As we fight to promote personhood in the 21st century, the question arises: “What is personhood?” Personhood is merely the legal and moral recognition of a person’s entitlement to equal rights and protections. The issue of personhood poses a big question, though: what, exactly, a person?
Many incorrectly attempt to define a person based on what they can do, not on what – or who – they are. For instance, Charles Taylor of Cambridge University explains the concept of a person as, “a being with a certain moral status, or a bearer of rights. But underlying the moral status, as its condition, are certain capacities.”
This definition is dangerous. If we define a person by what they can do, we run the risk of giving the same moral status to human beings as we do to high-functioning creatures like dolphins, chimpanzees, and even corporations. Even worse, we risk removing some humans from being persons, such as the disabled, comatose patients, or preborn children.
However, in order to form concrete perspectives on the issue of human dignity, we must base our intellectual framework on absolute truth. Georgia Right to Life recognizes that God’s Word is the unwavering guide for morality. As such, we look to the Bible to help answer the critical questions that arise when discussing personhood.
Using the Bible as the foundation, we develop the “The Personhood Principle.” This principle teaches that humanity is inherently valuable and that value was endowed at the moment of creation by what is called the “Imago Dei,” which is Latin for, “the image of God.”
“Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness . . . And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” (Genesis 1:26-27)
There is one paramount distinguishing feature between humanity and all other creation: when God created us, He created us in HIS image and likeness. Not that we are God, by any stretch of the imagination, but that He left His stamp or His fingerprint on us. Think of it like an artist who signs their name into their painting: that’s how God made us in context of the creation story.
From this point onward through Scripture, it is clear that the inherent of humanity and the status of personhood that God granted remains intact. This is how personhood is understood: our Creator made us in His image and likeness, He created laws to protect us, and He even sent His only son, Jesus the Christ, to die in our place in order to make reconciliation with human beings, the creation made in His image.
This principle is seen from the first book of Scripture on through the last, and even affirmed in early “Sunday School” teachings like the Didache [95 AD] (a compilation of teachings of Jesus’ apostles).
Human personhood was even boldly proclaimed by our Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
These rights have been tested and tried throughout our nation’s history – slavery, women’s rights, Native American rights, etc. – and have always held true and have even been further solidified by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Personhood is also the solution to our growing, tragic abortion epidemic. Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun, who was in the majority of Justices who ruled in favor of abortion during the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, said in his section of the ruling that, “(if the) suggestion of personhood [of the preborn] is established, the [abortion rights] case, of course, collapses, for the fetus’ right to life is then guaranteed specifically by the [14th] Amendment.”
The very same ruling that gave us abortion on demand through all 9 months of pregnancy in America also gave us the solution to protecting all human life in the womb and undoing the terrible damage done by the ruling.
Considering all of this evidence, persons are defined as follows:
“A person is a human being who, from their earliest biological beginnings and extending until their natural death, should be recognized by law with all rights and privileges and respected by culture as having equal rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
That is why Georgia Right to Life takes the position of personhood as a foundation for all our activities protecting innocent life: because it is found in Scripture, it is philosophically sound, it is vetted through our nation’s history, and it should be upheld by the United States Supreme Court.