The state legislatures of Virginia and Oklahoma have continued to embarrass their reasonable constituents this week by passing legislation that defines fertilized eggs as "persons" eligible for the same rights as normal humans that aren't multicelled, consciousless globs. Framers of Personhood bills believe that their new laws would outlaw abortion, and they're right— but I don't think they realize just how complicated it would be if all constitutional rights were granted to prepeople. How messy could it get? Let's take a look at the Bill of Rights and find out.
I. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
My theoretical fetal cobody inhabitor (or, in the future dystopian world we inhabit: "Interior Person") would be free to practice the religion he or she chose, but would the government be required to remove the biological barriers to exercising those rights? And developing technology so that we could glean what that zygote's desire is? I would hate to force my uterine stowaway to attend services at a Catholic Church when the lil' munchkin is actually more of a Buddhist. And what if my zygote is a member of a suicide cult and my refusing to abort is actually directly in contrast with its beliefs? WHAT THEN?
Basic biology inhibits a zygote's right to assemble, speak, write stuff down a teeny weeny laptop, or petition the government, so will we be developing the technology that allows us to build a sort of tank city for them outside of a woman's body, where they can swim around and assemble and publish little fetal newsletters ("Whelp, looks like I'm a male! Got my penis today!") Or will this new arrangement just allow the babyhouse (woman) to carry the fetus with her wherever and just make it do all the things she's doing? After all, they're separate individuals.
II. A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.
Uh oh. This one's tricky, because if my fetus decides it wants a handgun, how will the government make sure it can get one? And how would a prebaby get a gun permit? What if it wants to form a militia with its buddies? Must the state enable this, or does biology trump rights?
III. No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.
This one also confuses me, because it seems pretty goofy that the Constitution can expressly bar the government from forcing people to let soldiers stay in their homes, yet Personhood aims to require women to allow uninvited zygotes camp out inside their bodies and cause them to throw up and fart a lot.
IV. 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.
One provision of Virginia's Personhood bill is the particularly troubling pre-abortion vaginal ultrasound requirement. I don't know how many of you have had a vaginal ultrasound, but for the uninitiated, it's like this: a vaginal ultrasound wand looks like this (for perspective on how big it is— the handle is a size that's comfortably grippable by an average adult sized hand. So it's about as long as some dildos and slightly thinner. It's definitely not a fun experience— like being vaginally probed by a lubed-up handle of a lint roller, and now, because some Very Concerned Non-Doctor Dudes said so, every woman seeking an abortion will be required to have one. This feels a lot like illegal, and super creepy forced search of a person's body.
But, more importantly (because obviously the fetus is more important), what if the fetus does not consent to have his home (the uterus) searched? Think about the rights of an unborn protohuman for a goddamn second, Virginia legislators! Give a tiny mass some privacy.
V. No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation.
This one's easy: a fetus should not forced to testify against itself or put on trial twice after being acquitted once of the trespassing charges of which all unplanned fetuses are guilty.
VI. In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.
This one might be tough. It may be years before a fetus develops enough to be competent to stand trial for trespassing (or being an accomplice in a rape, in certain circumstances). Would the slow rate of human development combined with the fact that fetuses cannot feel pain, think, or have memories doom all unplanned fetusperson's trespassing trials to violate the sixth amendment?
VII. In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.
This one's pretty straightforward, but it leaves some unanswered questions: since citizens have a right to trial by jury and a responsibility to serve on jury duty when called upon, would a fetus ever be called for jury duty? And can it be held in contempt of court if the woman carrying the fetus has a miscarriage during the trial?
VIII. Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
By barring abortion at any stage in a fetus's development, personhood laws imply that every penis-in-vagina sex act by a woman is implied consent to be pregnant, even if the woman didn't consent to the sex act in the first place. Pregnancy is nine months of often uncomfortable existence culminating in childbirth, which is so physically traumatic that it usually occurs in a hospital under a doctor's supervision. Could personhood laws be construed as inflicting an cruel and unwanted punishment (pregnancy) on a perfectly legal act (non-procreative sex)?
From the zygote's perspective, could imprisonment in utero be considered cruel and unusual punishment? How do we know it doesn't hate it in there? And 9 months seems an excessively long time to be confined just for existing.
IX. The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
Oh, great. So, ninth amendment, you're telling me that these aren't all the rights that zygotes get? There's more?!
X. The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
I guess the Constitution doesn't expressly say that the federal government has a right to completely fuck women over, so that's up to the states. Way to seize your rights, Oklahoma and Virginia. You're both true defenders of freedom.
Now, the next step is passing a law that will allow my eggs to vote. They're democrats.
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