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When Is a Human Being Not a Person?

In June of 2022, the infamous Roe v. Wade decision, which had legalized abortion in all fifty states, and stood for 49 years, was finally overturned. Judgment on this matter was returned to the individual states. This is wonderful news in that unborn people now have legal protection in some states. The sad news is that in other states, such as Minnesota, there has been absolutely no change in abortion law, and the unborn remain unprotected.

It’s unclear why the Court didn’t rule abortion illegal in all fifty states. A clause in the Fifth Amendment reads: “No person shall… be deprived of life… without due process of the law.” And a clause in the Fourteenth Amendment reads: “…nor shall any State deprive any person of life… without due process of law.” Justice Blackmun, who ruled in favor of Roe in 1973, wrote: “The appellee and certain amici argue that the fetus is a ‘person’ within the language and meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment. In support of this, they outline at length and in detail the well known facts of fetal development. If this suggestion of personhood is established, the appellant's case, of course, collapses, for the fetus' right to life would then be guaranteed specifically by the Amendment.”

It seems that the Court either thought the issue of whether an unborn human being is a person was outside the scope of the case, or simply chose not to rule on this matter.

This raises the question: Is there such a thing as a human being that isn’t a person? If a human being exists from the moment of fertilization, how can he not be a person? There are several fallacious arguments that posit that personhood begins at some later time. They are covered in a 1997 article by Peter Kreeft titled “Human Personhood Begins at Conception.” (

While the Catholic Catechism doesn’t say specifically “A human being is a human person from the moment of fertilization,” this is implied in paragraph 2270: Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person - among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life.

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you. (Ps 139:15)

The unborn are completely unable to protect themselves. Therefore, it’s imperative that we act on their behalf. We must be their arms, their voices, their prayers. We must speak up, write letters, volunteer for organizations that help women choose life, offer up our sufferings. This doesn’t mean that we hate or demonize women (some of whom may be good friends) who have had an abortion. We don’t know what we would have done in their circumstances. But our love for another person doesn’t require us to call an act that is objectively wrong, right.

By fighting for the right to life, we are fighting for our country. This is made clear in the Catechism, paragraph 2273: The inalienable right to life of every innocent human individual is a constitutive element of a civil society and its legislation:

"The inalienable rights of the person must be recognized and respected by civil society and the political authority. These human rights depend neither on single individuals nor on parents; nor do they represent a concession made by society and the state; they belong to human nature and are inherent in the person by virtue of the creative act from which the person took his origin. Among such fundamental rights one should mention in this regard every human being's right to life and physical integrity from the moment of conception until death."

"The moment a positive law deprives a category of human beings of the protection which civil legislation ought to accord them, the state is denying the equality of all before the law. When the state does not place its power at the service of the rights of each citizen, and in particular of the more vulnerable, the very foundations of a state based on law are undermined...”

Your station is fighting for the unborn, for women and for our country by airing programs that tell the truth about abortion. Please continue to support the station by telling others about it, through your prayers, by offering to volunteer (with mailings, filming, editing), by requesting permission to place program guides in your parish’s information rack, and a financial contribution if possible.

A blessed New Year to all!

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