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Feyisayo Anjorin

Freelance Director, Afro-Carribean Media Group


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Is a Fetus a Person?

The debate over whether abortion should be considered as murder often focuses on the question of whether the fetus is a person or not.
Here the issue of culture and religion comes in.
But what does it take to identify a fetus as a person? There are thinkers today with the belief that a fetus can be called a human being, but should not be called a person because it takes more to be a person than just having genetic material.

Philosopher Mary Ann Warren argues that in order to be considered a person, a being should have the following characteristics:

1. A developed capacity for reasoning.
2. Self awareness
3.Consciousness and ability to feel pain
4. Self motivated activity
5. Capacity to comminicate messages of an indefinite variety of types.

It would seem as if even new born babies may not be considered as persons according to the aforementioned school of thought.

No doubt infanticide has always got widespread condemnation, but abortion has always been a controversial issue.
So, what do you think? Is a fetus a person?


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    Oct 7 2012: ""At eight weeks, the intestines begin to form and teeth start growing under the gums. By the end of the "embryonic stage" ( this stage begins at week 4 during pregnancy), the embryo has developed joints and the beginning of the " irises ". Major organs have begun their development, as well as the CNS (central nervous system). This would be the end of the eighth week ( embryonic stage).""

    Seems to me the killing of these little people can only be justified by the need to save mum's life. We live in a strange world.

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      Oct 7 2012: Its a strange world indeed. But considering the fact that some thinkers believe that a fetus is a human being(even if not a person) dont you think this is a strong-enough arguement against abortion?
      • Oct 7 2012: Tell me about it. Fetus isn't valued high just because of this ridiculous law that it has no right to live and to be born if its mom decides to abandon it. It's a really serious problem we all should talk about intensely, but the fact that it's still unresolved (in a way that fetus can't be regarded as worthy of living) always troubles my mind. Btw, great question, Feyisayo.
        We should respect women's rights, but as for this matter that shows so many lives are at stake, I can't dare to say that it's okay to get rid of fetus anyway its mom wants.
        As Peter says, "Seems to me the killing of these little people can only be justified by the need to save mum's life", only particular cases like this should be justified, indeed.
        By fundamentally respecting women's rights, how can we save fetus's life?
        Are both of desires nonetheless contradictory?
        So sad..
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          Oct 7 2012: Fetuses do not have rights because they are NOT considered persons. They cannot make decisions. If you cannot make decisions, someone else has to make them for you. Children are not persons either which is why the courts can take over decision making for them if the parents cannot.

          So what you are talking about is taking away a right of a woman who DOES have rights because she is a PERSON and grant rights to something that is not a person. By what stretch of the imagination is that ethically correct?
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          Oct 7 2012: @ Linda Taylor

          How do we determine if a fetus can make decisions or not?
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          Oct 7 2012: @ Spencer
          The ability to make a decision develops over time. For instance, the law does not consider that a minor has the ability to make decisions so they are not allowed to sign a contract or sue someone without an 'agent.' This idea of an agent, or someone able to make a decision, and personhood goes back a long way. Varying philosophers and legal people have come to some consensus on what it takes to be a person with moral agency able to make decisions. Some criteria include the list by Ms. Warren above.

          But what everyone agrees on is that decisions are based on the concepts of reason and agency. A fetus has neither of those.


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