Reconsidering Who is Human

Posted: September 19, 2012 in Uncategorized


In the coming week, parliament is set to consider Motion M-312 as introduced by MP Stephen Woodworth which proposes that “a special committee of the House be appointed and directed to review the declaration in Subsection 223(1) of the Criminal Code of Canada which states that a child becomes a human being only at the moment of complete birth.” The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada has done an excellent job pulling together information on their website. As they explain…

The current definition has led to illogical consequences in both fact and in law. Using the language of subsection 223(1), if the “child” has nearly “completely proceeded from the body of its mother”, but its foot is still in the birth canal, Canada does not recognize the “child” as human. Is it subhuman? Near human? A child of another species? What is clear is that the child has no access to human rights or other legal protections as provided for in Canada’s commitments to the 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the 1959 United NationsDeclaration on the Rights of the Child and the 1948 United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Medicine recognizes a point of viability for a child in the womb. Science is prepared to experiment using pre-natal human tissue from conception onward. Professionals in the fields of ethics, science, and medicine are having the discussion about what is human in the face of modern experience, research and thought. It is time that Parliamentarians do the same and cease simply relying on the legal “born alive” definition that finds its roots in the 17th century’s Coke’s Institutes of Law.  It is time to determine for ourselves, as Canadians, what definition reflects our beliefs about who, what and when is human.

“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” – Psalm 139:13-14 (ESV)

Philosophically, there is no morally significant difference between the embryo you once were and the adult you are today.  Differences of size, level of development, environment, and degree of dependency are not relevant in the way that abortion advocates need them to be.  The simple acronym SLED can be used to illustrate these non-essential differences:

Size: True, embryos are smaller than newborns and adults, but why is that relevant?  Do we really want to say that large people are more valuable than small ones?  Men are generally larger than women, but that doesn’t mean they deserve more rights.  Size doesn’t equal value.

Level of development: True, embryos and fetuses are less developed than you and I.  But again, why is this relevant?  Four year-old girls are less developed than 14 year-old ones. Should older children have more rights than their younger siblings?  Some people say that the immediate capacity for self-awareness and a desire to go on living makes one valuable. But if that is true, newborns do not qualify as valuable human beings.  Infants do not acquire distinct self-awareness and memory until several months after birth.

Environment: Where you are has no bearing on who you are.  Does your value change when you cross the street or roll over in bed?  If not, how can a journey of eight inches down the birth-canal suddenly change the essential nature of the unborn from non-human to human?  If the unborn are not already valuable human beings, merely changing their location can’t make them so.

Degree of Dependency: If viability bestows human value, then all those who depend on insulin or kidney medication are not valuable and we may kill them.  Conjoined twins who share blood type and bodily systems also have no right to life.



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