singer 1993 - practical ethics pp 138-143 149-152

singer 1993 - practical ethics pp 138-143 149-152 -...

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Practical Ethics THE CONSERVATIVE POSITION The central argument against abortion, put as a formal argu- ment, would go something like this: First premise: It is wrong to kill an innocent human being. Second premise: A human fetus is an innocent human being. Conclusion: Therefore it is wrong to kill a human fetus. The usual liberal response is to deny the second premise of this argument. So it is on whether the fetus is a human being that the issue is joined, and the dispute about abortion is often taken to be a dispute about when a human life begins. On this issue the conservative position is difficult to shake. The conservative points to the continuum between the fertilised egg and child, and challenges the liberal to point to any stage in this gradual process that marks a morally significant dividing line. Unless there is such a line, the conservative says, we must either upgrade the status of the earliest embryo to that of the child, or downgrade the status of the child to that of the embryo; but no one wants to allow children to be dis- patched on the request of their parents, and so the only tenable position is to grant the fetus the protection we now grant the child. Is it true that there is no morally significant dividing line between fertilised egg and child? Those commonly suggested are: birth, viability, quickening, and the onset of consciousness. Let us consider these in tum. Birth Birth is the most visible possible dividing line, and the one that would suit liberals best. coincides to some extent with our sympathies - we are less disturbed at the destruction of a fetus we have never seen than at the death of a being we can all see, hear and cuddle. But is this enough to make birth the line that 138
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Taking Life: The Embryo and the Fetus decides whether a being mayor may not be killed? The con- servative can plausibly reply that the fetuslbaby is the same entity, whether inside or outside the womb, with the same human features (whether we can see them or not) and the same degree ofawareness and capacity for feeling pain. Aprematurely born infant may well be less developed in these respects than a fetus nearing the end of its normal term. It seems peculiar to hold that we may not kill the premature infant, but may kill the more developed fetus. The location of a being - inside or outside the womb - should not make that much difference to the wrongness of killing it. Viability If birth does not mark a crucial moral distinction, should we push the line back to the time at which the fetus could survive outside the womb? This overcomes one objection to taking birth as the decisive point, for it treats the viable fetus on a par with . the infant, born prematurely, at the same stage of development. Viability is where the United States Supreme Court drew the line in Roe v.
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This note was uploaded on 02/28/2011 for the course PHIL 205 taught by Professor Carter during the Spring '09 term at BYU.

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singer 1993 - practical ethics pp 138-143 149-152 -...

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