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Personhood Alabama Responds to a National Infertility Association

Personhood and RESOLVE


by Bill Fortenberry, Personhood Alabama

Picture In 2008, the National Infertility Association (which identifies itself by the name RESOLVE) published a “Policy on ‘Personhood’ Legislation” which includes a series of questions about the effect that personhood legislation would have on in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments.  RESOLVE’s policy statement leaves every single one of their questions unanswered and then concludes that:

“The effect of Personhood Legislation would be to threaten a medical treatment that has, since being pioneered in 1978, brought some four million babies to loving infertile couples around the world.”[1]

Unfortunately, this conclusion was presented without a single attempt to consider the answers to the questions that RESOLVE asked about the effect of personhood legislation.  I fear that this oversight has left RESOLVE’s beneficiaries in a state of confusion by leaving open the possibility that the answers to their questions might not support their conclusion.  I would like to alleviate this confusion by taking the time to answer each of RESOLVE’s questions and allowing the men and women seeking infertility treatment in Alabama to determine for themselves whether RESOLVE’s conclusion is justified.

Here are the questions posed by RESOLVE along with their answers:

1.    QUESTION:  If one or more microscopic embryos from an IVF cycle do not develop normally in the lab or fail to result in live births after transfer (all natural events), could the physician, lab, and/or patient be criminally liable?

ANSWER:  In Alabama, this question is specifically addressed in our state’s homicide statute which declares that:

“Mistake, or unintentional error on the part of a licensed physician or other licensed health care provider or his or her employee or agent or any person acting on behalf of the patient shall not subject the licensed physician or other licensed health care provider or person acting on behalf of the patient to any criminal liability under this section.”[2]

This means that when the state recognizes the full legal personhood of embryonic children, the death of one of those children can only result in a criminal prosecution if that death is intentional.  The goal of every IVF clinic should be to provide the best possible care for the embryonic children that it is entrusted with.  As long as a clinic strives to fulfill that goal, Alabama law guarantees that it will not have to worry about being prosecuted for any deaths caused by mistake or unintentional error.

2.    QUESTION:  Would non-IVF treatments such as simple inseminations be threatened because they carry a risk of miscarriage? Would clinics with high miscarriage rates after inseminations be at risk for criminal liability? Could the miscarrying women be subject to criminal charges?

ANSWER:  This question carries the same answer as the first.  Unintentional miscarriage is not a crime in Alabama, and will remain so when our state recognizes the full legal personhood of prenatal children.  An intentional miscarriage (such as an abortion) or a miscarriage which results from an action which is otherwise criminal (such as a physical assault upon the mother) are both considered murder under current Alabama law, and would continue to be recognized as murder when the full legal personhood of prenatal children is acknowledged.

3.    QUESTION:  Would women with fibroids or other uterine abnormalities be forbidden to try to have babies because the problems with their uteruses reduce the chances that an embryo will successfully implant after IVF or an insemination?

ANSWER:  This is just a restatement of the first question, and it receives the same answer.  IVF procedures performed by a licensed physician or licensed health care provider are protected by Alabama law as long as they do not engage in the intentional destruction of human life.  Miscarriage is never the intent of an IVF treatment and thus would not be considered criminal.

4.    QUESTION:  Would women who have ectopic (tubal) pregnancies after IVF be able to receive life-saving treatment, or would the embryo’s legal rights have to balanced against hers?

ANSWER:  The phrasing of this question implies that the only life-saving treatment available for ectopic pregnancy involves a violation of the prenatal child’s legal rights.  This is simply false.  There have been hundreds of cases of successful births from ectopic pregnancies.  There have also been two cases in which the child was successfully transplanted from the fallopian tubes and into the mother’s womb.  The first of these transplants was performed by Dr. C. J. Wallace who afterwards wrote:

“we should make a supreme attempt to save the life of the growing child by opening the tube carefully and transplanting it into the uterus where nature intended it should go.  It can be very quickly done.  It does not endanger the life of the mother and may be her only chance to bear a child.”[3]

5.    QUESTION:  What will be the ramifications for fertilized eggs that have been created in the course of fertility treatment but have not been transferred to a woman’s uterus? Who will have legal responsibility for them?

