Via LoOG regular Mr. Gregniak: Virginia’s House of Delegates has just passed a fetal personhood law.
Virginia’s Foolish Personhood Law
DOUG MATACONIS · SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 19, 2012 ·
Virginia’s legislature was very busy last week. Not only did they pass a bill that will require every woman seeking an abortion to undergo an unnecessary and invasive medical procedure, but the House of Delegates also passed a bill that purports to define life as beginning at the moment of conception…
Foolish? Let’s see.
First, it’s interesting to see the left sweating slippery slopes for a change. I rather like the law as an obstacle to “progress” in that monkey-wrench sort of way, granting the unborn a status above zero.
Now, I’m not big on the “personhood” tactic, which failed even in über-right Mississippi—it’s possible to oppose abortion without granting a zygote full citizenship. A zygote isn’t a baby, at least not yet, so it’s wack to pretend it is.
On the other hand, this Virginia law explicitly leaves Roe v. Wade unchallenged:
subject only to the Constitution of the United States and decisional interpretations thereof by the United States Supreme Court
Roe is in the clear, for now, even if the law goes through. This is not a direct, frontal assault by a state against the federal government. This tactic does not work.
What the law’s effect might actually be is hard for even its critics to say.
[Delegate Bob] Marshall said his bill, modeled after legislation in Missouri, would not affect birth control, miscarriages or abortions but would affect the way that courts define a person. For example, parents could receive damages for the death of a fetus in a wrongful death lawsuit.
Which is sort of like the Laci and Connor Peterson trial, where the Laci’s murderer husband Scott was also found guilty of second degree murder for killing Connor, the fetus, their child.
A fetus with a name, Connor, and accordingly, with a certain “personhood” status.
This law is all about philosophical positioning, it seems to me, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I expect the courts won’t allow the fetus all the way to “personhood,” but these things make it harder for the courts to allow the fetus zero status, like a fingernail.
There are very few pro-choicers who would accept the challenge of arguing this exposed position—the less defensible rhetorical and moral ground, the lower ground—and that the baby in Laci’s womb that Scott Peterson killed was a nothing, no more than a fingernail.
That simply will not ring true, no matter how great your rhetorical skill: Scott Peterson killed something of moral status and significance, a someone of some sort.
We’re all aware of the usual arguments about abortion and a “woman’s body” etc. and that line of argument and its accompanying rhetoric have been well-honed and road-tested, and bear up well if we stick to the script.
But I think there are few who would welcome having to argue that what—who?—Scott Peterson killed in his wife Laci’s womb was a nothing, of no moral significance. Few of us believe that, and this is the purpose of this new Virginia law, if I read their intent correctly, to oblige pro-choicers to argue exactly that, and to be put on the moral and philosophical back foot for a change.
Be it enacted by the General Assembly of Virginia:
1. § 1. The life of each human being begins at conception.
Well, actually, that’s indisputably true. This does not say that every zygote is a full-fledged American citizen.
§ 2. Unborn children have protectable interests in life, health, and well-being.
That’s rather tame on its face. But rather radical in the present controversy. It’s said that he who defines the debate tends to win it. As a formal debate topic, the Virginia legislature has framed it thus:
Proposed: Unborn children have protectable interests in life, health, and well-being.
This explicitly argues the pro-life position, not the anti-abortion one, and from firmer if not higher ground. These country bumpkins in the Commonwealth of Virginia are perhaps not as “foolish” as they look.