Nevada Constitutional Amendment to clarify what a “person” is


Personhood Nevada comments on the historic civil rights initiative to amend the Constitution of the State of Nevada, the proposed Amendment reading simply as follows:
In the great state of Nevada, the term ‘person’ applies to every human being.

Olaf Vancura, PhD, President of Personhood Nevada, stated “The right to live is a God-given, fundamental civil right. It is not a right to be bestowed upon Americans by our government. We must not and cannot allow the denial of personhood to anyone, no matter their age or physical condition. Absent government leadership in protecting our most vulnerable persons, we the people are acting to ensure equality for all.”

On the legal challenge, Vancura commented, “The abortion lobby’s attacks on this initiative are absurd. They attempt to confuse a very simple issue. The proposed Amendment is easy to understand – such that even a child could explain it to an attorney. Moreover, Nevadans have their 1st Amendment Constitutional right to vote upon this Amendment.” [source]

Any child would support this amendment because it is only stating an obvious point: That a “human being” is a person. It’s sad that we need to even state something so obvious. But unfortunately, the twisting of the laws in this country to allow legalized abortion revolves around the purposeful obfuscation of the definition of a person. Science is clear that every abortion ends the life of a human being. There is no question about it. So they hide behind semantic ignorance for a cheap and convenient justification to support the killing of tiny human beings. An amendment like this clears up the legal wiggle room making it clear that, yes, a human being is a person.

If anything, the burden of proof would lie with those wishing to make the case that a human being in the womb is not a person.  We’re talking about human life here.  If you can’t make the case as to why human beings in the womb are not persons then you have at least the moral obligation to assume they are persons.  And to date, there is no good case for why every human being is not also a person.

All that said, this toil over whether or not a person is a human being or a human being is a person is simply a civil legality.  It’s an important legality because millions of human lives hang in the balance.  But on a personal level (pardon the pun) “personhood” is a distraction from the real issue.  We have an obligation to respect the dignity of all human life.  Period.  A new, individual human life begins at fertilization (conception).  Period.  Purposefully endangering or directly killing that human life is immoral.  Period.  Arguments about “personhood” or viability or twinning or happiness or the environment or overpopulation or size or ability or laws or privacy or whatever all serve to unnecessarily complicate a very straight-forward moral issue.  Please don’t hide behind that.

This simple, 14 word statement in Nevada is an amendment that, if taken by itself, would surely pass without hesitation. But since so many abortion supporters understand the consequences of legally recognizing this simple fact (that a human being is a person), it likely won’t pass. But we’ll keep trying. And one day people’s consciences will catch up to them.

4 comments Add comment

Scott December 9, 2009 at 4:21 am

Sadly, I don’t think an amendment with that wording would help. All they need to do to get around it is redefine what a “human being” is. And since they’ve already managed to redefine “person,” I think it’s clear they’d redefine “human being” too, along with “human life” or any other phrase you could come up with. The just need the right judge to interpret “human being” in the way they want.

Matthew Warner December 9, 2009 at 9:56 am

Scott, I’m not so sure. I agree you could still have judges trying to twist things how they want. However, it would be much more difficult for them. I don’t know all of the details in Nevada, but i’ll bet it is similar to other states and federally. For example, right now the law grants rights to persons. And so using legal precedent they can say well we won’t have a case where an unborn baby was treated as a “person”…so they can wiggle around it. But if that is now extended to all human beings. Then legal precedence is different now for the use of what is human or not. So it takes a giant step closer.

But you’re right, they might be able to still try to redefine what a “human being” is…but not if there are precedents already in place for it. They would be bound to those precedents. Sadly, I dont’ think the amendment would pass. But it is so simple…one has to ask WHY!? And that’s a good question to shed some light on. So the effort is good.

Drew December 9, 2009 at 2:32 pm

The way I see it, the issue is not so much about whether the human embryo is a person or about the simple fact that a life is ended (the second point is obvious and the first should be; they are both matters of fact). The real issue concerns whether one approaches the issue from a deontological or a utilitarian perspective. Sometimes, ending a human life is morally justified (war, capital punishment, self-defense, martyrdom, etc.). So, under what circumstances is it morally justifiable to end the life of a ‘separate’ human being who is still in the womb? (I am alluding here to Aquinas’s definition of person: “‘person’ implies a complete substance subsisting of itself and separate from all else.” – ST IIIa Q. 16, art. 12, ad 2) If we represent the criteria by “X,” then at one end of the spectrum, you have those for whom X = 0 (i.e., it is never morally acceptable), and at the other, those for whom X = 1 (i.e., it is always morally acceptable). If we draw an analogy between killings that occur before birth and those which occur afterwards, and if we already know that some killings which occur after birth are morally justifiable, would it not stand to reason that the same would be true of some that occur before birth as well? Don’t get me wrong…I’m very much a pro-lifer. But I don’t think that a genuine Catholic eudaemonism will get one much further than “safe, legal, & rare,” with the emphasis on the third item over the other two. I therefore tend to be more in favor of incremental legislation rather than that which aims at an outright ban, but that’s just my view.

Matthew Warner December 9, 2009 at 3:04 pm

Very good thoughts, as usual, Drew. Thank you!

However, the fact that ending a post-born human’s life is justifiable in some cases under our law doesn’t keep us from also making laws that make it illegal to intentionally and directly kill other innocent post-born human beings. We do just that.

But I agree that the process will likely be incremental…just as any social justice issue ever has been. But it is through exercises like this (this Nevada Amendment) that make public and draw attention to a very simple truth that make people think and give concession on other smaller issues that often bring about that incremental change.

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