ANSWER:  When the full legal personhood of prenatal children is recognized, the responsibility for their care will be the same as the responsibility for the care of any other child.  The needs of these children will be different, but the legal responsibility to provide for those needs will be the same.  However, Personhood Alabama recommends that couples only create as many embryonic children as they are willing to have transferred into the mother’s womb in a single IVF cycle.[4]  The American Society of Reproductive Medicine has pointed out that this can be accomplished through freezing the woman’s unfertilized eggs instead of freezing living, embryonic children.[5]

6.    QUESTION:  Will these laws take from people the rights of disposition over their embryos? Could someone claim the embryos require a disposition other than what the parents want? Could couples and their embryos be adversaries in a legal proceeding? Is this a desirable outcome?

ANSWER:  The legal recognition of the personhood of prenatal children does not deny any parent of their parental rights.  If anything, it will actually strengthen and support those rights, for it will recognize that parents have the same God-given and inalienable rights in regards to their prenatal children as they have in regards to older children.  

7.    QUESTION:  Will cryopreserved embryos have a right to be transferred to someone’s uterus for birth?

ANSWER:  It is an unfortunate reality that some children are bereaved of their parents at a very early age.  Often times, these children are adopted into loving families, but there are many children who deserve to be raised by loving parents but who remain orphans for their entire childhood.  This is a great tragedy, but in spite of this tragedy, no orphan can claim the right to be forcefully transferred into someone’s family.  This is true of orphans of all ages.  Teenage orphans, preteen orphans, juniors, toddlers, infants and even prenatal orphans can only be adopted when the adoptive parents have agreed to do so.

8.    QUESTION:  Not all frozen embryos thaw successfully. Could embryo freezing be prohibited as too risky?

ANSWER:  With the advancements made in freezing eggs, the practice of freezing embryos is seldom necessary.  However, there are situations in which embryo freezing could be the key to saving prenatal lives.  For example, if a mother is critically injured in a traffic accident after one of her frozen eggs has been thawed and fertilized, it may be necessary to freeze the resulting embryonic child until his mother has recovered from her injuries.  Embryo freezing has so much potential as a means of saving prenatal lives that it should not be prohibited.

9.    QUESTION:  If embryo freezing is prohibited, what will happen to women who experience hyper-stimulation during an IVF cycle and for whom the medical recommendation is to freeze and not transfer the embryos right away? Will they have to transfer the embryos and risk harm to their health?

ANSWER:  Hyper-stimulation does not cause a woman to produce an abundance of embryos; it causes her to produce an abundance of eggs.  With the advancements made in freezing eggs, those eggs which are produced by hyper-stimulation can be frozen before they are fertilized.  There is no need for the previous practice of immediately fertilizing as many eggs as possible.

10.    QUESTION:  Will patients be prevented from donating their frozen embryos to research after they complete infertility treatments?

ANSWER:  The potency of this question is based on the previous practice of creating as many embryonic children as possible at the beginning of the IVF process.  With the advancements made in egg freezing, this practice is no longer necessary.  Couples seeking IVF treatment can now have the woman’s eggs frozen prior to fertilization and only fertilize a single egg at a time.  This method would eliminate the moral question about the disposition of any unwanted embryonic children.  

11.    QUESTION:  Will patients’ medical records be subpoenaed to ensure that no one violated the embryos’ constitutionally guaranteed right to life?

ANSWER:  Medical records are protected by the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which states that:

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

12.    QUESTION:  May women who live in states where personhood laws pass travel to other states for IVF, or would their embryos still be restricted by the law of their home state, such that they could not obtain treatment elsewhere? Would they be forbidden to move any currently frozen embryos to another state to continue their treatment?

ANSWER:  Just as American laws against certain activities do not prohibit individuals from traveling to other countries where those activities are permitted and engaging in those activities in those countries, so also an activity prohibited in one state does not prevent an individual from traveling to another state to engage in that activity.  A good example of this can be seen in the gambling laws that vary from state to state.  Alabama law prohibits our state from having a lottery, but Alabama’s citizens are free to travel to Georgia and buy lottery tickets there.  Similarly, those who live in dry counties within our state are able to travel to other counties and buy alcohol.  Every law is limited to the jurisdiction of the government by which that law is passed.

