argument top image

Is abortion ethical? Show more Show less
Back to question

There are debates all over the world about whether or not abortion should be legal, and many people pick which side based on their feelings on the morality of abortion. Frequently, the debate centers around disagreements of the moral status of the fetus, and at what point it has all the rights of an adult. Other ethical debates focus on the rights of the mother or the circumstances of conception.

Abortion is ethical Show more Show less

Abortion is a matter of preventing cells from continuing to grow. Some arguments for the ethicality of abortion are arguments for the potential parent's right to control their body and arguments for fetuses not being human beings.
(1 of 3) Next position >

A fetus is not a person

Personhood requires a certain level of consciousness and rationality, of which a fetus is incapable. Therefore, it does not have the full rights of a human being.

The Argument

The moral status of a creature is based on the status of their personhood. That is to say, things that are persons have more rights and are owed more, then things that are not persons. A fetus is not a person; therefore, it does have a full set of rights that a person has. Since it does not possess such rights, like the right to life, it is not morally wrong to kill a fetus. Certain characteristics are required for a creature to be considered a person. A creature must be conscious of itself and the world. This includes the ability to feel pain. It also can conceive of itself as something. Such as an athlete or a Christian, and so on. A person has the ability to problem-solve and to communicate in some way. Finally, a person can engage in a self-motivated activity. [1] A fetus does not meet the criteria of personhood. Infants show limited signs of self-awareness. A fetus's brain in the early stages of pregnancy is certainly not developed enough to be self-aware, nor is its brain developed enough to feel pain. The same can be said for the other characteristics. A fetus's brain is simply not developed enough to fulfill the requirements of personhood. Because of that, it does not have a right to life, which means abortion is ethical.

Counter arguments

While the fetus may not be able to access the rational capacities of a grown adult, it will eventually be able to access those capabilities. The distinction is akin to that of latent versus actualized capacities.[1] Someone talking in a conversation is actualizing a capacity for speech. The same person may be capable of learning to play the piano if they chose to take lessons. The capacity to learn the piano might be compared to the capacity of a fetus to be a rational, self-aware adult. Neither one of those things have been achieved, but the capacity is there.



[P1] A person is a rational and self-conscious being. [P2] Only persons have a right to life. [P3] A fetus is neither rational nor self-conscious. {P4] Therefore, a fetus does not have a right to life.

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P2] Claiming only persons have a right to life is arbitrary.




Not sure yet? Read more ↑


This page was last edited on Friday, 14 Aug 2020 at 19:20 UTC

Explore related arguments