ABORT3   7'?m3f Abortion: the personhood of the fetus

JUDGE -- (enters wearing black robe, crosses to podium or
judge's bench, pounds gavel) This session of probate court will
come to order. (reads) Our first case is Peter J Arnold vs St
Mary's Hospital. Are both parties present?

PLAINTIFF -- (enters wearing business suit, carrying briefcase)
I will be representing Peter J Arnold, the plaintiff, Your

DEFENSE -- (enters opposite wearing business suit, carrying
briefcase) And I will be representing St Mary's Hospital, Your

JUDGE -- Peter J Arnold. Is that the Astronaut Peter J Arnold?

PLAINTIFF -- Yes, Your Honor.

JUDGE -- Will somebody please tell me why probate court is
involved with a law suit between an astronaut and a hospital?

PLAINTIFF -- My client is suing the hospital to force them to
perform minor surgery.

JUDGE -- Thank you. That was no help at all. I still don't know
why you have involved probate court.

DEFENSE -- Your Honor, the so-called MINOR surgery requested by
the plaintiff would result in the death of a person.

JUDGE -- Thank you. That was no help at all. I still don't know
why you have involved probate court. Would somebody like to
answer my question?

DEFENSE -- The reason probate court is involved is because the
person whose life would be lost in the surgery can't speak for
himself. And in matters where a person can't speak for himself,
the law requires that probate court speaks on his behalf.

JUDGE -- You're getting warmer. Now, tell me why the astronaut's
life would be endangered by the surgery and why he can't speak
for himself.

DEFENSE -- It isn't the astronaut whose life is in the balance,
Your Honor.

JUDGE -- Keep talking. I don't see any other person listed in
the complaint.

PLAINTIFF -- If I may, Your Honor, I'd like to explain.

JUDGE -- I wish you would.

PLAINTIFF -- My client merely wishes to have a growth removed
from his ear canal.

JUDGE -- Nice try. I still don't see the other person involved.

PLAINTIFF -- Neither do I.

JUDGE -- Enlighten us, counselor.

DEFENSE -- The so-called growth in the Astronaut's ear is the
person who will lose his life.

JUDGE -- Are you saying that there's a PERSON in Peter J
Arnold's ear canal?

DEFENSE -- That's exactly what I'm saying, Your Honor. As you
may have read recently in the papers, Mr Arnold and his crew
just returned from their mission to one of the moons of Jupiter,
where they encountered a new species of humanoids who call
themselves the dust people.

JUDGE -- The dust people?

DEFENSE -- Yes, Your Honor, they get the name from the fact that
their offspring in their larval stage are the size of specs of

JUDGE -- So, what you're saying is that the plaintiff has one of
these larvae in his ear canal?

PLAINTIFF -- That's correct, Your Honor, and the hospital is
preventing him from having it removed surgically.

JUDGE -- Is that true, counselor?

DEFENSE -- That's true, Your Honor. But if the larva is removed
from the plaintiff's ear canal he will die.

PLAINTIFF -- Your Honor, I object to defense counsel's use of
the personal pronoun HE. Plaintiff maintains that a speck of
dust cannot be called a HE.

JUDGE -- What do you say about that counselor?

DEFENSE -- Actually, Your Honor, this whole case revolves
irrevocably around whether the larva is a HE or an IT. If the
court decides that the larva of a humanoid is an IT, no excuse
for killing IT is required. But if the larva is a HE, no excuse
for killing HIM is adequate. It all revolves around the
personhood of the organism in the plaintiff's ear.

JUDGE -- I see. (pause) Actually, I don't see. But at least I
know now why this case was referred to probate court. (deep
breath) Well, okay. Let's hear your arguments. Counselor?

PLAINTIFF -- Your Honor, since the surgery will be done on
the plaintiff's own body, what he does with his own body is his
own business. The law cannot interfere with what a man wants to
do with his own body.

JUDGE -- Save your sound-bites for the six-o'clock news, 
counselor. You know as well as I do that criminal law is all 
about interfering with what a man wants to do with his own body. 
You're not advocating that we eliminate laws against public 
nudity or public drunkenness or urinating on the sidewalks, are 

PLAINTIFF -- Oh, no! Ah,... I just thought....

JUDGE -- Do you have any SUBSTANTIAL arguments for your case, 

PLAINTIFF -- Yes. Yes, of course. (reads) We contend that since 
the organism in question is located entirely within the ear 
canal of my client, the decision about whether to have surgery 
or not should belong to my client alone.

JUDGE -- Counselor?

DEFENSE -- Your Honor, the location of the person does not make
him less than a person. Does the value of a person change
whenever he goes to a different location? Is a person less of a
person when he's under water or even in a jail cell?

JUDGE -- Good question, Counselor. Is this larva less of a
person merely because of his location?

PLAINTIFF -- The plaintiff would argue that the larva is not a
person at all, no matter where it's located, Your Honor. The
larval form of this humanoid resembles a speck of dust more than
it resembles a person.

JUDGE -- Counselor?

DEFENSE -- Your Honor, the appearance or resemblance of the
person is irrelevant to its personhood. If I step on a
caterpillar does not a butterfly cease to exist? The larval form
of the dust people has exactly the same number of chromosomes as
the mature adult form. The only difference is the maturity. If
maturity is required to be a person, should we allow babies or
even teenagers to be killed because they're not adults?

JUDGE -- Defense counsel has a point there counselor. Should I
be allowed to kill my 27-year-old son because he is still not
emotionally mature yet?

PLAINTIFF -- Your Honor, the plaintiff contends that the larva
is not really a person because it's not viable on its own.
That is, the larva is dependent upon the body of its host for
warmth and nurturement.

JUDGE -- Counselor?

DEFENSE -- By that logic, Your Honor, we should be able to kill
everyone who is in intensive care in the hospital, all children
under eight years old and senior citizens in nursing homes. Does
the court consider people on life support to be less than human?

JUDGE -- Actually, this court would not exist if all those
people were considered less than human. This court speaks for
people who can't speak for themselves because of dependency. I
think defense counsel is right, Counselor. This case is not
about the location of the larva, or its size or its stage of
development or its viability or its dependence. This case is all
about whether we consider the dust people themselves as humans.

PLAINTIFF -- Well, just look at the name. How can they be
considered human if they're DUST people?

JUDGE -- Counselor?

DEFENSE -- Your Honor, I requested this assignment to defend the
hospital against this law suit because "I" am one of the dust

PLAINTIFF -- You what?

JUDGE -- Is that true?

DEFENSE -- Yes, Your Honor. The larva growing in Peter J
Arnold's ear is my offspring. If you allow him to remove the
larva from his ear before it's due date, a person will die.
Admittedly a SMALL person, but a person.

JUDGE -- Well, I think our obligation is obvious here. This
court speaks for persons who can't speak for themselves. And
since we have demonstrated that a person's appearance, location,
development, dependency or size does not make it less of a
person, this court cannot deny that the larva in the plaintiff's
ear canal is a person. Now, if the presence of this person was
threatening the life of his host, the lives of both persons
would be threatened and this court would be forced to choose
which life to save. But no such threat was alleged by the
plaintiff in the complaint. Therefore, I have no choice but to
deny the plaintiff's motion to end the life of this tiny person.
The requested surgery is denied. (pounds gavel) This court is

(all exit)
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