13.    QUESTION:  If infertility patients in personhood states cannot afford to live in another state during treatment, will they simply have to forego the dream of having a family?

ANSWER:  Absolutely not!  As Personhood Alabama’s recent position statement on IVF points out:

“Recognition of the legal personhood of prenatal children is not a hindrance to IVF.  This recognition may require certain changes to be implemented to safeguard the lives of the children formed through the IVF process, but this is no different from the safeguards that are required for any industry which has the potential to endanger human lives.”[6]

Now that I’ve answered all of RESOLVE’s questions, I’d like to ask just three questions of my own.

1.    If an infertile couple does not want to use an infertility treatment that involves intentionally killing embryonic children, will they simply have to forego the dream of having a family?

2.    What are RESOLVE’s recommendations for infertile couples who would like to conceive through IVF but who do not wish for any of their embryonic children to be intentionally killed in the process?  

3.    Would these same recommendations allow couples to conceive children through IVF after our state recognizes the full legal personhood of prenatal children?

As you can see, these three questions place RESOLVE in a difficult situation.  In order to answer these questions, RESOLVE must either admit that IVF can be conducted in a manner consistent with the legal personhood of the prenatal child, or they must tell a large number of the infertile couples in Alabama that their only hope of fertility must come at a cost to their morality.  Regardless of how RESOLVE chooses to answer, the truth of the matter is that IVF treatments can be conducted in a manner consistent with prenatal personhood, and couples seeking fertility treatments will still be able to hope for a family of their own even after prenatal personhood is recognized in Alabama.

by Bill Fortenberry

Personhood Alabama

Reposted by permission

[1] “RESOLVE’s Policy on ‘Personhood’ Legislation,” last modified April, 2012, accessed January 28, 2016, http://www.resolve.org/about/personhood-legislation.html

[2] Ala. Code § 13A-6-1(b)

[3] C. J. Wallace, “Transplantation of Ectopic Pregnancy from Fallopian Tube to Cavity of Uterus,” Surgery, Gynecology, and Obstetrics 24 (1917): 578-579 (http://americanrtl.org/files/docs/Journal-Surg-Gyn-Obst-1917p578-579ectopic-transplant.pdf)

[4] “Personhood Alabama Position Statement on In Vitro Fertilization,” last modified January 27, 2016, accessed January 28, 2016, http://personhoodalabama.com/2016/01/28/ivf/

[5] “Mature oocyte cryopreservation: a guideline” Fertility and Sterility. (2013) 99 (1): 37–43.  doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.fertnstert.2012.09.028 First published online: October 22, 2012

[6] “Personhood Alabama Position Statement on In Vitro Fertilization,” last modified January 27, 2016, accessed January 28, 2016, http://personhoodalabama.com/2016/01/28/ivf/

Cardinal Dolan publicly calls the Premise Behind the Pain Capable Bill “Preposterous”

by Gualberto Jones
National Policy Director
Personhood Alliance


The day before the National March for Life, His Eminence, Timothy Cardinal Dolan, in an interview with pro-life speaker, Rebecca Kiessling, called the premise behind the Pain Capable Abortion “Ban” bill "preposterous!" and "ridiculous". 

"Does that make it OK" Cardinal Dolan rhetorically asked during the interview, "to stab someone in the back while sleeping because they can feel NO pain? . . . Ridiculous!" 

His comments echo the concerns of a vocal group of state and local pro-life organizations who have united to form the Personhood Alliance.  

Members of the Personhood Alliance and other organizations such as the American Life League, as well as individual pro-life personalities like Abby Johnson, have criticized the deeply flawed Pain Capable Abortion “Ban” legislation.

In a recent interview for Cosmopolitan magazine, Abby Johnson stated the reasons for her personal opposition to the rape and incest exception.   “I believe in incremental legislation,” stated Ms. Johnson, “as long as it doesn't then step on some babies because of how they were conceived. To me, that's almost like a eugenics mindset, like, 'Well, we don't like the way you were conceived, so you are not as valuable.' If someone said, 'We are going to ban abortion on all babies as long as they aren't African-Americans,' that wouldn't be OK. To me, it's the same thing."

