When Do You Become A Person Under the Law?

Sunday, June 24, 2007
Ohio police officer, Bobby Cutts Jr, has been charged with the murder of the mother of his 2-year old son and unborn child, Jessie Davis. Along with the usual plethora of Paris Hilton jail-watch updates, it's pretty much all CNN has been talking about his weekend. If you're not familiar with the case, Jessie Davis went missing around the middle of June. She was 9 months pregnant, due to give birth during the first few days of July. Cutts, who initially denied knowing anything about what happened to Davis, is now charged not only with her murder but that of their unborn child as well. While I totally agree that he should be charged with two counts of murder, it got me thinking...when does a fetus become a person?

This is a highly charged issue with Pro-Choice and Pro-Lifers squaring off against one another, placards waving, screaming arguments... You get the idea. You've all seen them on the news and heard the stories. It was being argued long before the famous Roe vs. Wade decision in the early 1970s. I'll never forget while growing up in small town Northern Alberta, there was a HUGE billboard near one of the churches in town with the picture of a sleeping baby on it. I don't remember the exact words but it was essentially supporting the pro-life debate.

I grew up in a fairly religious household. We went to church every Sunday and both my brother and I were altar-servers (the PC term for male and female altar-boys). I even considered being a nun at one point. Yep, that's right...the Captain had actually thought about becoming a bride of Christ. As you can tell, it certainly didn't happen. However, despite my strong beliefs at the time (not sure if I'd currently classify myself as an agnostic or atheist at this point in my life), I had never considered things like premarital sex or abortion to be taboo. Did this make me a bad catholic? According to some, quite probably.

Personally I don't know if I could ever have an abortion in a non-rape situation. It's just the way I am. However, I completely support a woman's right to chose and would never try to tell someone what they could or could not do with their own body. Even when there is a man involved (ie an ongoing relationship), while I think he should be able to voice his opinion and have it taken into consideration, ultimately it is still the woman's decision. Please note this does NOT mean that abortion should be used as a form of birth control. However, when do we allow the government to step in and take away that right?

Thinking about the Davis/Cutts case, I figured it was pretty obvious that he should be charged with two counts. If she was 8 months pregnant? Yep. Seven? Sure. Six months? Perhaps. Five? Not sure. When is that unborn lifeform/fetus/thing, considered a person? I've pretty much come to the conclusion that the first three months, in my opinion, it is so unformed that it doesn't count. Abortion should be allowed if a woman chooses (again, for the right reasons but that's something only the individual woman can decided and she'll have to live with her decisions). The last three months? Definately not. It's those three middle months (roughly) that are so uncertain. There is no magic line to cross or time line to say today you're nothing but a mass of cells and tissue, tomorrow you're a person. Granted, governments have tried to establish just such a timeline when creating abortion laws and I will admit that, despite my belief in freedom of choice and control of your own body, limits need to be in place. The question of that magic time line though will be one that'll be debated for years to come I'm sure.


Gardenia said...

Hot topic! Is a seed a flower, a tomato, a tree? Yes. Will it live if not snuffed out? Is it a tree, not a tree? A flower?

Once when faced with a decision, I happened upon a series in an art museum of sculptures depicting the growth of a "seed" to a child. I stood in awe, weeping. My own "seedling" is now a beautiful young woman with trees of her own.

If abortion had been easily legally obtainable, this beauty, my always-baby and her babies would not be. The law bought me time, time to stumble upon that art, that revelation for me. I had no Christian teachings.

I can't say for other folks, but this is just my mind. If there is not life at conception, then why do people keep embryos in certain environments for the future? Why can't we just toss them on the cupboard somewhere. They have to be sustained. How big is the responsibility toward the "seed" that grows to a human versus the "seed" that makes a tree, a flower, a tomato before it is life? There is always life in the seed, but if it doesn't get nourishment, or is destroyed - it dies. Human or plant.

Is a brick a building? If properly taken care of and the ingredients are right, yes! Alive? No.

So the basic question is "what is life." What basic criteria defines life in general?

And how big the responsibility to the seeds when grown to tender shoots? I think of abused children or our abused planet and living things that grow on it. Sometimes anti-abortionists let the responsibility stop at birth. Responsibility for life extends on and on.

Such deep, emotional, and often heartbreaking considerations and thoughts, and yes, debated for maybe as long as life exists.

Sheamus the... said...

this is a very interesting subject and one very close to my heart. It is also one of the hardest.

Wandering Coyote said...

I think, personally, once the fetus is able to thrive outside the body safely - say 3rd trimester or very late second (MAYBE) - then it's a viable baby and a life that should be protected. Before that, not so much.

Lee said...

Huh! I didn't realize there was this pro-life/pro-choice debate going on about this story. How very interesting.

My gut reaction is that it's a double murder, but I'm adamantly pro-choice, so now I'm confused. Certainly, because she was sooo pregnant, but I wonder what I would think if he had murdered knowing she was 3 months pregnant. I'm gonna go into a corner and think about it.

Thought-provoking post! Thanks!

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