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The Moral Status Of An Unborn Child Philosophy Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Philosophy
Wordcount: 1208 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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The moment when you meet that one person that steals your heart. The first kiss, the first intimate moment; two bodies coming together in the procreation of another human being. Sound like the perfect love story and a happy ending. On the other hand, in another part of the world, there is someone being raped, either by someone she never met, or a family member; the moment of two bodies coming together, one of them in terror, yet procreation of another human being has taken place. In scenario number one, both parents wanted the baby; however, and for health reasons, the doctor recommended an abortion. In scenario number two, the raped woman does not want the pregnancy, so she asked for an abortion. One can create many scenarios, many different situations as to why a woman does not wish to continue with a pregnancy; The question here is, is it moral to have an abortion? When does that fetus has a moral right?

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The moral status of an unborn child, has been a debate between pro life groups and abortion rights activists. Moral status is a characteristic that we human moral agents attribute to entities, by virtue of which they matter morally for their own sake, so that we must pay attention to their interest or integrity when we consider action that might affect them, regardless of whether other beings are concerned about them. The abortion debate has turned, to a substantial degree, on the moral status of fetuses, and specifically on whether a fetus has yet become a person (Freeman 177).

Can embryos or fetuses be considered humans or just a part of a pregnant women? The U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Roe v. Wade, gave a clear answer to this question when legalizing abortion in 1973. Before this case came to court, unborn children were never recognized in the legal system as a full legal person. The legal or moral status of an unborn child is simply not clear, yet depending on the jurisdiction and for purposes of wrongful-death suits, insurance coverage, and even to charge someone with vehicular homicide, the unborn child has been considered a person (Giubilini and Minerva).

Furthermore, medical and technological advances have compounded confusion over the status of the unborn. Those who defend the right to abortion often arguing that the state has no right to impose the religious views of one group on all citizens. This assumes the fetus’s lack of moral standing, and so it will be regarded as questionable-beginning with those who believe that abortion violates the unborn’s right to life (Giubilini and Minerva).

All moral theories agree that people have moral standing, that their claims must be considered from the moral point of view. A far more inclusive principle for determining moral standing is suggested by Albert Schweitzer’s ethics of reverence for life. Schweitzer holds that life is sacred. It is good to cherish and maintain life; it is evil to destroy and check life. Schweitzer characterization of life as a will to live and his claim that ethics consist in the necessity of practicing the same reverence for life toward a will to live, as toward our own suggest a kind of golden-rule approach toward all living beings. Because we want to live, we should respect the claim of another to live. His claims lie in its insistence that people should be willing to make significant sacrifices of comfort and convenience to avoid killing living things (Freeman 176).

For the most part, most of us feel that there is something seriously wrong when destroying any living thing. On the other hand, all sorts of things are alive, including bacteria and viruses. I seriously doubt that anyone believes that we should have moral reservations about using antibiotics. So how come bacteria, which are living things, have no moral claims? Well, it begins with interest because interest are compounded out of beliefs, aims, goals, and concerns. Therefore, nonsentient, nonconscious beings do not have interest. Without interest, they cannot have moral standing. Perhaps the fact that a thing is alive gives it a value that no nonliving thing has, but even if living things do have a special value, the mere fact that something is alive does not endow it with moral standing. If that were so, then trees, weeds, and so on would have a claim to our moral attention and concern (Freeman 175).

The ethic of reverence for life is simply too broad; and so, it does not provide a reasonable account of moral standing. So the argument will continue between the groups trying to legalize abortion and the ones against it. The abortion rights activists will continue to claim that fetuses have no moral status; and pro-life groups will continue to claim that the unborn child has a moral status because it is a developing human being. Furthermore, pro choice groups agree that if the unborn child is categorized as fully human, then every abortion should be considered murder. Humans are part of the Homo sapiens species; therefore, one can agree that an unborn child is human; however, it is not considered a person, and as a consequence not fully human (Giubilini and Minerva).

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There is however, a decisive moment or a gradualist approach to the status of the unborn argument. The decisive moment theory, agree that life does begin at the moment of conception but it is not until that unborn child becomes a person, that is worthy of our protection. At the same time, those who take the gradualist position affirmed that the rights of an unborn child are gained gradually. For example, a three-month-old fetus has more right than a zygote, but does not have more right than an adult male (Kaunas 177).

In order for a person to take a position on whether or not an unborn child has a moral status, we must carefully study and understand the biological facts of fetal and prenatal development. Human life begins at conception with the unification of a male sperm and the female ovum. The unification is then transformed into what is called a zygote. All of us alive at one point have been a zygote, therefore, we all have started as a one-celled biological entity. What is more, a zygote supports growth, metabolism, reproduction, and reaction to stimuli, which means that there is no doubt a zygote is biologically alive. So, if a zygote is biologically alive, then it should be considered fully human. Hence, if considered fully human, then an unborn child has a moral status from conception; hence, abortions violate those rights (Kaunas 108).

The debate about abortion will continue until reaching a clear understanding of the moral status of an unborn child. This issue for some people is considered subjective and has no clear definition but for some others, like French geneticist Jermoe L. LeJeune, who while testifying before a Senate Subcommittee, proclaimed:

To accept the fact that after fertilization has taken place a new human has come into being is no longer a matter of taste or opinion. The human nature of the human being from conception to old age is not a metaphysical contention, it is plain experimental evidence (Giubilini and Minerva).


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