Instead of supporting the Pain Capable Abortion “Ban” the Personhood Alliance is urging its members to get behind the Sanctity of Human Life Act.  Introduced in the House on January 21st, the same day as Cardinal Dolan’s remarks.  

The bill was introduced by Georgia representative Jody Hice, who had signed Georgia Right to Life’s 100% pro-life pledge and was endorsed by the group.  

In response to calls from members of the Personhood Alliance, Representative Hice’s Washington DC staff assured the activists that he would not support the flawed Pain Capable Abortion “Ban” and instead would merely vote present.  In addition he agreed to introduce H.R. 426, as a 100% pro-life alternative.

H.R. 426 asserts the power granted to Congress under article 1 Section 8 of the constitution as well as under section 5 of the 14th amendment to make necessary and proper laws to protect the right to life from fertilization and without any form of discrimination.

The issue of discrimination came up repeatedly during the Cardinal’s radio interview as Rebecca Kiessling, whose organization Save The 1 is also a member of the Personhood Alliance, made a strong case that pro-lifers cannot support legislation that actively discriminates against a class of persons in order to increase the chances of passing legislation.

Cardinal Dolan repeatedly praised Mrs. Kiessling for her personal witness and for maintaining the “clean” and “clear” principle that rape and incest exceptions should be rejected just like one would reject the death penalty for any other innocent person.

Drawing an analogy with a fictional literary character from a detective story, Cardinal Dolan stated:  “I am a fan of Michael Connelly, he's a great crime fiction writer, and one of his characters is Harry Bosch.  He is a detective, a hard boiled detective in LA, and Harry Bosch has the phrase that either everybody counts or nobody counts.  In other words he investigates the murder of a homeless addict as much as he does an LA billionaire.”

Cardinal Dolan also spoke about the slippery slope problem inherent in politically compromising one’s core principles.  Agreeing with Rebecca Kiessling’s premise that rape and incest exceptions are morally wrong, he stated: “Every life counts … if we make an exception for rape and incest, then next year won't they demand an exception for the Down Syndrome babies . . . what about the . . . here again it is the slippery slope.”

Personhood activists are encouraged by recent signs of support by prominent conservative thinkers such as Princeton Law Professor Robert George and National Review contributor Ramesh Ponnuru, and are urging the wider pro-life movement to unite behind 100% pro-life legislation and support bills that do not make exceptions like  H.R. 426.

If you would like to send a message of support to Cardinal Dolan for his courageous stand for all innocent human life and contact your member of congress regarding H.R. 426.

Contact info for Cardinal Dolan: https://www.facebook.com/TimothyCardinalDolan

Congress Contact Info: http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/

Part Two: New Problems Concerning Procreation

by Dr. Linda Powell, Ph.D.

The Catholic position on techniques for assisting fertility is that they are morally permissible if they respect: “the right to life and the physical integrity of every human being;” the unity of the marriage;” and the “specifically human values of sexuality.”

For the purpose of this review, we are going to focus on

  • In vitro fertilization and the deliberate destruction of embryos
  • Freezing embryos
  • The reduction of embryos
  • Pre-implantation diagnosis

In vitro fertilization and the deliberate destruction of embryos

Even in the most technically advanced centers of artificial fertilization, the number of embryos sacrificed is extremely high; above 80%.  First of all, in vitro embryos which have defects are directly discarded.  Some are transferred and some are frozen.  And the technique where many are transferred even when only one child is wanted is a purely utilitarian treatment of the embryos.

The centers and the couples blithely accept the enormous number of abortions involved in the process of in vitro fertilization which vividly illustrates how the replacement of the conjugal act by a technical procedure leads to a “weakening of the respect owed to every human being.”  Remember that God’s love does not differentiate between the newly conceived infant and the child or the young person, or the adult or the elderly person, because “He sees an impression of His own image and likeness.”

