HomeoldDebunking the argument that “fetuses aren’t children”

Debunking the argument that “fetuses aren’t children”

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“Fetuses aren’t children.”

The response to my tweet, which read, “Killing children – at any developmental stage – should be illegal,” was as follows:

The subsequent exchange proceeded as follows:

The question was posed as to whether adolescents could be considered children. If children are children at one developmental stage, they are children at every developmental stage.

K.K.: “A fetus lacks the abilities and physical characteristics that even a newborn possesses.”

I must admit that I am somewhat perplexed by this assertion. A foetus at 39 weeks gestation is still a foetus. One might reasonably inquire as to whether she possesses any of the characteristics typically associated with a newborn infant.

K.K.: “It is evident from ultrasounds that she resembles a baby. However, she is still unable to breathe, move, eat, or vocalize in the manner of an infant.

While I am inclined to engage in discourse with the aforementioned individual, I am compelled to express my dismay at the flawed reasoning employed. By asserting that “fetuses are not children,” she was essentially claiming that:

There is an arbitrary developmental standard that people must meet to become children.

Having the abilities and physical characteristics of a newborn apparently qualifies a person as a child worthy of protection.

Looking like a baby is not enough. If you can’t breathe, move, eat and vocalise like a baby, you’re not human enough. And you are free to be killed.

I would suggest three potential solutions that recognise the inherent dignity and value of all humanity.

1) One Concrete Standard

In lieu of the arbitrary standards that have been proposed, there is already a simple, scientifically accurate standard of when our humanity attaches. From the moment of its inception, the human being is human and thus deserving of protection. (It is of no consequence to me whether one refers to her as a child, an infant, a baby, or a zygote.) The point is that all of these stages of human development, including adolescence, teenager, adult, and elderly, are equally valuable. There is no “un-valuable” stage of human life. It is similarly evident that at no stage of human life are we not human.

He was not a typical newborn, but he has always been equally valuable.

2) The Failure of Abilities and Appearance

Let us consider the following. Typically, newborns are capable of exhibiting a range of behaviours, including crying, eating, experiencing pain, recognising when their needs are being met, moving and kicking, opening their eyes, and eliminating waste.

What about newborns who are born with only part of their brain, no palate and no ability to eat, a disorder in which they cannot feel pain, tied intestines and no ability to eliminate their waste, missing limbs or fused eyes? It is debatable whether these newborns can be considered people. Technically, they lack the abilities and physical characteristics typically associated with newborns. In fact, a 39-week-old fetus (or a 20-week-old one for that matter) more closely resembles a newborn.

It is therefore pertinent to question whether our “abilities” and “appearance” should indeed be the standard by which our humanity is measured. While some abortion advocates appear to hold this view, it is more humane to argue that once a unique human being has come into existence, that individual is human. If one is human, it is imperative that others treat them with dignity and equality, regardless of their appearance or abilities.

3) Lack of Appropriate Justification

The fundamental issue is exemplified by the assertion of my debater that rights are bestowed upon an individual when they are able to perform the basic functions of respiration, mobility, nutrition, and communication in a manner comparable to that of an infant. Another woman with whom I engaged in debate asserted that the standard was “living and breathing and walking around like you and I are.” While our society often fails to acknowledge the existence of a universal standard of rights, this is particularly evident when considering the rights of the human being.

It is erroneous to posit that a person’s right to life is contingent upon their ability to walk. One cannot argue that the capacity to vocalize is a prerequisite for the right to life. It is not within one’s rights to state that a person must be able to breathe, eat, or move in order to have the right to life. Furthermore, it is not within one’s rights to claim that a person must be aware of their surroundings, recognise their place in this world, understand their needs, desires or emotions in order to be entitled to life. The only logical standard for a civilised society is that all members are treated equally.

Every human life, at every stage of development, is entitled to equal rights with regard to the right to life. The argument is, in essence, quite straightforward.

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on liveactionnews.org.


Daniel Miller is responsible for nearly all of National Right to Life News' political writing.

With the election of Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency, Daniel Miller developed a deep obsession with U.S. politics that has never let go of the political scientist. Whether it's the election of Joe Biden, the midterm elections in Congress, the abortion rights debate in the Supreme Court or the mudslinging in the primaries - Daniel Miller is happy to stay up late for you.

Daniel was born and raised in New York. After living in China, working for a news agency and another stint at a major news network, he now lives in Arizona with his two daughters.

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