Column: Personhood amendment completely nonsensical

By Joel Edwards

The Nevada Sagebrush, U. Nevada via UWIRE

The “Nevada Personhood Amendment” could appear on the Nevada state ballot in November 2014 as an “initiated constitutional amendment.” This amendment would seek to give ‘personhood’ to those still in the womb at the earliest stage of life ­—  conception.

It’s surprising how little has been said about this amendment, as the change it would incur would be life-changing. Although I’m a conservative and generally pro-life, this measure is dumb. It’s vague, poorly thought over and not what women want.

This movement seeks to refute the famous Roe v. Wade case decision (although only a Supreme Court ruling can do so, making this whole proposal even more stupid), which stated that embryos are not constitutionally protected persons and legally do not have rights. The Supreme Court determined “the word ‘person,’ as used in the 14th Amendment, does not include the unborn.”

I think all can agree that the killing of life is wrong. The ongoing controversy is the question of what constitutes human life. At what point does human life begin? At first breath? At first kick in the womb? At conception?

The question of life is confusing. Are we asking at what stage we’re dealing with living matter? If so, we’re dealing with living matter at all stages. All cells are living. The egg and the sperm that formed the embryo are living. At no point was the embryo or its constituents not living.

In that case, are we asking at what stage does the embryo become a human? Again, at all stages. Rather, the question we’re after here is personhood.

Historically, in some cultures, you weren’t a person until you’ve been alive for a year or more. Judaism states personhood is when the child’s head emerges from the birth canal. Stoics believe life ends when we draw our last breath, and begins when we draw our first. The Prophet Muhammad, as interpreted by some Muslim scholars, believed the soul is breathed in the embryo at 120 days. Roman Catholics believe at conception.

If life doesn’t begin until birth, then the issue is closed. Aborting an embryo doesn’t constitute  killing a person. However, with the personhood amendment, it would be, and that is the unnerving part.

What about those forms of contraception that don’t prevent fertilization (or creation of  an embryo), but prevent implantation of the zygote into the uterine wall? This deliberate action preventing embryonic growth would be murder.

What about miscarriages? Some are caused by chromosomal problems within the mother, but others result from either physiological or behavioral traits, such as problems with reproductive organs, maternal age, disease, substance abuse, obesity or physical activities resulting in trauma.

If a woman miscarries, is she guilty of manslaughter? Nearly 50 percent of all fertilized embryos are aborted from the female body naturally. If these embryos were given personhood status, would we then have to do all we can to save them?

There are obvious problems with this amendment, and many pro-life groups are in opposition. They have said the measure is “so vague and general that it may not even apply to abortion at all.”

This amendment is a dead end, and hopefully, it never reaches the state ballot.

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