Freezing embryos

“Cryopreservation is incompatible with the respect owed to human embryos.”  They are exposed to the serious risk of death or physical harm, since a high percentage does not survive the process of freezing and thawing.  They are placed in a situation where they are denied maternal reception and gestation and where they are susceptible to further offense and manipulation. The Catholic Church recognizes that the “thousands of frozen embryos represent a situation of injustice which in fact cannot be resolved.”

The reduction of embryos

The transfer of multiple embryos into the mother’s womb causes a significant increase in the frequency of multiples.  This situation gives rise to so-called embryo reduction in which some of the embryos are directly exterminated.  Embryo reduction is an intentional selective abortion.  “It is the deliberate and direct elimination of one or more innocent human beings in the initial phase of their existence. . .”

Pre-implantation diagnosis

This is done in order to ensure that only embryos free from defects; those of the proper sex; and those with other desirable qualities are transferred to the womb after in vitro.  Pre-implantation diagnosis has no other goal except to destroy “defective” embryos.  It is an act of abortion and is gravely immoral.  “By treating the human embryo as mere ‘laboratory material,’ the concept itself of human dignity is also subjected to alteration and discrimination.  Such discrimination is also immoral and must be considered legally unacceptable.”  (emphasis added.)

To read the whole instruction:  http://www.ewtn.com/library/curia/CDF-Dignitas-Personae.pdf



Prudence and Moral Clarity in the Quest for Personhood

The close relationship between the social conscience and representative democracy is at the heart of American and world history. Behind every major twist and turn of history there is a social movement driven not by legal subterfuge and political compromise but unabashed truth, courage, and clarity.

Before the emancipation proclamation and the passage of the 14th amendment, abolitionists had demanded the emancipation of African Americans for over 100 years. Before the passage of the 19th amendment and women's right to vote, the American women's suffrage movement had bravely weathered one defeat after another. Before the integration of minorities as equal members of American society, the civil rights movement fought the concept of racial segregation, a concept as old as man himself. All of these movements had four things in common: they all met with repeated defeats before achieving success, they all had uncompromising comprehensive goals, they all sought to boldly enshrine those fundamental goals in the civil law, and they fought openly and directly against public opinion and the legal and political establishment with faith in the rightness of their belief.

The abolitionist movement in the British Empire preceded the abolitionist movement in the United States and inspired many of our most beloved leaders such as Abraham Lincoln. It is well known that it took the heroic William Wilberforce nearly 50 years of relentless social and political activism to accomplish his goal in Britain. But most don't know that the fight could have been won considerably sooner. The slave trade and slavery in the British Empire would have ended decades earlier but for one poisoning concept: moral cowardice disguised as political prudence.

The year was 1792, and William Wilberforce rose to speak to his fellow members of parliament to urge them to support his motion to abolish the slave trade. It was the fifth consecutive year that Wilberforce made his motion. Sensing a favorable atmosphere in favor of abolition, Henry Dundas (a self-styled prudent incrementalist) rose and spoke. He offered an alternative to the abolition of the slave trade. Dundas suggested regulating the slave trade; making regulations that would force the plantation owners to treat the slaves better and giving them incentives to do so. Eric Metaxas, in his brilliant biography of William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery, describes the effect of gradualism, regulation, and prudence in the face of absolute evil. Describing the effect of an abolitionist's speech, Metaxas writes:

"His words shone a great deal of light onto the moral cowardice of `regulation' and the lazy wickedness of `moderation.'

But Henry Dundas, the "enlightened moderate", was not about to allow the the light of truth to shine. Metaxas describes Dundas' response to the motion for abolition:

"So now Dundas rose and deftly splashed the single word gradually into Fox's (the fiery abolitionist) fire. It was very coolly done. Yes to abolition - Yes! But not too hastily - No! True leadership demanded prudence. So yes - but gradually. Wilberforce would have thought of the slaves writhing in the middle passage, defeated, humiliated, pining for death. Gradually. It was as though these three syllables, soporific and falsely irenic, had bubbled up through Dundas's mouth from the dead belly of hell itself. Everyone seized on it. And why wouldn't they? Gradual abolition was abolition and it was not abolition - what more could a politician dream of?"

