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http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/9113394/Killing-babies...

The article, published in the Journal of Medical Ethics, says newborn babies are not “actual persons” and do not have a “moral right to life”....They argued: “The moral status of an infant is equivalent to that of a fetus in the sense that both lack those properties that justify the attribution of a right to life to an individual.”

Rather than being “actual persons”, newborns were “potential persons”. They explained: “Both a fetus and a newborn certainly are human beings and potential persons, but neither is a ‘person’ in the sense of ‘subject of a moral right to life’.

This is the fundamental problem with the objection to abortion that foetus's are not "people" but are merely "potential". The argument can be used far too broadly and can justify the killing of a newborn child. So my question to those who use the "potential" argument, is how do you distinguish between a newborn and a foetus, keeping in mind that Oxford professors can't seem to manage it.

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But the thing is, it has the capacity to develop these things. To cut it off, while it is developing them, is unreasonable, because it has all the tools in place, you're just not letting it put them together.

 

First of all the house is selfassembling and the person it will belong to if allowed to finish doesn't exist yet. Completely different from vandalizing a random persons property.

There are no lifeforms that exists without a body, unless you count spirits. So to me, the human body in itself is insignificant in determening the value of human life even if it's a requirement for achieving what's important. 

What's important is our strong sense of self, our ever growing collection of memories and our ability to see the future as a form of untapped resource. This isn't there in the womb because when a fetus lies in the womb it is not awake. That would be a tremendous waste of energy, not to mention increadibly boring. Except for sound there's not much to sense in there anyway. It has all the tools ready to begin constructing it's identity and self-awareness before it gets born, but what it lack is an environment to make use of them.

This doesn't mean I think fetuses are completely inactive. Their brains are operating and limbs are moving, but it's all determined subconsciously by the brain, doing whatever needs to be done at any given time. When we're born we have no idea what's going on or what we are. This we have to learn with the tools we have been given. We can't remember anything from we were infants because we had no idea what to make of what we were seeing at that time. 

You're now being reductionist to an absurd degree. Shall we describe shooting someone in the head as being igniting an explosive set of chemicals to propel a metallic object of X weight at Y speed at a precise Z angle so that it comes into molecular contact with...

 


I disagree.  A zygote has no thought skill, whatsoever.  Even babies have begun to develop thinking skills in order to make attempts at communication of what they want and need, (even if that communication comes in the form of earsplitting shrieks occasionally), display attentiveness as to the world around them, and will soon grow into a person with opinions, cognitive thought, and a personality of its own.  A zygote, however, will do none of these things.  Therefore, I see your reductionist argument as invalid; Nachtelf was simply being realistic when saying 

And here is where you go wrong. You're anthropomorphising a tiny clump of dividing cells and you're looking at it with a teleologic lens. All it is doing is cell division, it is not "trying" or "doing its best".

I disagree.  A zygote has no thought skill, whatsoever.  Even babies have begun to develop thinking skills in order to make attempts at communication of what they want and need, (even if that communication comes in the form of earsplitting shrieks occasionally), display attentiveness as to the world around them, and will soon grow into a person with opinions, cognitive thought, and a personality of its own.  A zygote, however, will do none of these things.  Therefore, I see your reductionist argument as invalid; Nachtelf was simply being realistic when saying

 

A zyogte does not need thinking skill, it has the DNA to tell it how to do these things. It is the DNA that is in the process of attempting to complete its task, IE Grow the baby. Whether or not it has the capacity now isn't as relevent as whether it is attempting to develop the capacity, and is growing the full capacity.

And even if there was a "someone," it wouldn't matter.

I am a legal person; I don't think anybody doubts my moral standing as a human being.  And yet if I found a way to take up residence inside your body, you would not be required to keep me in there, even if evicting me meant I'd die.  Hell, we've got states in the U.S. where, if a person enters your HOME without your permission, you can shoot them.  And yet we think that the government should force women to keep embryos inside their BODIES against their will?  

I don't like abortions.  I wish they happened only when necessary to save a woman's life.  I think we should take positive action--more support for families, adoption reform, programs to make it easier for women to continue their education if they become pregnant--to reduce the abortion rate.  But, I don't believe for a moment that we should be granting embryos rights that nobody else has--the right to take up occupancy inside another person's body--and denying pregnant women rights that everybody else has--the right to determine whether you will or will not donate parts of your body to sustain another life.  If a person's child needs a bone marrow transplant to save their life, and the parent is the only possible donor, the parent is NOT legally required to donate that marrow.  Their refusal means their child will die, but they are still granted the bodily autonomy to make that choice.  Everybody has that right, except some people would like to take it away from pregnant women.

