Personhood Throughout History
- Lesson 1: Why Truth Matters in the Abortion Debate
- Lesson 2: Assumptions Abortion Advocates Make
- Lesson 3: Circumstances of a Crisis Pregnancy
- Lesson 4: The Science of When Life Begins
- Lesson 5: How We Value Humans
- Lesson 6: Do the Pre-born Unjustly Use Another's Body?
- Lesson 7: Legal Issues
- Lesson 8: History of Abortion Law in Canada
- Lesson 9: Is Abortion Genocide?
- Lesson 10: After Abortion
- Lesson 11: How to Effectively Dialogue About Abortion
- Lesson 12: Challenges Facing the Pro-Life Movement
- Lesson 13: Historical Social Reform
- Lesson 14: Pictures in Pro-Life Activism
- Lesson 15: Defending the Use of Graphic Images
While today the term personhood is often used to describe someone as "self-aware" or "rational," historically other criteria were used. Personhood has been defined using sex, skin colour, ethnicity and other arbitrary distinctions.
What we see is that when personood is defined by factors like these, as something other than existence as a human, inevitably someone gets hurt. Consider these examples:
|"In the eyes of the law... the slave is not a person." –Virginia Supreme Court decision, 1858|
|"An Indian is not a person within the meaning of the Constitution." –George Canfield, American Law Review, 1881|
|"The statutory word ‘person’ did not in these circumstances include women." –British Voting Rights case, 1909|
|"The Reichsgericht itself refused to recognize Jews... as ‘persons’ in the legal sense." –German Supreme Court decision, 1936|
|"The law of Canada does not recognize the unborn child as a legal person possessing rights." –Canadian Supreme Court, Winnipeg Child and Family Services Case, 19971|
And so, in some sense, the term "personhood" tells us less about what someone is, and more about what kind of society we are: Are we inclusive or exclusive? Selfless or selfish? Tolerant or intolerant?
- 1. "Person Poster," a resource of the National Campus Life Network, available from www.ncln.ca/resources.php?id=12, viewed on May 4, 2010.
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