Prudence has always been and will probably always be the chosen weapon of the status quo, and fear is it's ammunition. That is not to say that prudence is evil. Prudence is a virtue and properly understood, it is necessary to direct our actions and help us achieve the moral good. According to St. Thomas Aquinas, prudence is "right reason in action." Unfortunately, prudence is most often used by those who are looking for a reason for inaction.

In Wilberforce's case, it was clear that Dundas's prudent call to gradualism was duplicitous, and was aimed only at maintaining the most politically advantageous position for himself.

Today, some political operators and legal activists are engaged in the same dissimulation regarding the virtue of prudence in the fight to legally recognize preborn personhood.

Some, like Clark Forsythe, president of Americans United for Life even try to use the example of William Wilberforce to further their cause of twisted prudence. They point to the fact that Wilberforce opted to pursue the abolition of the slave trade before the abolition of the institution of slavery. The analogy, however, is not appropriate. The slave trade was to slavery, as the accepted medical practice of abortion is to the rights of the preborn. For Mr. Forsythe's analogy to be correct, Americans United for Life would have to be lobbying, educating, and working towards the complete outlawing of the medical practice of abortion in the hopes that eventually they could establish the positive personhood rights of the preborn. Instead Mr. Forsythe and Americans United for Life advocate legal stratagems that by their own admission, "do not directly impact or implicate the woman's right to chose abortion," and "in no way implicate, alter, or infringe upon the right to abortion, and in no way affect the holdings of Roe v. Wade."(Unborn Victims of Violence and Lacy and Conner's Law talking points, AUL website) Mr. Forsythe, whether intentionally or not, is much closer to Dundas than to Wilberforce.

Those most allied with the political status quo say that prudence demands regulation and gradualism. But they go even further than that. Prudence not only demands regulation and gradualism, they say, but it also precludes any legal attempts to directly address the evil of abortion at this time.

In his essay on prudence and policymaking, Clark Forsythe, issues a philosophical defense of incrementalism through prudence. Forsythe writes:

"Prudent political leaders must pursue a vision of complete justice - of complete legal protection for human life. But, in the democratic process, they must pursue the ideal in such a way that progress is made and with the willingness to accept something when all is not achievable due to social, legal, or political obstacles beyond their control."

The "willingness to accept something when all is not achievable" can, in principle, be a legitimately prudent option to move forward. Indeed, Pope John Paul II was correct in explaining that:

"When it is not possible to overturn or completely abrogate a pro-abortion law, an elected official ... could licitly support proposals aimed at limiting the harm done by such a law and at lessening its negative consequences."

But Americans United For Life, and Mr. Forsythe in particular, have, time and time again, come out at the eleventh hour, in closely contested legislative battles, against legislative efforts that were actually achievable.

Only in the past three years, Americans United for Life spoke up against a complete ban on abortion in the state of South Dakota in 2006, counseled religious and pro-life groups to partner with pro-abortion forces to defeat a comprehensive legal affirmation of preborn personhood in Georgia in 2007, published statements urging religious and political leaders to withhold their support of constitutional protection of the preborn in Colorado and Montana in 2008, and just this year, actively lobbied local religious leaders and politicians in North Dakota to kill a bill seeking to protect all preborn persons after their house of representatives had passed it and the senate was poised to vote on the bill.

Americans United for Life, and Mr. Forsythe can not credibly argue for prudential acceptance of insignificant gains -because greater gains are unattainable- while at the same time actively working to socially, legally, and politically undermine the possibility of greater gains!

Mr. Forsythe writes, "it is not immoral to be prudent." Indeed, but it is immoral to be disingenuous and duplicitous.

Whether prudence is rightly invoked or is instead a cover for personal and political ambition, and moral cowardice, turns in large part upon the real legitimacy the political and educational strategy that is prudently being avoided. For a defense of Personhood legislation, called by some Human Life Amendments, please contact Personhood USA. However, it is also important to note that proper prudence would never direct action that directly undermines and discourages the efforts of those who seek to create a principled social movement in exchange for nebulous political gains.

Those, who like Dundas, seek to undermine principled actors have other motives outside of their love of the virtue of prudence.

According to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, prudence may compel us to act "even in a situation where the results are less than certain," so long as "the consequences of not acting are serious." Unfortunately the U.S. Conference is not referring to abolishing abortion, but to global warming.

