Opponents of abortion argue that because embryos belong to our species, they are human embryos, and are therefore human beings. And as killing innocent human beings is wrong, abortion is wrong. But is it correct to say that human embryos are human beings?
In my last blog I explained how some opponents of abortion misappropriate my work on dehumanization, and why their argument doesn’t work. But if we understand dehumanization as the denial that some human beings are really human, this conception seems to serve the anti-abortion cause much better.
From time to time, pro-life advocates appropriate my work on dehumanization to argue that those who take a pro-choice position routinely dehumanize the unborn, paving the way for murder-by-abortion. I want to show why these arguments don’t hold any water.
Many of us watched in horror as a Minnesota policeman casually kneeled on George Floyd’s neck until he lay limp and lifeless on the pavement. This is a manifestation of what I call demonizing dehumanization. Almost always, it is men from racially oppressed groups who are dehumanized in this way.
Some scholars are skeptical of the claim that people dehumanize others by conceiving of them as less-than-human beings—in a literal rather than a figurative sense. However, there is evidence that those who dehumanize others conceive of them as both human and subhuman at the same time.