By Bill Muehlenberg
Slavery was allowed for so long because slaves were not regarded as persons. Thus a major part of the anti-slavery campaign was to refute this lie, and educate the public as to the full equality of black people. So too today the battle over abortion must also be fought along similar lines. We need to affirm the personhood of the unborn.
A new book by Catholic philosopher Robert Spitzer seeks to do that by utilising only secular reasoning. His Ten Universal Principles (Ignatius, 2011) seeks to make the case for personhood by appealing to philosophical argument, not biblical texts. In a secular culture such an approach is very important indeed.
His third principle is the Principle of Objective Existence. He states that publically verifiable evidence is needed concerning the status of the fetus. He refers to the important work of Dr. Jerome Lejeune who demonstrated that “a single-celled human zygote (even if it is not implanted) has a full human genome.”
He continues, “the presence of a full human genome in a zygote (the initial cell produced when a new organism is formed by sexual reproduction) will ordinarily result in a fully actualized unique human being in the absence of natural or artificial impediments. For this reason, Dr. Lejeune considered a human zygote (implanted or not implanted) to be a human being…. Given this, we can say that if persons are defined as actualisable human beings, then a single-celled zygote would have to be considered a person.”