Churches with large numbers of members who support abortion rights are afraid to become too "extreme" and therefore favor gradual, incremental legislation when it comes to abortion. Christianity has always thrived under persecution, but church coffers, hierarchies, and bureaucracies don't. It is much more politically expedient to urge action to address global warming than to urge action to completely abolish abortion. Churches that accept the theory that prudence means the "willingness to accept something when all is not achievable" while simultaneously not having the moral courage to support legislation that honestly attempts to abolish real evil at hand, are relegating themselves to moral insignificance while believing that they are buying in to the club of influence and power.

When prudence is not used merely to direct, but to stifle, prudence itself requires us to distinguish it from timidity, fear, and dissimulation. As individuals we must look at the personal and institutional motives that might cause an individual or an organization to stifle the principled efforts of another.

When pro-life leaders insist on incremental measures that, by their own admission, do not affect the right to an abortion, while actively opposing more sweeping efforts, they are abandoning Truth for political expediency. Truth is the only thing that will win this battle, for if Americans are only exposed to middling incremental pro-life arguments, how will their hearts and minds ever be truly changed to accept, even demand, the protection of each human life?

In his famous letter from a Birmingham jail, Martin Luther King sums up the belief that we must attempt to end abortion right now:

"We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was "well timed" in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word "Wait!" It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This "Wait" has almost always meant "Never." We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that "justice too long delayed is justice denied."

As a movement, we know what our goal is: to have all children in the womb protected by love and by law. It is important that we learn the lessons of history and rely on the moral clarity of our God-given moral law to guide our efforts not on demoralizing legal and moral subterfuge.

Part One: Anthropological, Theological and Ethical Aspects of Human Life and Procreation

by Linda Powell, Ph.D.

There are two fundamental principles that make up Part One.  However, we will be developing only one in this review.

  • “The human being is to be respected and treated as a person from the moment of conception; and therefore from that same moment his rights as a person must be recognized, among which in the first place is the inviolable right of every innocent human being to life.” (n.4) (Emphasis added.)

We know that medical science has made significant strides when it comes to understanding human life in its earliest stages of development.  Human biological structures and the process of human generation are better known.  These are certainly positive when they are used to overcome or correct pathologies or to restore the normal functioning of human procreation.  They are negative and cannot and must not be utilized when they involve the destruction of human beings or “contradict the dignity of the person or when they are used for purposes contrary to the integral good of man.” (n.4)

We must never allow the body of a human being from the very first stages of existence to be reduced to a mere group of cells.  There is a fundamental ethical criterion to evaluate all moral questions which relate to procedures involving the human embryo.  Donum vitae states, and Dignitas personae reiterates, “thus the fruit of human generation from the first moment of its existence, that is to say, from the moment the zygote has formed, demands the unconditional respect that is morally due to the human being in his bodily and spiritual totality.”  This ethical principle should be the basis for any legislation in this area, also.

“. . .the conclusions of science regarding the human embryo give ‘a valuable indication for discerning by the use of reason a personal presence at the moment of the first appearance of human life.’ ”  The question is “how could a human individual not be a human person?” During the entire life span of a human being both before and after birth, there cannot be posited either a change in nature or a gradation of moral value.  The human embryo has from the very beginning the dignity proper to a person; full anthropological and ethical status.

Beginning with n.7, there is a beautiful description of the Church’s conviction that what is human is not only received and respected by faith, but also purified, elevated and perfected.  What follows, then, is an awesome explanation of Imago Dei. 

Let me end with another wonderful quote from this part. “At every stage of his existence, man, created in the image and likeness of God, reflects “the face of His Only-begotten Son. . .This boundless and almost incomprehensible love of God for the human being reveals the degree to which the human person deserves to be loved in himself, independently of any other consideration-intelligence, beauty, health, youth, integrity, and so forth.  In short, human life is always a good, for it ‘is a manifestation of God in the world, a sign of His presence, a trace of His glory.”


