I find this piece to be rather weak. Discussing the personhood status of the fetus does not inject irrationality into the abortion debate. It’s a critical point:
Yet, there is no rational way to decide when personhood begins. Thus, the abortion debate has always been infected with irrationality. But, even if we assumed that personhood begins at conception, why should that “person” have sanctuary in the body of someone who doesn’t want it there? In short, it simply doesn’t follow that the attribution of personhood should resolve the question.
The abortion debate should focus less on the mysteries of embryonic life and more on the limits of governmental power. This would entail facing squarely how far the government of a democracy should be authorized to regulate what people — in this case, women — can do inside their own bodies. It might help to examine other situations where the relationship of government and our bodies is at issue.
Our law rarely compels people to be Good Samaritans. Even though parents are required, for example, to look after their under-age children, they are not required to give their children their blood, bone marrow, or organs. Even if the conduct of withholding parents is seen as immoral, there has been no serious suggestion for making it unlawful. Our society has long believed that compulsory organ sharing is repugnant to democratic principles. This consensus provides a much sounder basis for resolving the abortion controversy.
If we compel parents to take care of their children, there is something important in deciding what constitutes “children.” If a human being can only live in one place, the womb, for nine months–what then? Certainly there is sacrifice on the part of the woman, pro-lifers can’t ignore that. At the same time, this is a temporary (nine month) imposition whereas abortion imposes a death sentence on the child. The two can’t be weighed equally and you can’t figure out whether this is actually a death sentence for a child if you refuse to consider the personhood arguments. Seems to me that Alan Borovoy finds it convenient to claim “we can’t know,” while refusing to actually look.by