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Feyisayo Anjorin

Freelance Director, Afro-Carribean Media Group

TEDCRED 100+

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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 30 2012: @ Margo Kirkpatrick RE: "I don't see how a person . . ."The specific question before us is whether or not a fetus is a person in terms of the Constitution of the United States. The Supreme Court has ruled (legislated) that the answer is "No". In the USA you can deliberately terminate the gestation of a human being under almost any condition. Thus abortion is not a crime, it is not considered to be violence against another person. Folks who support and participate in abortions can correctly say they are not doing harm to a person. That is why some say they have the right to abort. They do not say they are taking the life of an innocent person. They say they are "ridding the mother's body of the product of conception". Millions of times since 1973 in America the rights of women have been trampled underfoot, unborn women that is.
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      Oct 30 2012: The only ones "trampling" anyone Edward, are those who try to impose their own beliefs on women, who have the right to decide how their bodies will be used.
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        Oct 31 2012: I believe all women and men have inalienable rights. Those of us who are able can fight for our rights as we understand them. But the old, the infirm, the disenfranchised, and the unborn need someone to fight for them. I think we all have a share in the task of helping the helpless. Do you disagree Colleen?
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          Oct 31 2012: Edward,
          You are trying to fight to have control over a woman's choices because of YOUR religious beliefs.
        • Nov 4 2012: Edward,
          The UDHR states that everyone has a right to religion and their own beliefs. And in Roe v Wade it was concluded that any woman, for any reason may have an abortion.
          my belief is that this is a good law because under the circumstances of rape no woman no matter the age should have to go through with having a baby after having sex without consent. We should not be able to control a woman's choice of having an abortion it is their choice to make not ours.
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        Oct 31 2012: Do you disagree that the helpless need our help?
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          Oct 31 2012: Edward,
          You KNOW that I do not get distracted by your diversionary tactics.

          The topic is:
          "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."

          A) It is determined, by law, that a fetus is not a person.
          B) Abortion is legal in the US.

          What part of that do you not understand?

          I assume you have never had to make the choice to carry a pregnancy to term, or have an abortion. If you did ever have to make that difficult choice for yourself, I would support whatever you chose...just as I support many women in the choices they make for themselves. Whatever YOUR religious beliefs are, it does NOT give you the right to control a woman's choice for herself.
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        Oct 31 2012: The part I don't understand is your reluctance to give a simple, direct reply to a valid, related question. One last try and then I will hopefully begin another lengthy hiatus from your incessant nonsequiturs. Here goes: Do you disagree that unborn babies are unable to fight for their rights?If you choose to not answer that specific question please spare me any further diatribes and do not respond to me directly. Thank you Colleen!
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          Oct 31 2012: I have answered your question several times Edward, and it does not help your argument to be disrespectful.
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      Oct 31 2012: Hi Ed,

      It is very difficult to discuss this topic putting religion aside.

      Nobody considers an egg, or a spermatozoid a person, correct? and a fertilized egg of a few days has much more in common with either one of those than it has with a newborn.

      So, if it were possible... putting religion aside for a moment, where does one draw the artificial line between a spermatozoid, or an egg, and a newborn? a few days? a few weeks? when certain characteristics appear? which characteristics? How does one factor in both the jurisdiction and the wellbeing of the mother? Does the quality of life that can be offered to the offspring play any role? or is it just a matter of ensuring babies are born and then passing on responsibility to someone else?
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        Oct 31 2012: Good points Andres. I think the question is as much biology as it is religion, probably more. If we stick to biology and trace the full life cycle of a homo sapien from beginning to end we see that it begins when an egg is fertilized by a sperm and it ends when metabolism and respiration ceases. Independent gametes are not homo sapiens but zygotes are. To try and justify saying a zygote is not one of the phases of human life one must leave biology and find a rationale in law, ethics, philosophy, or elsewhere. If my spiritual beliefs were different I truly do not see how it would change my understanding of biology, which is the only proper science to provide the answer to Mr.Anjorin's question. Thank you, and be well sir.
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          Oct 31 2012: Oh baloney. You can make an embryo in a dish and destroy it at will. Nobody is calling it helpless. People pick and choose and draw artificial lines. What happens when we can carry an embryo to term in a vat? It will happen some day you know. So all of a sudden embryos are helpless humans?

          Actually, when you can grow an embryo in a vat, I would probably be OK with ending abortion. Women get to choose and the fetus gets to live. Just take the fetus out, throw it in a jar and walk away. Someone else can pay for it and raise it. Maybe the government? Oh but wait, the government gets its money from you and me. But I don't want to pay for it so you can. But then, who would own it?

          At current estimates we would need about 50,000 vats a year. Someone could make a fortune. And in about 10 years we would have an additional 500,000 children to school, who would of course in another 10 years need some additional vats. Maybe some jobs so they could be taxed to support the vat program.

          But people don't want a vat program. They want women to be the vats.

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