“What if the umbilical cord was reattached and the baby stuffed back into the womb, would it cease to be a person?”
—Attributed as “Anonymous”
There is a backstory here.
In truth, it’s just that in my circles we have a habit of treating internet bulletin boards like a dirty secret, something akin to being a teenage boy and trying to convince your friends that you don’t masturbate. There are, of course, reasons.
Caveat 1: It’s an internet bulletin board.
Caveat 2: It’s an internet bulletin board.
For those not in on that joke, it pertains to a long-running issue about internet culture. To the one, there is a question about how strongly the virtual world corresponds to the real world: Are the people commenting and arguing on the web representative of what’s happening in the real world? And, to the other, given the quasi-anonymity of such websites, there is a question of how strongly the virtual persona corresponds to the living self: To what degree do people say absurd things on the internet because they don’t have to look someone in the eye and keep a straight face while they do?
Thus disclaimed, the backstory is at once simple and strange. The simple part is that after the 2012 election, in which Republicans managed to actually make misogyny a functional plank of the platform, it seemed time to address a question that doesn’t get discussed.
Declaring a fertilized ovum a person, as the anti-abortion political rhetoric would have, invokes some pretty difficult considerations. I’m referring to the American debate, so there is the question of the Constitution. Under Amendments V and XIV, every person is guaranteed due process and equal protection of the laws. This could create a bureaucratic and human nightmare. After all, in some states they’re using the fetal protection laws ostensibly passed to protect women against domestic violence to prosecute pregnant women for falling down the stairs.
That’s the simple part. Everything now proceeds to get downright weird.
The discussion has run since then; fifteen hundred posts, two threads, fourteen months. And here’s the thing: Personhood advocates won’t answer. Indeed, it’s hard to figure why they won’t answer.
The longer issue becomes one of fantasy and fallacy, but the effects of personhood in utero are apparently not worthy of consideration in the minds of the advocates insofar as those fourteen months have been spent reiterating the personhood argument—which was conceded at the outset in order to consider the effects of its implementation—fetal rights, men’s rights, the rights of corpses, why it is incumbent on pro-choice to prove a negative†, and why it is inappropriate to call wilfully deceptive behavior and deliberately false assertions of fact dishonest.
And, oh, yes. There is also the question of what happens if the doctor surgically reattaches the umbilical cord and stuffs the baby back inside a woman.
So, then: Personhood in utero? Fine. What happens next?
It would seem that at some point it would just be easier to answer the damn question.
But, you know, who am I to say so? Just another advocate of mass murder who has the audacity to assert that women are people.
Meanwhile, the vital question remains: “What if the umbilical cord was reattached and the baby stuffed back into the womb, would it cease to be a person?”
Because, you know, it’s just that important.
† It is hard enough to prove a negative; indeed, to demand proof of a negative is generally considered a fallacy. The classic example is the question, “Have you stopped beating your wife, yet?” There is no appropriate answer if one has never beat his wife, or simply isn’t married. Or, as such, it might be easy enough to prove that one did strike his wife, but it is impossible to conclusively and definitively prove he did not. Add to this consideration the facts that the negative proof must be applied without any affirmative assertions to address, and the audience is already determined that nothing will persuade them.