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Friday, August 10, 2012

Implications

It's no secret that our current laws are inconsistent when it comes to the legal status of fetuses.  For example, Kansas law declares the terms "person" and "human being"--as used in laws that define murder, manslaughter, and so forth--to include an unborn child.  California penal code draws a distinction between "human being" and "fetus", but defines murder to include the unlawful killing of either a human being or a fetus with malice aforethought.  New York, on the other hand, has no separate laws for the death of a fetus.  In other words, in some states killing a pregnant woman can mean two separate charges--one for the woman and one for the fetus--whereas in other states it is legally equivalent to killing anyone else.

If society consistently acknowledged that human beings begin as zygotes, how would this alter our laws?  We tend to focus on how such an understanding would change abortion-related law, but what about other laws?  Our detractors will sometimes insist that if the fetus is a "person," women can be charged with child abuse for smoking while pregnant, or manslaughter for a miscarriage.  I've also heard less extreme suggestions, such as being able to claim fetuses as dependents on tax returns, or leave property to fetuses in living wills.

Some of these ideas are, I think, pretty simplistic, in that they seem to imply that acknowledging the fetus is a human being prevents us from acknowledging any other circumstances unique to pregnancy.  I see no reason why we can't acknowledge both.

However other ideas don't seem so far-fetched.  Why, after all, shouldn't you be able to claim a fetus as a dependent?  Even before birth you have increased expenses as a result of caring for the fetus.  Why shouldn't you be able to collect different or increased state benefits when you are pregnant?  Seems to me increased support for pregnant women would be helpful to maternal and fetal life anyway.

What do you think the non-abortion-related implications would be if we legally recognized fetuses as persons?

16 comments:

Kelsey said...

The idea that fetal personhood would make miscarriage illegal is a load of bull. Of course, that doesn't stop pro-choicers from making the argument. Natural deaths are not crimes; neither are accidental deaths. That's true regardless of the age of the deceased. I have yet to see a shred of evidence that women were punished for miscarriages before Roe v. Wade.

Re: tax status, I'm with you.

As far as wills are concerned, I don't think anything would currently stop you from leaving property to an unborn heir. You don't have to be a legal person to receive property in a will. People often bequeath things to their pets, for instance.

Diane said...

Really interesting post!

Anonymous said...

Folks you need to incorporate the talking points like so, didn't you get the email?

http://www.personhoodalabama.com/talking-points

The Liberal progressives will win the argument if we all don't talk off the same talking point list.

Anonymous said...

Hi! Just wanted to let you know that the amazing piece of art shown on this post is from Deviantart. It's called "Self-Portrait as a Garden" by KRIS-13 :)

http://kris-13.deviantart.com/art/Self-Portrait-as-a-Garden-192306150

Often artists are really upset if you post their work without credit because it degrades their brand and opens up other people to claiming their work. So please give credit if you are able to! ^_^ Thanks!

Emily Milne said...

I don't see where they're going against these 'talking points'. Also, why do they have to stick to them?

They'll win if we don't all parrot exactly the same thing? That sounds a little ridiculous. By all means, use similar talking points, but it is GOOD to expound upon and grow further talking points. The pro-life movement has so many points that to constrict it to a list is a bit...constricting.

I think you're all singing from the same hymnbook, some people are just singing the harmonies instead. :)

Kara said...

Disclaimer, I am inclined to agree with you. However, I think the fear is more that in the case of a miscarriage, a woman could be still suspect for causing that spontaneous abortion (as it is called) to occur. A woman who has already had to deal with a tragedy could end up in a witch hunt. Unlike a post-born accidental or natural death, in a miscarriage there is pretty much only one person who will be bearing that scrutiny, the mother.
Accordingly, could a drug addict be charged with the death of their fetus because they made some bad life choices that hurt their health and destroyed that of their unborn child? How should the legal language address that?
Again, I think these are exceptions to the rule, and likely be much less of an issue than people claim in a society that valued life, but it is something we need to consider.

Anonymous said...

We all need to act together if we're going to make Obama a one term president. If we work together, Romney will be president and women will think twice before sleeping around.

DarkCougar555 said...

^ I have to agree with this comment, above.

And, you will need a permission from the artist, too.

Wat said...

Emily, Anonymous is just a troll. Don't feed him/her.

M said...

You know, you are absolutely right. I had the piece saved on my computer just as something I liked, but that was long enough ago that I forgot where I'd gotten it. I think I will remove it, since I have no idea if the artist would want it used in a political blog. Thanks for pointing that out.

Jameson Graber said...

I think we need to get on this idea of allowing parents to claim unborn children as dependents. It would be hard to oppose such a measure from a progressive point of view, provided it didn't explicitly mention abortion. I'm really curious to see what the long term effects of such a policy would be. Would people gradually grow more conscious of the humanity of their unborn children? Or would it simply subsidize abortions by allowing people to claim their unborn as dependents and then kill them?

Anonymous said...

No problem! Its actually a piece that I have saved on my computer as well, it's the only reason I recognized it!! And it is absolutely beautiful, isn't it? :)

Anonymous said...

yeah those progressives are looking for ways of being welfare leeches. They'd totally go for claiming fetuses as dependents. This is a message that will resonate well with the majority of people. Treating a zygote as a legally identical entity to a living, breathing person makes perfect sense because THEY BOTH HAVE HUMAN DNA! ITS ALL IN THE GENES, MAN! And also those sluts will think twice before sleeping around because they know they wont be able to escape the consequences.

Simon said...

My new stance is that Pro-Life would need to understand that there is no provision under the law that allows bodily compensation to the victim for harm caused by the offender.

To do so would mean that this would then become a general stance and society would have to accept that in any situation that the offender causes harm, -esp existential harm that requires use of the offender body or in some cases blood or organs without killing the offender- the law would override bodily autonomy rights.

Until that is done the best we could hope for in a consistent application of already existing moral precepts and laws and ask for moral responsibility for the harms to be treated in a similar way to child destruction laws.

M said...

Would you be up for writing a guest blog post about your perspective, Simon?

Simon said...

Ok I'll try to flesh that out more tonight.