The question of the moral/legal standing of the embryo is philosophically interesting but, at this point, peripheral to the debate.  Until we can extract an embryo from a woman's body without killing it (at which point we'd need to decide if it should be up to the woman or parents to decide if it should live, or if it should have its life sustained regardless of their wishes), the moral standing of that embryo is not really of much practical relevance.

Hell, we've got states in the U.S. where, if a person enters your HOME without your permission, you can shoot them.  And yet we think that the government should force women to keep embryos inside their BODIES against their will? 

 

Ironically the same states who allow that are the ones who are most likely to ban abortion.

 

However, if I believed a growing fetus were sentiently aware and appreciative of it's life and suroundings I would actually be opposing casual abortion, even if it means taking away the woman's right to decide. I don't think it would be right to allow a healthy woman to make that decission, if the human inside her already had valuable life experience. I also think that if this were the case, very few women would actually choose to abort, just like very few women would like to smother their babies.

I don't know, actually.  Women from conservative religious traditions, who learn that embryos/fetuses are sentient persons, are just as if not more likely to have abortions than average women.  When it comes down to it, and a woman is pregnant when she really doesn't want to be, her theories about the nature of the embryo seem to go out the window.  (And, of course, the opposite is true.  I don't believe that embryos are sentient people but have continued an unplanned pregnancy, and many pro-choice women I know have carried unplanned pregnancies to term and raised the babies.  The fact that they didn't believe the embryo was a person didn't dissuade them from having the baby.)

Unfortunately, as long as there are unplanned pregnancies, there will be elective abortions.  Countries were abortion is illegal have abortion rates just as high if not higher than countries where it's legal.

http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/health/abortion-rates-highest...

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/12/news/12iht-12abortion.7863868.html

http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/journals/25s3099.html

Legal restrictions against abortion simply don't work, and end up endangering the lives of women (so, two lives lost, instead of one).  And that's true regardless of how a given cultures views fetal life.

(And, before it's asked, if it turned out that laws against murder 1) didn't do anything to reduce the murder rate, 2) quite possibly led to higher rates of murder, and 3) led to a higher death rate overall because many people were killed as they committed murder, I think we needed to seriously rethink our laws against murder.  The point of laws against murder is primarily to protect life.  If they were demonstrably failing to do that, and were in fact endangering more lives, it probably would be time to find better ways to curb violence than legal prohibitions.)

I am a legal person; I don't think anybody doubts my moral standing as a human being.  And yet if I found a way to take up residence inside your body, you would not be required to keep me in there, even if evicting me meant I'd die.


There is another factor to consider though. You're scenerio sort of ignores the fact that the fetus was not put there because it wanted to be, but because it was put there. If I was forced to live in your home against my will and could quite literally do nothing to stop it, it is rather unfair to punish me, who has done nothing wrong, especially then since I am, if forced to leave, also forced to die, again through no fault of my own.

Fair or not, though, the law would not require me to put you up indefinitely.  If somebody left a baby in my house, I am not required to keep that baby in my home and care for it.  The fact that that baby didn't choose to be in my home and needs to be taken care of doesn't mean that I am required, by virtue of it being in my home, to provide that care myself.  

We just can't pretend like there is any other situation in which we'd even consider forcing another person to allow somebody to occupy their body against their will or to donate parts of their body to sustain life against their will.  If you think abortion should be illegal, you want to grant embryos rights that nobody else in society has, and you want to deny pregnant women rights that everybody else has.  If you think that should happen, then you think that should happen, but it can't be denied that that's what it comes down to.

On the original topic, I think I actually agree that newborn babies aren't persons in a meaningful sense.  I don't know, there's a point at which you just see a baby become aware of their surrounding, and aware of the people around them, and interactive with the world.  It's usually around about 6 weeks or so.  It's like they have developed a capacity for relationship, with others and with the world.  They go from being cute little things that just kind of lay there while you take care of them, to being people you have a genuine, two-way relationship with.

I have no problem with the idea that perhaps infants aren't human in some sort of full, meaningful sense until then.  I don't think that means we can or should have the right to kill them, at all.  I find that idea abhorrent.  But the idea that a newborn isn't a person in a meaningful sense really doesn't bother me, and I think it might have some truth to it.  But, again, I don't think abortion has anything to do with the personhood of the fetus but the personhood of the woman.  If a full-grown man were living in my uterus and depending on my body for sustenance, I think I would have every legal right to kick him out, whether that would be the right choice morally or not.  And if a person not living inside somebody's uterus never develops the capacity to relate to the world and others, and never becomes a person in a meaningful sense, I don't think that means it should be legally okay to end their life.

Fair or not, though, the law would not require me to put you up indefinitely.


I think they would if they had discovered that YOU were the one responsable for putting me in the condition that meant I could not leave your house without dying.

