PAGET: Who gets to decide who’s a person?

Sep 16, 2012


Given the rage and range of the abortion-on-demand agenda, I suppose if human life were discovered on Mars, then the answer would be “yes.”

Abortion isn’t a threat to all life in general. It is a threat to human life specifically. After all, numerous types of life are destroyed daily. Gardens are weeded. Fish are caught and eaten. That spider in your bathroom is crushed and flushed. These instances of death are routine and generally don’t bring even a tinge of remorse (except, perhaps, for Hindus, some Buddhists and all members of PETA).

I concur with Idema that abortion has been politicized to the shameful advantage of both the Democratic and Republican parties. In fact, the abortion debate has become the defining mark of identification for both groups. If you’re a Democrat, it’s likely you’re pro-abortion. Conversely, if you’re a Republican, it’s assumed you’re pro-life. I understand that there are exceptions, but it’s generally an accurate description.

It also appears Idema and I agree that abortion is the killing of human life. He, though, supports a woman’s right to kill her unborn child. I do not. But that’s a discussion for another day or column.

What moved me to respond to Idema’s recent column was his musings concerning personhood as it relates to abortion. While killing an unborn child is horrific enough, determining who lives or who dies based on personhood threatens those inside as well as outside the womb.

How is personhood defined? Is it based on age, ability or intellect? Peter Singer, a professor at Princeton University, teaches that children up to age 2 can be killed if unwanted, since at that age they are not really persons as he defines personhood. He believes personhood requires a sense of self.

I have a 3-year-old grandson, Will; and a 4-month-old grandson, Maks. Will is talkative, curious and is developing quite a personality. His little brother lays on the floor and drools. Which one of my grandsons is more of a person? Is one grandson less valuable than the other? Who decides that?

A friend of mine has a Down syndrome 20-year-old son. It’s unlikely that this young man will be able to fully live on his own. Is he less of a person than his older brother or sister? I have another friend who has an adult son who is profoundly autistic and requires constant care and supervision. Are these young men less persons and thus less valuable or less worthy to live?

If we begin to determine the value of human life based on ability or potential then where would that end? History is replete with the accounts of the powerful determining who is valuable and who is not and records the shameful results of such a philosophy.

Families were torn apart and children separated from their parents because one race de-personized another and sold men and women of African descent into slavery. The Supreme Court of the United States wrongly decided in favor of slave owners rights in the 1857 Dred Scott decision. The Supreme Court ruled that slaves were more property than persons.

Hitler’s dream of a pure and super Aryan race was fueled by his belief that other races, particularly the Jews, were inferior and were not fit to be the type of persons or people to populate and advance Germany as a world power. His solution was to kill more than six million Jews and other “inferiors,” including the handicapped and mentally ill.

People are valuable because they are made in the image and likeness of God (Gen. 1:26-27). It’s an intrinsic worth not measured by mental or physical abilities. Using Idema’s logic, Mary could have aborted Jesus without conscience, since at just a few months in the womb he wasn’t really a person.

Defining personhood as the determining factor regarding who lives and who dies is sinister and satanic. It’s that kind of thinking that will certainly spell doom for the unborn, the handicapped, the chronically ill and the elderly, especially those suffering from dementia and Alzheimer disease.

So, I ask the question: Who decides who’s whom?

— By the Rev. Ray Paget, pastor of Grand Haven Community Baptist Church


Jerri Blank

Pro-choice does not mean pro-abortion!!! I am pro-choice but that doesn't mean I want babies to be aborted... It means a woman should be protected from the government overreaching into her body and her personal decision especially in the cases of rape, incest or the woman's health. We should focus more on those outside if the womb who are born into unfortunate circumstances and need our help and support--food, education, medical care. It is completely ridiculous to claim to be pro-life and not support social programs to help children and families since those children are no longer inside a womb.


Well said.


Rev Paget - clearly you missed the following statement in Rev Idema's article...."abortion is wrong with three exceptions: rape, incest and when the life of the woman is in danger". He is not suppporting a women killing her unborn child for no reason. Would you want your female relative to have to go through the process of having a child that is the result of any of the above? I am a mother myself and as much as it pains me to say if my life were in danger because of a pregnancy that was not going well I believe I should have the choice to end the pregnancy and not run the risk of leaving the family I have behind.


Where else but in the "hallowed" halls of the church drawing room or the university professors lounge would people ever muse such a subject as "personhood". Thank goodness I don't have to listen to these deep thinkers on Sunday or in class. And by the way, those that worry about the government overreaching into their bodies would do well to study obamacare. Thoughtful people could differentiate that pro-life legislation written properly would never prevent a woman from aborting her baby for the right reasons, but it would define societies value on human life and through tradition would help temper decisions made regarding human life. Liberal laws seem to have a tendency to morph themselves into what society considers the right path to take in everyday thinking, which ultimately in this case leads to publicly funded abortions for none of the right reasons.


