Apparently, now is a pretty good time to be a river in New Zealand. For the first time in the world, a river has been granted the same rights as a human being. The local Māori tribe of Whanganui has been fighting to give the Te Awa Tupua, according to a report in the Guardian, “its own legal identity with all the corresponding rights, duties and liabilities of a legal person.”
The tribe has always viewed this river as an ancestor, and they have long recognized it as a person, so they undertook a 140 year legal challenge to make this status legal.
The irony is killing me. Abortion is legal in New Zealand under 20 weeks for a variety of reasons such as, “serious danger to life, serious danger to physical health, serious danger to mental health, any form of incest or sexual relations with a guardian, mental sub normality, foetal abnormality.”
Beyond that, this particular tribe traces their genealogy through this river. According to their religious beliefs, everything in the universe is one, so humans are virtually the equals of the river and should therefore have equivalent legal status.
However, I would challenge this tribe to consider arguing the same line for the defense of unborn human lives as well. Maybe they are pro-life in their religious beliefs that all life is indeed valuable; I don’t know that. However, I do know that they were able to move this piece of legislation regarding the third largest river in New Zealand based on the belief that what they view as a part of the universe and therefore equivalent to a human life is valuable of personhood status.
In order to be consistent, it seems to me that they would not advocate for the destruction of unborn human life either since they are similarly part of the universe. The unborn child would be made of the same parts of the universe as any other person from this worldview of this tribe. Therefore, in order to be consistent, it would seem to me that the Whanganui would similarly be willing to fight against abortion in order to protect a part of the universe with many human characteristics even at early stages of development that certainly should have the protection of personhood if a river, which frankly has very little in common with humanity, is granted that status.
Interestingly, this legislation applies to other people beyond this one tribe. This river is the third-largest in New Zealand, so there are certainly going to be external parties that are potentially affected by this legislation. Often times, I feel like pro-choice advocates argue that the government should not impose on the lives of private citizens, but the government of New Zealand apparently feels that they can do that to defend the right to personhood of certain entities. Apparently New Zealand feels that a violation of personhood is a great enough evil that they need to enact legislation to protect the dignity and personhood of, in this case, a river.
If they are willing to fight that hard for the personhood of a river which, outside of religious belief, has very little in common with the ancestry of humanity, how much more should the government of New Zealand be willing to fight for the personhood of the unborn child had which, objectively and scientifically, is a distinct human being living inside the mother with its own genetic code?
I know this will never happen, but I at least strive for a consistent worldview, and it seems to me that the next logical step in order to be consistent for the government of New Zealand is to ban abortion.