abortion - Bioethics Abortion Ethical Issues I. Personhood...

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Bioethics Abortion – Ethical Issues I. Personhood While the Pro-choice side focuses on proving that a fetus is not a person by articulating necessary conditions for personhood and demonstrating that a fetus does not fulfill one or all of them, the pro-life side focuses on proving that the fetus is a person by providing sufficient conditions for personhood. Examples of Criteria for Personhood used by the Pro-life Side 1. Genetic code/conceived by humans criterion: If a human being has a full genetic code, then it is a person. 2. Criterion of quickening: If a mother starts to feel the baby move, then it is a person. 3. Resemblance Criterion: Something that resembles a person is a person. 4. Potentiality Criterion: A being who has the potentiality to develop into a “full-fledged” human being is a person. 5. Future-like ours: Beings who have the same potentiality we do for a future of experiences (joy and suffering) are persons. Examples of Criteria for Personhood Upheld by the Pro-Choice Side See Noonan below. II. John T. Noonan Jr. “An Almost Absolute Value in History (1970) In his essay, Noonan appeals to the Aristotelian/Christian theological notion of the “ensoulment” of the body. On his interpretation of this notion, what Aristotle and the theologians claimed was that human beings ought not to be discriminated against on the basis of their varying potentialities. On this view, at the moment of conception, the being formed, because it has a potential to become a human, is a human. Therefore, Noonan argues, if you are conceived by human parents you are, at the moment of conception, a human being. A. Three Common Pro-Choice Arguments Noonan’s first outlines and rejects three common arguments containing necessary conditions for personhood that pro-choice advocates typically utilize in order to argue that a fetus is not a human being. 1. Viability Argument – Viability is a necessary pre-condition for personhood. A fetus is dependent on its mother for support, it is not viable without this support. (It couldn’t be taken out of the mother and still survive.) When a baby is born, this viability is no longer necessary, the baby is not dependent on its mother. Therefore, while a baby is a human being, a fetus is not. (P1) To be a person, one must be viable. (P2) A fetus is not viable. Therefore, a fetus is not a person. 1
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Noonan’s Objection: A baby or young child is entirely dependent upon their mothers/fathers for survival—if a child is not cared for, it will die in the same way a fetus would die if taken out of its mother. [Common Retort: The kind of dependence in the latter case is a different kind of dependence.] [**Note – Doctors now place viability at the 23 rd week of pregnancy.] 2. Argument from Experience – A person who has had experiences, i.e., who has lived and has suffered and has memories of these experiences, is more human than one who has not. A fetus has not had any experiences. Therefore a fetus is either not human, or less human than a
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This note was uploaded on 06/15/2011 for the course PHL 116 taught by Professor Sullivan during the Fall '09 term at University of Alabama at Birmingham.

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abortion - Bioethics Abortion Ethical Issues I. Personhood...

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