"Thoughtful people could differentiate that pro-life legislation written properly would never prevent a woman from aborting her baby for the right reasons".....the 2012 Republican Committee platform states that they would ban abortion for ANY reason, including saving the life of the mother, and would work to make it illegal. A desperate mother facing death for her and/or her baby if she carries her baby to full term would also be facing murder charges if she chose to abort the fetus. Obamacare - recognizing that a healthy population is a productive one and ultimately will drive down ever-increasing health care costs - makes available, through insurance coverage, birth control options. Abortion is never publicly funded. Nothing is forced on anybody. If you do not want or believe in abortion or birth control for religious or other reasons, the government is not forcing you to have one or to take birth control. But it does offer CHOICES, which, in this country, we are free to make. Actually, Obamacare is as democratic as it comes, because it takes down doors, walls, and barriers to health options - it sets us FREE TO CHOOSE, rather than putting up barriers, walls, and doors to keep us from having options and choices. Of course, this puts the power into the people, not just the extreme wealthy or their governing puppets.


Absolute rubbish lanivan, there is nothing productive about our population under the Obama administration or obamacare. Just more people with their hand out. Choices are a privelege that you earn not expect. There are very few choices in countries like Obama envisions for America. Likely you are the type of person that expects your country to take care of you. Why don't you try taking care of your country.


I don't see where your comments have anything to do with Rev Paget's letter to the editor or to my earlier post, but in response, I welcome the opportunity to say that I have been extremely fortunate that neither I nor my family has been in a position to be "taken care of" by the government - at least not in the sense I think you mean. But in my years of volunteer work, church work, and employment in this community and others, I have met many people who, most often through no fault of their own, found themselves in terrible situations where they have relied on government programs to survive. Many times these government programs have helped them get back on their feet, get a job, pay taxes, help others, become less impoverished. I love this country because it offers the choice of help to it's citizens when the need is great. You don't seem to have much faith in people or government that is run by the people. I guess that's a big difference between us - or what you refer to as "absolute rubbish".


Lanivan, a safety net was never meant to be a way of living. If your insinuating that that I don't condone that vital piece of society, your wrong. But I think you will find that never before in our history have so many people relied on these programs for such long periods of time. The Obama administration buys votes in a most unabashed way with speeches undertoned with class warfare and redistribution through taxation and handouts. If you want to understand the integrity of your leader take a look at what passes for normal politicking over in Chicago where he got his political education. You'll be in for a real eye opener when you find that's the way obama is trying to run Washington. Rubbish by the way refers to your comments factual content, not a person. If your having trouble relating this whole conversation to Idema's opinion, then you haven't figured out that everything he says is a veiled attack on conservatives, which incidentally has nothing to do with wealth.


I don't think either side of politics is for killing babies. Some just choose to define "human" at a certain age, instead of thinking a beating heart is a living human. In my opinion, any time you stop a beating heart you have killed a living being- if the beating heart is inside a human, you have officially murdered a human...even if the human's heart just started beating in the womb. I don't think you'd find a politician out there that would say they support killing innocent babies, they support the mother's right to choose, or support the government making that choice for the mother. Either way, I think all would agree- Abortion is a horrible thing and it's not an easy choice for any person to make. If it is an easy choice, the woman is not human and does not have a beating heart herself. They are heartless and the child is probably lucky to not be born to that kind of person. Bringing a child into a bad situation, or making the choice to abort- neither is easy. Both have ramifications and consequences. I am a conservative person, a Christian, and a Republican, but sometimes I feel like mothers who choose to keep a child and then deprive him of everything necessary to have a healthy life, abuse him, neglect him, are worse than the ones who choose to abort- either way you are killing a child; the former just takes longer. What about adoption? I think this option is only chosen by the women who are actually selfless enough to know they can't give the baby the life it deserves, and although it will hurt horribly to give the baby up, they put their own needs and sadness aside for the child's sake- they deserve the most praise. The women who choose abortion out of convenience are the worst kind. If you choose to have a physical relationship with a man, you also need to accept the does the man you are with. Sex brings babies, when you get pregnant you gain weight, when you're pregnant and not married it's hard, you may have to give up some dreams of your own because of your choices, your parents may be upset with you, your friends may leave you behind as you take on the responsibility they don't have to deal with brings consequences and if you're not mature enough or ready to accept any consequence it brings- don't have it, period!


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