Feb. 24, 2009
Earlier this week North Dakota passed a bill to recognize the "personhood" of the unborn embryo or fetus. Several other states are considering similar measures.
Such laws, among other things, seek to correct a philosophical mistake. That is, they seek to correct the dis-unity between "person" and "human being" that philosophers such as Peter Singer make. There is no difference. All human beings are persons. Creating a distinction between some human beings, who are persons, and some who are not is a dangerous game.
It is the powerful, after all, who will decide which human beings are persons, and you can bet your last dollar they won't leave themselves out. But, as history proves, they will leave others out - the weak, the voiceless, the outsiders. The whole history of our United States may be understood as a struggle to recognize, and to guarantee in law, that all human beings are equal. State "personhood" laws are well within this tradition.