-lifers support initiatives such as H.B. 112 and some do not. Since then, I have read through another blog, Fundamental Things, written by Rita, a Virginia lawyer who helped draft H.B. 112.

Rita writes that the prior policy of American Catholic bishops, including Bishop Paul Loeverde of the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, has been to refuse to support personhood initiatives in state legislatures. This policy seems to contradict what the bishops actually say about personhood: “The 1974 Congressional oral and written presentations of four Catholic Cardinals before a U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee made it unmistakably clear that establishing the pre-born child as a person under law was an essential element of a legal response to the Roe and Doe pro-abortion decisions,” Rita writes. You can read quotes from the presentations, encyclicals, and other official Church statements relating to personhood here.

What about arguments against personhood initiatives based on the assertion that they will open the way to actions against negligent mothers in the months before birth, change the tax laws, interfere with the Census, and—some think this is most important—do no good in the campaign to end abortion, or even set back the pro-life cause? You can read about these issues, with Rita’s questions and answers, here.

The picture above is Samuel Armas, and his mother, Julie Armas in 2004. Samuel was first made famous in 1999, when photojournalist Michael Clancy photographed his tiny hand reaching out of his mother's uterus when he was 21 weeks old. Samuel was undergoing prenatal surgery to correct spinda bifida, which could have left him with major disabilities. Samuel wrapped his little fingers around the surgeon's index finger, showing unusual tenacity for such a small person.