History: The Definition of “Person” according to the Law


Today, I had the privilege to escort 45 young people from our high school to a pro-life rally for all the Catholic high schools in Vancouver.  We got to hear a tremendous speaker, who spoke passionately for the rights of the unborn.  Sometimes, I feel like I am too soft on this issue, masking the truth to not offend others, or to make them feel bad.  Yet, it is these euphemism’s that are confusing our society today and leading women to make terrible mistakes, that often scar them for life, all because they were not made aware of the truth. This is wrong.

After the keynote speaker, we said  a living rosary and then did a life chain, where we processed down some of the busier streets in one of the wealthiest parts of town.  The students were awesome and very respectful as they silently marched, sometimes cheered on by positive horn blasting, and sometimes, the not so positive thumb down or worse… Overall, I think they had a good experience and even though our numbers were doubled from last year, I think we could have had more students attend, as it was not very heavily advertised throughout the school.

What really stood out to me, however, was a poster with a very powerful message about the history of “personhood”, according to the law.  As a social studies teacher, this little piece of history both fascinated me and gave me hope.  Below is the main message on the poster I saw today.

“In the eyes of the law…the slave is not a person.” Virginia Supreme Court decision, 1858

“An Indian is not a person within the meaning of Constitution.” George CanfieldAmerican Law Review, 1881

“The statutory word ‘person’ did not in these circumstances include women.” British Voting Rights case, 1909

“The Reichsgericht itself refused to recognize Jews…as ‘persons’ in the legal sense.” German Supreme Court decision, 1936

“The law of Canada does not recognize the unborn child as a legal person possessing rights.” Canadian Supreme Court Winnipeg Child and Family Services case, 1997.

Sometimes the most important lessons take the longest to learn.

Let us pray for an end to abortion in this country and throughout the world. As Martin Luther King said so famously, “Laws can’t change men’s hearts, but they can restrain the heartless.”

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2 Responses to History: The Definition of “Person” according to the Law

  1. Here in Ontario, the Minister of Education who claims she is a practicing Catholic, has decreed that Catholic schools cannot teach that abortion is wrong. She says it’s misogynistic (!!??) to say so. You said it……pray for our country and our politicians.

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  2. I had heard that the Minister had done that, but her reasoning is that it is misogynistic?!? I’m surprised she allows only men to say mass for Catholic schools then…what a totally ignorant, unintelligent thing to say…and these are our leaders!

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