Personhood: The Pro-Life Movement's Ultimate Goal
The bedrock principle of the pro-life movement - that all preborn babies are "persons" and all innocent people share the inalienable right to life - is the benchmark against which pro-lifers must evaluate any strategy to protect preborn children.
What is Personhood?
What is personhood and why is it so foundational to the pro-life movement? Put simply, a "person" is a human being who is fully protected under the law; and we use the legal term "personhood" to describe this condition. Once a human being is declared a person, that individual is guaranteed certain legal rights.
To better understand personhood, we begin by asking the fundamental question of when human life begins. Embryological science has made crystal clear that human life begins at fertilization: the union of an egg and sperm resulting in a unique, genetically distinct human being. The answer to the question of when human life begins is a biological one.
The follow-up question is: "Is this tiny embryonic human being a ‘person' who is guaranteed the right to life?" In other words, should human beings be protected in law as persons; as citizens upon whom full constitutional protections (due process, equal protection, etc.) should confer? The answer to the question of personhood is a political/legal one. Once a human being is declared to be a legal person, there simply can be no exceptions to his or her inalienable right to life; just as there are no exceptions to our right to life.
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Policy Paper 2011-2012 Legislative Session
Protecting preborn children as "persons"
in the Wisconsin Constitution
Since Pro-Life Wisconsin was founded in 1992, we have steadily worked toward our ambitious goal of total legal protection for every preborn child in our state. With other states like California, Colorado, Montana, Mississippi and South Carolina initiating personhood bills that would provide sweeping protections for preborn children from the moment of fertilization, the time has come for the pro-life movement in Wisconsin to do the same. To that end, PLW has gathered over 10,000 signatures in a statewide petition drive building public support for a state constitutional amendment establishing legal personhood for our preborn brothers and sisters.
Why a personhood constitutional amendment is needed
It is the foremost duty of the state to protect its citizenry, especially those most vulnerable. But what exactly is personhood and why is it so foundational to the pro-life movement? Put simply, a "person" is a human being who is fully protected under the law (equal protection, due process, etc.) and we use the term "personhood" to describe this condition. Once a human being is declared to be a person, there simply can be no exception (legally/necessarily) to his or her inalienable right to life; just as there are no exceptions to our right to life. Granting legal personhood to the unborn child would oblige the state to ban all abortions without exception. We know that Wisconsinites, born and preborn, deserve total and permanent legal protection of their right to life - an inalienable right grounded in natural law. Why, specifically, is a constitutional amendment necessary?
- The current Wisconsin Constitution applies rights to only those people who are "born." An activist Wisconsin Supreme Court could someday use this provision to deny the right to life of the preborn by interpreting an independent right to abortion in our state constitution. In so doing, the court could nullify any present or future pro-life laws in our state.
- The changing makeup of the Wisconsin Legislature could also jeopardize any pro-life laws in our state. Every two years our state election process determines the majority party in Madison. Legal protection of the preborn should not (and must not) be contingent upon which party controls the state legislature.
The right to life should not be subject to the whims of a politicized supreme court or an ever-changing legislature. Only by enshrining the right to life in our state constitution will preborn children be afforded full and lasting legal protection.