In my previous post, I defined personhood as the legal recognition of all human being as worthy of full protection under the law. This was the chief issue in the tragic Roe v. Wade decision. The Supreme Court decided not to recognize the unborn as persons, and the slaughter of abortion was legalized.
But is this the first time the denial of personhood has resulted in tragic consequences? Hardly.
Throughout the history of our country, lawyers and judges with an agenda have tried to bring into question exactly who qualifies as a legally protected person. After all, if you can deny a group of human beings personhood, you can treat them however you want. You can oppress them, kill them, or keep them as slaves.
One prominent example of this is the Dredd Scott case. In this decision, the Supreme Court said that African slaves and all blacks simply were not people. It was perfectly fine, therefore, to keep them as property, on par with a cow or horse. Here’s a quote from the Supreme Court’s decision:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among them is life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights, Governments are instituted, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. ”
The general words above quoted would seem to embrace the whole human family, and if they were used in a similar instrument at this day would be so understood. But it is too clear for dispute, that the enslaved African race were not intended to be included, and formed no part of the people who framed and adopted this declaration…
The majority decision goes on to cite numerous cases of slaves being treated as less than persons, all to bolster the idea that blacks weren’t fully human and didn’t have the rights spelled out in the Constitution.
Obviously, great evil resulted from this decision. Not only did slavery continue to be legal, citizen turned against citizen in the bloody Civil War that cost thousands of American lives.
Personhood matters. Any time a tyrant or nation wants to kill or enslave others, the first step is always to deny that they are persons and classify them as somehow sub-human. It has happened over and over through history. And it is happening right now in our country with the unborn.
The tragedy of abortion will only end when unborn children are acknowledged to possess the full dignity and rights of every other human being. Until this happens, abortion—and other violations of basic human rights—will continue to be legal.
But believe it or not, some pro-lifers aren’t for legal personhood for the unborn. In our next post, we’ll answer some common objections that are raised about personhood.
For a powerful summary of the importance of personhood, check out our video below.