We just can't pretend like there is any other situation in which we'd even consider forcing another person to allow somebody to occupy their body against their will or to donate parts of their body to sustain life against their will.  If you think abortion should be illegal, you want to grant embryos rights that nobody else in society has, and you want to deny pregnant women rights that everybody else has.  If you think that should happen, then you think that should happen, but it can't be denied that that's what it comes down to.



I disagree. The embryo's situation is very specific, but it could be imagined. If persons X & Z takes person Y and cripples them to the point of not being able to leave place X (which belongs to person X) without dying, the state would have no option but to say that person X and Z must look after person Y in place X until such a time as they can leave.

Hm, this is getting kind of interesting. I agree with vertigo that a woman should have a legal obligation to sustain the child in the very unlikely scenario it acctually were a valid person. I don't believe that is the case though.

 

And if a person not living inside somebody's uterus never develops the capacity to relate to the world and others, and never becomes a person in a meaningful sense, I don't think that means it should be legally okay to end their life.

 

I think this is the most important criteria. If people really knew they were fully developed persons just like you and I, they would be more restrictive of themselves and make that sacrifice. I think however most people have an intuitive reasoning that this can not be.

Of course you raise a good point about how women just as often choose abortion regardless of what they believe is right or how accessible it is. But I wonder if not this might be more because having a baby ouside wedlock in societies where abortion is illegal is also highly frawned upon, and that they therefore are immidiately more afraid of the social stigma resulting from having a bastard child, than they are of eternal damnation. With abortion this problem goes away and they only have to struggle with their conscience without anybody knowing.

 

I disagree. The embryo's situation is very specific, but it could be imagined. If persons X & Z takes person Y and cripples them to the point of not being able to leave place X (which belongs to person X) without dying, the state would have no option but to say that person X and Z must look after person Y in place X until such a time as they can leave.

 

No they wouldn't. They would expropriate the house, take whatever remains of person Y into their own custody, and then throw X and Z in jail.

 

 

The state would absolutely not, under any circumstance, require another person to take care of you.  Even parents have ways to relinquish custody of their children.  

Feminists have long posed this thought experiment: Let's say you woke up one day and another person--a legal person, a good person--let's say Archbishop Desmond Tutu--was connected to you by a series of tubes.  Those tubes caused his life to be entirely sustained by your body.  If you disconnected from those tubes for the next 9-1/2 months, Archbishop Desmond Tutu would die.  

Does the state have the right to force you to spend the next 9-1/2 months walking around with Desmond Tutu attached to you?

No.  It's that simple.  Absolutely not.  The state would not and could not require that of you.

Does that mean you should disconnect the tubes?  Probably not.  I wouldn't.  But our legal obligations and moral obligations do not always line up perfectly.  

If it were possible to remove an embryo from a woman's body without killing it, then we could talk about personhood rights.  At that point it would be relevant, as we considered whether that removed, independent embryo had a right to have its life sustained or if the parents should have the right to decide to kill it.  

But otherwise we're creating a situation in which, unlike any other part of anybody else's body, a woman's uterus is under the control of the state.  And while I'm not one to say that men shouldn't have a role in discussions about abortion, I do think that people who don't have and will never have a uterus may not necessarily be able to understand what it means to have a part of your body--like a really central, important, meaningful part--under state control.  

We also need to consider that pregnancy carries with it risk.  Pregnancy can be dangerous for women.  So if the state compels a woman to house an embryo in her uterus against her will, they are potentially imperiling her health.  I know many women who've had pregnancy complications, sometimes serious ones.  Does the state have the right to not just dictate what a woman must do with her uterus but also to potentially endanger her health?  

I just want to return to castle doctrine laws: the idea is that an unwanted intruder is a potential threat.  Even a *wanted* fetus is a potential threat.  If adult males are seen as having the right to use lethal force to protect themselves from even the *potential* threat a person entering their home unwanted might pose, how can it possibly be argued that women don't have the legal right to expel a potential threat from their uterus?

Let's say you woke up one day and another person--a legal person, a good person--let's say Archbishop Desmond Tutu--was connected to you by a series of tubes.  Those tubes caused his life to be entirely sustained by your body.

 

But this is where I agree with Vertigo in case if it were a person in a valid sense. This person, however unplanned it might have been, didn't just appear miraculously. So a woman shouldn't be totally taken aback if someone were to appear there, and she should therefor also be required to take responcibility for it in this very unlikely scenario. And the guy who helped should of course be legally required to aid her, at the minimum with financial support. I know I'm a guy, and will never know how it's like, but in this case the fetus would have every right to life imo, at least as long as the pregnancy is healthy. But for me personally, this isn't an issue becasue fetuses can't possibly be persons.

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