Human vs. Person: Conflating Terms

19 Jan

Abortion has recently become a hot topic (again) in Canada. Currently, the anti-choice contingent, lead by CPC MP Stephen Woodworth, has been asking why Canada denies that a fetus is human. In fact, they are claiming that abortion has nothing to do with it, they really just want Canada (and pro-choicers I presume) to acknowledge that a fetus is human. Here’s the thing: no pro-choicer I know denies that a fetus is human; we deny that it is a person. And there is a distinct difference.

“Human” can refer to so many things other than a person. Our cells are human. We have human emotions that aren’t experienced, as far as the current evidence shows, by other animals to the same degree as us. We have human culture and technology. “Human” is such a broad term that to suggest that a fetus is not human is really quite ridiculous. That being said, not all fetuses are human, just the ones that share human DNA. But DNA does not a person make.

A person is completely different from a human and although a person is also human, “human” is not necessarily a person. To suggest that they are synonyms is to conflate their meanings. People share a number of characteristics, which while not all are present in each person, most people will indeed share most of the characteristics. People have emotions and thoughts, they experience sensation, often through their 5 senses but not always. People have the capacity to learn, to form opinions, to have likes and dislikes. Even small infants and children have many of these qualities in at least a rudimentary sense. People also have individual bodies that are self-sustaining. When they are not self-sustaining, we have medical intervention that can take over to some extent, but when ultimately our bodies lose too much of their ability to self-sustain, we die.

This is the point at which the antis will point out conjoined twins; they enjoy conflating “fetus” with “conjoined twin.” The difference is that conjoined twins have at least some separation of their bodies. If they did not then they would be a parasitic fetus, or a fetus in fetu. Conjoined twins are two distinct individuals that share some organs. What is most important is that many conjoined twins are separated, or at least a separation is attempted. Unfortunately sometimes one, or both, die. There is (likely) no debate as to whether conjoined twins are individuals, but I don’t see huge protests and sums of money going into preventing their separation surgeries. I don’t see these parents harassed and tormented for the decision they are making, even when it is almost inevitable that one will die. To suggest that a fetus has more rights than a conjoined twin is to lose one’s grip with reality.

There is no equivalency to a fetus. A fetus is a fetus. It is not “like” anything else. To suggest otherwise is to conflate the meaning of both. Suggesting that pro-choicers deny that a fetus is human is disingenuous. I deny that a fetus is a person. I deny that it has a sufficient number of the characteristics that make a person a person to qualify it as such. Unfortunately, the antis in Canada are getting creative because they realize that abortion bans do not sit well with the majority of Canadians. Instead, they are attempting to frame the argument in ways that seem innocent and perhaps have even a “left wing flare,” but in fact are the complete opposite; they are backdoor attempts to start Canada down the slippery slope to abortion regulation. And I will not stand for it.

2 Responses to “Human vs. Person: Conflating Terms”

  1. Serena January 20, 2012 at 10:48 am #

    Thanks for this – I thought your argument was really clear. And the part about conjoined twins really made sense to me.


  1. Silencing Men | Abortion Gang - February 13, 2012

    […] as I have previously blogged, has become a hot topic in Canada recently. The major voices from the government for the […]

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