Intro, Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five, Part Six
Arbitrarily Defining Human Personhood
Using the term "person" is another way that pro-choicers avoid admitting that abortion is wrong. Many pro-choicers (usually the better arguers) will readily admit that the unborn are human beings or living members of the human species but will then assert that the unborn aren't persons and because of this it should be legal to kill them.
"Person" is a loaded word. Which means that for any number of pro-choicers, the term "person" could have the same number of different definitions. Make sure you ask, "What's the difference between a human being and a human person?"
At first, a good number of people aren't going to have an exact criteria for human personhood. This is because they haven't actually thought about it and are just repeating what they've heard or read from various pro-choice organizations. If they don't know right away, give them plenty of time and then ask them, "Isn't it odd that you're discriminating against the unborn because they supposedly aren't persons, yet you don't even have an answer for what makes a human being into a person."
Many pro-choicers will say that viability, the unborn's ability to survive outside the womb, is what makes a human being into a person. Others will say that mental processes such as self-awareness or the ability to reason is what matters. In the past, others used to say it was the color of your skin, your race, or your gender made you a "person" or was the deciding factor with regards to your rights. Unfortunately in recent history the term "person" and other terms like it such as "citizen" have been used almost exclusively to rationalize the enslavement, mistreatment or killing of other human beings.
It's what our country did with slaves. It's what Nazi Germany did with Jews. It's what many countries did and still do with women.
Any qualifications that disqualify unborn children from the arbitrary realm of human personhood, such as self-awareness, consciousness, ability to survive on their own, etc. will also disqualify other human beings like infants, people in reversible comas, those on respirators, etc. The fact is that all of these different definitions and categories for personhood are wholly arbitrary with no basis in fact or logic. Pro-choicers should have a very hard time convincing anyone why we should accept their arbitrary definitions of personhood and not the arbitrary definitions of the racist or sexist. Why should these qualifications be accepted instead of other arbitrary qualifications like height, weight, IQ, skin color, and gender?
Can't think of a good reason? Neither can they.
Pro-choicer will also use circular arguments to try to defend their arbitrary criteria saying, "the unborn aren't persons because they can't live outside the womb."
You can ask, Why should I accept this criteria for personhood?
"Because the ability to live outside the womb makes someone a person."
They'll unfortunately forget that a newborn couldn't survive outside the womb if no one was there to feed or clothe the child.
Pro-choicers will also use criteria that eliminates other human beings they consider persons like newborns or people with severe mental disabilities. Their criteria will at times also make certain animals into persons.
For example, some pro-choicers say self-awareness, consciousness, or the ability to reason are what makes us persons. Guess what? Infants aren't self-aware until about 3 months while many animals like dogs, apes, dolphins, etc. can form conscious memories and are aware of themselves, others and how they interact with the world around them.
So are these animals "persons" while the human infants aren't? If these animals are "persons" should we free these animal "persons" from zoos and give them the unalienable rights they deserve?
Other pro-choicers will continually change their definition of "personhood" if you point out how their criteria eliminates newborns and includes animals. They'll then begin to conform their definition of "personhood" so that only the unborn fit into the non-personhood category. At that point, you can say, "Isn't it obvious that your criteria for "personhood" is wholly arbitrary? You're simply using the word 'personhood' and changing its definition as a way to discriminate against the unborn."
Anyone can come up with a definition of "personhood." There is no reason why anyone should accept the definitions brought forth by the pro-choice movement.