Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Who's Human?

As I examined the failures of the U.S. Constitution's being amended with an "Equal Rights Amendment" (ERA) I realized that "piecemeal" elaborations of Human Rights via legislation like those passed to end discrimination for various diversities ("race"/ethnicity/gender/"disability") might be better served by a "Human Rights Amendment" (HRA).

The ERA was successfully opposed by women's groups.

The possibility of a HRA is problematic because we are torn by at least two distinct definitions of "human": Until it can breathe and pulse on its own, a fetus is just an elaborate part of a woman's body and survives with her permission; As soon as it is conceived, the fetus has all the protections of law that all humans enjoy.

Although we might find some solace in the UN Declaration of Human Rights, it is clear  that "United Nations" was organized by and for the continuing dominance over humans by nation-states. However it does sidestep defining who's human. I wonder if it could be adopted today?



j allen said...

Historically, Jewish law didn't make such a binary distinction. A fetus was only considered to be human during the third trimester, but was considered to be more than an animal during trimesters one and two. That is, killing a fetus in the first two trimesters was not considered murder, but was considered worse than the typical property crime.

In this sense, the Pope's insistence (shared with fundies) on defining human life to begin at conception, is relatively modern.

However, I think the question is of utmost importance, and I appreciate someone who advocates for drawing the line too conservatively, as opposed to the "enlightened rationalists" who argue for "nuanced" definitions of life which permit euthanasia.

Like you, I wonder what role the nation-state has in this matter. It is utterly absurd, and unsupported by all of human history, to presume that a legislative process will be able to conclusively define our highest human moral values. Has such a thing *ever* happened?

Convivialdingo said...

Everytime we draw a line around who's human, we've been historically wrong.

Genocide, slavery, the inquisition, and just about every historical tragedy have all derived their power from that damn line and I say we end it now.