Dr. Terry Spaise
English 1B Section 14
5 March 2014
Moral Standing on Abortion
To say that a person has moral standing is to give consideration to his or her wellbeing. According to Robert M. Veatch’s The Basic of Bioethics, moral standing is believed to be “that humans (at least normal humans) have moral standing [as well as] other animals” (27). Moral standing is determined by the physical or mental capacities of self-awareness or rationality. However, controversy arises when determining when one actually has full moral standing. Abortion is a controversial topic that directly relates to determining the full moral standing of an embryo or fetus. We are unable to achieve a consensus on the moral standing of an embryo or fetus due to the lack of clear definitions of death (or life), the conflicts of determining fetus sentience and the different viewpoints of the moral standings for a pregnant woman.
The lack of definite definition of death causes problems when determining the moral standing of an embryo or fetus. According to Veatch, there are three definitions of death: higher-brain, whole-brained, and somatic. Each definition provides a different implication for the moral standing of fetuses. The higher-brain death “implies that full moral standing accrues only when the requisite higher functions appear… [having] the capacity for mental function or consciousness” (38). This definition suggests that a fetus would only have full moral standing at about twenty-four weeks of conception and not before that time. The whole-brained death definition suggests that full moral standing would be determined “when [the] capacity for neurological bodily integration or interaction with the environment develops” (38). This implies that a fetus would have full moral standing at about eight to twelve weeks of conception rather than at twenty-four weeks. Yet the somatic definition of death infers that full moral standing for fetus would occur even earlier than...
Cited: Kaposy, Chris. “Two Stalemates In The Philosophical Debate About Abortion And
Why They Cannot Be Resolved Using Analogical Arguments”.
Bioethics 26.2, (2012): 84-92. Print.
Sumner, W.L. A Third Way: The Problem of Abortion, 3rd ed. Belmont.
Wadsworth Publ. Co. 1997. Print.
Van Bogaert, Louis-Jacques. “Sentience and Moral Standing”. South African
Journal of Philosophy 23.3. 2005. Print.
Veatch, Robert M. The Basics of Bioethics, 3rd ed. Boston: Pearson Education,
Inc. 2012. Print.
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