The Moral Status of Fetuses and Embryos
John A. Mitchell, and Scott B. Rae
It is a genetic fact that a fertilized human ovum is 100 percent human. . . . All that is added between conception and death is food, water and oxygen.
-- J. P. Moreland and Norman L. Geisler1
We have raised a whole generation that believes we have more in common with an opossum than with a human fetus.
-- Dennis Prager2
At the root of all discussion regarding human rights is the fundamental question, "Who counts as a human person?" And, more specifically, "When does human personhood begin and end?" The answer to the question at both ends of the spectrum requires metaphysical reflection in three areas: (1) What is a substance and what is a property-thing?; (2) What does it mean to be a human being?; and (3) What does it mean to be a human person? In this chapter, we address these questions and attempt to lay a metaphysical foundation for ethical decision making concerning human rights at the edges of life. While the implications of this analysis extend to a variety of ethical issues, we limit our application to the ontological status of the unborn, and argue that zygotes, embryos and fetuses (hereafter referred to synonymously) are fully and equally human beings and, consequently, human persons.
Developing an ontology of unborn human beings first requires drawing a distinction between substances and property-things. In the tradition of Aristotle and Aquinas, acorns, dogs and human beings are examples of substances. Every substance is an individuated essence that bears accidental properties (i.e., nonessen
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Book title: The Silent Subject:Reflections on the Unborn in American Culture. Contributors: Brad Stetson - Editor. Publisher: Praeger. Place of publication: Westport, CT. Publication year: 1996. Page number: 19.
This material is protected by copyright and, with the exception of fair use, may not be further copied, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means.