Are fetuses human beings?
Many people believe that if they are, then abortion is generally wrong.
But what is a human being? What do you mean "human being"?
There are two broad answers or definitions of "human being":
- Human beings are biologically human organisms.
- Human beings are biologically human organisms who are conscious and feeling, with knowledge and emotions and other cognitive, emotional, and social characteristics.
- people who deny that early fetuses are "human beings" generally have something like definition 2 in mind. (Ask them!).
- biologically human organisms who have psychological characteristics such as being conscious and feeling, with knowledge and emotions and other cognitive, emotional, and social characteristics are usually wrong to kill;
- but, fetuses are not "human beings" on this meaning of the term (which is better expressed as "human person"), and so the rule against killing human beings in this sense of the term does not apply to them.
- people who claim that fetuses are human beings generally have something like definition 1 in mind. And they are correct: (human) fetuses are, obviously, biologically human organisms;
- however, that would make abortion wrong only if a premise like this is true:
- On Saying What You Mean: the "Principle of Charity" and the "Principle of Clarity"
- "When does life begin? Biological versus Biographical Life"
- "Fetuses are human beings; all human beings are equal in dignity & worth; so abortion is wrong." Good or bad argument?
- "When does life begin?' and 'Are fetuses human?': Two bad questions to ask about abortion."
- "Is your opinion on abortion wrong? Critical thinking and abortion."