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Supreme Court Decisions

After The House of Atreus was published, many people had questions about particular aspects of the book or about abortion in general.

I have compiled the more common and/or interesting questions below, along with my responses:

On September 18, 1998, Senator Bob Kerrey wrote an open letter to his constituents, published in the Omaha World-Herald, explaining his decision to vote against legislation restricting so-called "partial birth" abortions. There, Kerrey wrote that "Arguing whether it [the unborn] is the potential for life or a human being is splitting legal hairs." Isn't this really the case?

No, not at all. In fact, Kerrey's comment is an excellent illustration of some of the dangers of our accommodation of abortion. When Kerrey argues that whether the unborn are human beings is "splitting legal hairs," he implies that whether the unborn are human beings is a legal question. But that is simply wrong. Whether the unborn--or any other organism--is a human being is not a legal issue. It is a biological question. An organism is either a human being or it is not. The law cannot change a human being into a non-human simply by refusing to acknowledge his or her humanity. Nor can it transform a beetle into a human being by declaring them "human."

Kerrey is also terribly wrong when he suggests that whether the unborn are human is merely "splitting hairs." Whether the unborn are human beings does matter. Human rights are, by definition, rights that one has simply by virtue of being human beings. If one believes that the right to life is a basic human right--as I presume Senator Kerrey does--then whether the unborn are human beings is absolutely central to determining whether they have a right to life. By arguing that whether the unborn are human does not matter, Kerrey is arguing that the unborn have no right to life whether they are human beings or not.

Senator Kerrey has a reputation for being one of the more thoughtful members of the Senate. But buried within his argument are two poisonous ideas which have proliferated widely with the spread of the abortion movement. One is that the law determines who is human. The other is that some human beings have no human rights.

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