When does personhood really start? Some say that it starts with the beginnings of self-awareness, especially when your new baby sister arrives and you suddenly realize the world is not all about you. Some say it starts with a viable fetus that can exist outside the womb. And some insist that it starts at the moment of conception.
But it really begins much earlier. For each of us is not just physically conceived, but mentally conceived as well. We literally begin as an idea. It may be the earnest discussion that precedes the procreative attempt, or merely the idle thought of someday having a child. It may be no more than the twinkle in your eye or the come hither look from your spouse. The very moment of this idea—the conception of a future potential reality that is you—is when human life truly begins.
It is a most precious thing, this idea. Nothing must interfere with its sacred goal. Every part of this conception, from the first hazy notion to the final design plan, must be nurtured and protected from all harm. And it must be accorded the full measure of human rights.
Recently, a number of states have tried to pass so-called Personhood Amendments to their constitutions to recognize the rights of the unborn zygote. But why stop there? By defining human personhood merely as the moment when physical conception occurs denies the far more important mental conception that precedes it. Without this first conception there is none of the other stuff. It is the exact moment of that thought which defines us in the most basic human sense.
And since the federal constitution along with the U.S. Supreme Court have the final say in such matters, state-level amendments just won’t “git ‘er done.” What we need is a federal constitutional amendment—one that goes all the way to that first moment of conception—a Conceptual Personhood Amendment.
Such an amendment would redefine those three important first words of the Constitution—We the People—as We the People, from our first idealized conception. This would leave no doubt in anyone’s mind just who or what a person is, and when that person begins.
But there are those who would deny these rights of the unborn. They claim that just thinking about having a child is not at all the same as actually having a child. For them only a real child will do. But what of the imagined child? In their bias for the real, these idea killers seek to nullify its existence. For them, only physical conception will do.
But just because the idea for a child is not acted upon is no reason to deny it full rights under the law. There are many reasons why some of us never achieve the physical birth our parents dreamed for us, and it is not the government’s or anyone else’s business to pass judgment. It is the idea that counts. The U.S. Constitution speaks for all of us—the born and the unborn, even the unborn thought.