To read the whole instruction:  http://www.ewtn.com/library/curia/CDF-Dignitas-Personae.pdf

North Dakota's Bishop Commends Personhood as "Suggested Reading"

Bishop David D. Kagan of Bismarch, ND released his "... and so man became a living being" as the title of his October 2013 pastoral letter to his flock. In the "Suggested Reading" section at the end of his pastoral encouragement dealing with the essential doctrine of Imago Dei he recommends Personhood: A Pragmatic Guide to Pro-life Victory by Daniel Becker. 

"I based my letter on two of the greatest papal documents of the last century: Humanae Vitae and Evangelium Vitae . . .

In the conclusion to my pastoral letter and using these two documents and many others I made three statements.

First, each person, from the first moment of conception to the last moment of life by natural death, possesses one, absolute and inviolable human right – the right to life.

Second, no person or group has any individual or inherent right to destroy or to mutilate innocent human life but has the binding duty to protect and defend innocent human life in all of its stages of development.

Third, no individual person, no group of persons or any political and social agency or government may change or re-define the person, the person’s human dignity, and the person’s singular status within creation."

The Most Reverend David D. Kagan

Bishop of Bismarck

Part Three: New Treatments which Involve the Manipulation of the Embryo

by Dr. Linda Powell, Ph.D.

In this final part of Dignitas personae, we will examine what the instruction has to say about

  • Gene Therapy,
  • Human cloning,
  • The therapeutic use of stem cells, and
  • Attempts at Hybridization


Gene Therapy

Gene therapy commonly refers to “techniques of genetic engineering applied to human beings for therapeutic purposes, that is to say, with the aim of curing genetically based diseases.”  There are two main types of therapy:  Somatic cell gene therapy and Germ line therapy.  The former seeks “to eliminate or reduce genetic defects on the level of somatic cells.”  The latter aims to “correct genetic defects present in germ line cells with the purpose of transmitting the therapeutic effects to the offspring of the individual.”

Ethically speaking, procedures used on somatic cells for strictly therapeutic purposed are in principle morally licit.  However, gene therapy does pose risks to the patient and should only proceed if the patient will not be harmed excessively or disproportionately to the gravity of the pathology for which a cure is being sought.  Informed consent must be required.

With regard to germ line cell therapy, “the risks connected to any genetic manipulation are considerable and as yet, not fully controllable,” so in the present state of the research, it is not morally permissible. 

Any interventions that would introduce alterations to the gene pool, would promote a “eugenic mentality.”  It could happen that society would be divided along certain qualities and would be an offense against justice and the fundamental truth that all human beings are equal.  Finally, altering the gene pool to create a new type of human being means that man tries to take the place of the Creator.


Human Cloning

Human cloning is intrinsically evil.  It can lead to manipulation and abuses that are gravely injurious to human dignity. (n.28)

Reproductive cloning “would impose on the resulting individual a predetermined genetic identity, subjecting him to a form of biological slavery, from which it would be difficult to free himself.”  The fact that someone would take upon himself the right to determine arbitrarily the genetic makeup of another person is a grave offense to the dignity of that person. 

It must be said that to create embryos with the intention of destroying them is gravely immoral.  We must not sacrifice a human life for therapeutic ends. 


The Therapeutic Use of Stem Cells

In n.31, the instruction explains what stem cells are with their basic characteristics.  For this ethical evaluation, it is necessary to consider the methods of obtaining them. 

Methods that do not cause harm to the subject from whom the stem cells are taken are to be considered licit.  This is generally the case when tissues are taken from: a) an adult organism; b) the blood of the umbilical cord at the time of birth; c) fetuses who have dies of natural causes.

Obtaining stem cells from a living human embryo causes the death of a human person and consequently is gravely illicit.


Attempts at Hybridization

“Such procedures represent an offense against the dignity of human beings on account of the admixture of human and animal genetic elements capable of disrupting the specific identity of man.” (n.33) 

Finally, for an excellent instruction of the use of Human “biological material” of illicit origin, I suggest you read parts n. 34 and n. 35 for yourself.  It is especially pertinent to parents who use vaccines for their children. 

This concludes our review of Dignitas personae.  We will continue to present the Catholic point of view of Personhood on this website.


To read the whole instruction:  http://www.ewtn.com/library/curia/CDF-Dignitas-Personae.pdf


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