Monday, November 7, 2011

Asking the Tough Questions about "Zygote's Rights"

It was recently mentioned in my biology class, that some state, somewhere, is tossing around the idea of passing legislation that would give rights to zygotes. Up until that point, the only thing I’d heard with regard to “Zygote’s Rights,” was as a “What if?” curiosity. Upon hearing this in class, I wasn’t surprised – so many state legislators have been working on passing laws that undermine or completely circumvent a woman’s right to choose. It’s not something that I was following intimately (with the Heartbeat Bill in my own backyard), but Why Evolution Is True has brought the details to my attention with “Mississippi about to confer thesame rights on zygotes and adults.” I wonder: Assuming that the legislators have disregarded the scientific implications of such a law, have they even considered the more benign ones?

The most obvious implication is that of age. If a zygote is considered “a person” (as the language of the amendment proposes), is a newborn nine months old at birth? If so, how does this affect American rites of passage? Do the ages of driving, consent, voting, drinking, smoking, and dying for one’s country then change to keep up with the age of the zygote? Or do they stay the same, to keep with physical development as a constant?

Speaking of development, if an embryo is “a person,” are spontaneous abortions ruled as a suicide? Who is to blame if the zygote has an autosomal aneuploidy, which is almost always lethal? The parent, I assume, is responsible for proper separation of chromosomes during both phases of meiotic anaphase  – is that murder? (And if it is a suicide, would the zygote’s soul go to heaven?)

If zygotes share in human rights, can they be listed as dependents on one’s taxes? Do they get counted on the census? Can the mother-to-be receive child-support for nine months, or retroactive payments after the child is born? If the mother-to-be drinks, smokes, or partakes in drugs, can she be charged with child-endangerment/abuse or contributing to the delinquency of a minor?

You may think that these are silly, smart-assed questions, but I guarantee that if this law passes, someone will ask them. And someone else is going to have to have answers. The simple fact is that about half of all human zygotes don’teven make it to implantation. That’s a lot of murder investigations.


  1. This Guardian piece from the summer is pretty scary - as is the list of states with fetal homicide laws (and their interpretation of "personhood" - Kansas already considers a fertilized egg to be an "unborn child") -

  2. Thanks for bringing that to my attention, I hadn't seen that. That article, while enlightening, does a good job of making the States sound like a classic dystopia.

    I guess this is what happens when we defund proper reproduction education in grade school: no one knows how it works!