India just granted legal personhood to dolphins. And it turns out, they’re not the only country to call non-human entities “persons.” What’s surprising though, is how many of these countries say unborn human beings aren’t persons.
1. Dolphins in India
India’s Parliament declared dolphins (and other Cetaceans, such as Whales) legal persons with a right to life and liberty. Dolphin shows have been banned, since holding these animals in captivity is now illegal. The Central Animal Authority issued the following statement: “Cetaceans…should be seen as ‘non-human persons’ and as such should have their own specific rights.”
Human abortion has been legal in India since 1971. Each year, around 11 million unborn Indians are aborted. They have no legal rights in India.
2. Great Apes in Spain
In 2007, the Balearic Islands (an autonomous community of Spain) granted legal personhood to Great Apes. The following year, the Spanish Parliament approved “human rights for apes,” declaring their right to life and freedom. Declaring their legal personhood bans using apes in Spanish circuses, television commercials or filming.
Abortion has been decriminalized in Spain since 1985 and legalized since 2010. In 2010, there were nearly 115,000 abortions. The right to life and freedom for unborn Spaniards is not protected by law.
3. The Whanganui River in New Zealand
The third largest river in New Zealand was declared a legal person by the Crown in September 2012. After one of the longest court cases in national history, the river was granted the status of an integrated, living whole, complete with rights and interests enforceable by law.
Abortion has been legal in New Zealand since 1977. Between 15,000-20,000 abortions occur annually. Unborn New Zealanders have no rights and interests enforceable by law.
4. The Rainforest in Ecuador
In 2008, this South American country declared the nation’s tropical forests, islands, rivers, and air something usually reserved for humans: legal personhood. The law states: “Natural communities and ecosystems possess the unalienable right to exist, flourish and evolve within Ecuador. Those rights shall be self-executing, and it shall be the duty and right of all Ecuadorian governments, communities, and individuals to enforce those rights.”
Although abortion is nearly always illegal in Ecuador, unborn children who are conceived in a violent act of rape are not always granted their unalienable right to exist, flourish, and evolve within Ecuador.
5. Corporations in the USA
Since at least 1886, corporations have been granted legal personhood in the United States of America. The Supreme Court’s famous Santa Clara v. Southern Pacific Railroad, Inc. decision laid the foundation for Mitt Romney’s eventual ill-fated admission that “corporations are people, my friend.”
Unborn Americans have been denied personhood since the Roe v. Wade decision of 1973. Justice Blackmun admitted then that if “personhood is established … the fetus’ right to life would then be guaranteed.” In 2008, approximately 1.21 million abortions were reported in the USA. Children in the womb are not considered persons with a right to life.
So why isn’t this baby a person?
Countries have recognized all sorts of non-human persons in order to protect them. Doing so hasn’t caused problems like whether to issue birth certificates to dolphins or whether dolphins can represent themselves in court. When pro-choice activists accuse fetal personhood proponents of creating these sorts of legal problems, they’re really just spreading scare tactics.
Whether you think animals, the environment, or corporations should be considered persons or not, one thing should be clear: at least all human beings are persons. Science tells us that babies in the womb are living human beings from the moment of fertilization. Shouldn’t the law reflect that?
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