It is one of the enduring questions of religion and science, and lately of American politics: When does a fertilized egg become a person?
Abortion foes, tired of a profusion of laws that limit but do not abolish abortion, are trying to answer the question in a way that they hope could put an end to legalized abortion.
Across the country, they have revived efforts to amend state constitutions to declare that personhood — and all rights accorded human beings — begins at conception.
From Florida to California, abortion foes are gathering signatures, pressing state legislators and raising money to put personhood measures on ballots next year. In Louisiana, a class at a Catholic high school is lobbying state legislators as part of a civics exercise.
About the title of the post, well…:
Regarding abortion, there is no debate in Jewish law whatsoever on one point: if carrying a pregnancy to term would harm the physical welfare–not the life, the welfare–of the mother, or her ability to bear future children, the fetus is termed a “pursuer” (rodef). In other words, if a pregnancy were carried to term and would cause long-term damage to the woman, the fetus is the moral equivalent of a criminal chasing after her with the intent to do harm. It is not a blessed little ‘snowflake.’ Under these circumstances, the moral option is to terminate the pregnancy.
I suppose the Judeo-Christian tradition is only Judeo when theologically convenient–fetal “personhood” would make a Jewish life incompatible with the law of the land. But there is a larger question here: what happens if the ‘fetal person’s ‘right to life’ conflicts with the mother? Who dies? Well, if the South Dakota effort is any indication, the anti-abortionist activists will remain very quiet about this, but if you push, it gets really interesting. A fair number of them will choose (for other people, of course) the fetus. For this Judeo, that is monstrous. As I’ve discussed elsewhere, the range of circumstances in which a woman should or may have an abortion are not agreed upon, but there is no debate in Jewish religious law about who takes precedence in health situations–the mother. None. Simply put, the infant is not ‘ensouled’ until it draws breath.
Of course, this assumes that the anti-abortionists care about Jews as anything other than as a fig leaf for their theopolitical agenda. They don’t.