Young human fetus. Photograph copyrighted, Films for Christ. From the motion picture, “The Origin of Life”.
Throughout the history of the abortion controversy, many have put forth criteria by which to judge whether a human organism has reached the point in its development at which it is fully human. Some criteria are based on so-called “decisive” moments in fetal development. Others are based on certain conditions any entity—born or unborn—must fulfill in order to be considered “fully human.” And others argue that there is no “decisive” moment but that the unborn's rights increase as its body develops.
All these views are flawed. The pro-life view that full humanness begins at conception is the most coherent—and is more consistent with our basic moral intuitions.
In order to defend this position adequately, I will critique a number of decisive moment and gradualist theories, whose defenses contain many objections to the pro-life view.
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Author: Francis J. Beckwith, adapted from a series in Christian Research Journal, Spring 1991. Provided with permission by Summit Ministries and the author.
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