The Measure Of A Monkey

An Austrian court is due to decide whether a chimpanzee is protected by human rights protections:

One of their central arguments will be that a chimpanzee’s DNA is 96-98.4 per cent similar to that of humans – closer than the relationship between donkeys and horses. They will cite recent findings that wild apes hunt with home-made spears and can fight battles and make peace. In New Zealand, apes – gorillas, orang utans, chimpanzees and bonobos – were granted special rights as ‘non-human hominids’ in 1999 to grant protection from maltreatment, slavery, torture, death and extinction.

There’s a problem here: we don’t provide protections for lifeforms with 100% human DNA — namely fetuses. Austria allows for unrestricted abortions before 14 weeks of gestational age — similar to the rule in Roe v. Wade (before it was replaced by the “viability” standard in Planned Parenthood v. Casey). It seems difficult to argue that the law should argue that legal protections based upon the notion of human rights should extend to a creature that is mostly similar to humans but not to lifeforms which are genetically human.

It seems likely that the Austrian court will reject such a claim, but if they do accept that argument it may present a serious challenge to the validity of Austria’s somewhat permissive laws on abortion.