Tuesday, April 5, 2022

'When does “life” begin? When it comes to abortion, it depends on what you mean by "life"'

'When does “life” begin? When it comes to abortion, it depends on what you mean by "life"' at Salon


  1. Really great article.

    Want to offer my take on the time when a fetus "develops consciousness." While the structures in the brain may be there around a certain point in gestation, there are several factors that suggest consciousness hasn't genuinely begun yet. For example, the digestive system may be present at some point, but it isn't until after birth that this system will be used. Kidney function partially begins to function in utero but isn't fully relied on till after birth. Lungs may expand and "practice" breathing, but this doesn't actually carry out any real function.

    I mean, that's what happens during gestation - it gets this new human body built and it's reasonable to assume that as the parts build, they will begin to function in to a degree without actually achieving the desired effect of that function.

    Scientific American offered in this article called "When Does Consciousness Arise in Human Babies?" https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/when-does-consciousness-arise/ that consciousness develops in the human fetus and ultimately "flips on" at the crescendo of birth: "a massive surge of norepinephrine—more powerful than during any skydive or exposed climb the fetus may undertake in its adult life—as well as the release from anesthesia and sedation that occurs when the fetus disconnects from the maternal placenta, arouses the baby so that it can deal with its new circumstances. It draws its first breath, wakes up and begins to experience life."

    I would recommend reading some of Elselijn Kingma's journals. Particularly her article on "Were you a Part of your Mother" which argues for the "parthood" model of pregnancy as opposed to the "containment" model. While you might be unable to find that article available easily anymore, I wrote a summary of it on my blog here: https://philosophyinutero.blogspot.com/2020/09/parthood-view-of-pregnancy-makes-more.html

    Would also recommend her article on artificial wombs. This one responds to how we define birth and how artificial wombs challenge the "containment" model of pregnancy's idea of birth being about moving from one location to another: "First, gestatelings are treated as if they had never been born, not in the sense that they haven’t left the maternal body—for they have—but in the sense that they haven’t undergone the transition from a fetal physiology to a neonatal physiology. Thus they are only “born” in the sense that they have changed location from inside to outside the maternal body, i.e. “born-by-location-change”. But they are not “born” in the sense that they have changed their physiology from fetus to neonate, i.e. “born-by-physiology-change.”'

    A fetus undergoes physiological changes at birth. Their physiology is directly correlated with the pregnant person and thus points to the parthood nature of a fetus to a pregnant person's body. It is physiologically comprised in the way that it is in direct response to the physiological connection with the maternal body.

    Thought you might like to read her articles. It bridges the gap between biology and philosophy for me.