Thursday, December 30, 2004

"When is your fetus due?"

A few days ago, I posted on the illogic of insisting on a fundamental difference between 'fetus' and 'baby.' Others are discussing the topic too, and an interesting discussion is taking place between James Taranto and Andrew Coulson. It started here and here's the latest installment.

Coulson makes a couple of statements to which I believe Taranto's responses are insufficient:

The difference between a fetus and an infant is that a fetus is a part of a pregnant woman's body whereas an infant is not.

Any rights of a fetus are secondary because its existence is secondary to (and until late in the pregnancy, entirely dependent on) the woman in whose womb it is located.

You can check Taranto's responses, but here's what I think.

Coulson argues that a fetus is entirely dependent on the mother until late in the pregnancy, when the fetus is actually dependent on the mother for far longer. I'm not a parent, but my guess is that a fetus is dependent until at least 4 or 5 years after it (one should not refer to fetuses as he or she) is born.

The moment of birth does not change the fetus' level of dependency at all.

Furthermore, being dependent upon someone does not make your rights secondary to theirs. I don't think this point requires explanation; I'm pretty surprised that anyone would make such a ludicrous argument.

Aside from the dependency argument, science is rapidly pushing viability earlier and earlier (even now fetuses survive outside the womb from early in the pregnancy), and the day will probably arrive when a fetus can grow from conception to birth in an artificial womb.

The inescapable fact is that the fetus is an individual person from the very earliest stages of development, and dependency upon another person cannot change that.