What’s in a Name? Consider “Embryos”

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8 Responses

  1. Chris says:

    I think you need more argument here–what exactly is factually inaccurate about calling a human embryo a child? Also, I think the abortion-politics issue cuts both ways–isn’t your resistance to the label part of a right-to-abortion agenda designed, ultimately, to maintain Roe?

  2. Moz says:

    Alternatively this could be a step on the way to letting me donate unwanted children for medical research. If people like Chris above are happy to think of embryos as children and acknowledge that a third of them are spontaneously abort we’re well on the way to accepting infanticide (after all, it’s a natural process… many species do it).

  3. Joel says:

    I agree with Chris. You say, “If we think of embryos as “children,” however, we may limit people’s choices on what to do with their leftover embryos,” but you do not dwell much on why it would be an inaccurate designation. Worrying about the political corner we might paint ourselves into reeks of the political agenda you decry in the post, just for the other side.

  4. Nate Oman says:

    I agree with you that as an analytic matter there are problems with thinking of embryos as children. On the other hand, not being a fan of Roe on either constitutional or moral grounds, I am always rather warry of the appeal to the boggy man of pro-life rhetoric. I can understand rejecting the rhetoric if it is analytically unhelpful. On the other hand, to reject it as political based on some neutral appeal to the value of maintaining Roe strikes me as unpersuasive. Such a move is not politically neutral, but rests on a controversial assumption as to the value and legitimacy of enshrining a liberal abortion regime in the constitution and society.

  5. Chris says:

    Moz–Absent implausible normative assumptions about accepting whatever is “natural,” I don’t think your conclusion follows. Sadly, lots of children die. That doesn’t make them not children.

  6. Moz says:

    Chris, no more implausible than pretending that an embryo is a child. If you said a late-stage fetus should have significant moral rights in common with a child on the basis that it is similar in other ways, then yes, I think there’s good grounds for that argument. But saying that a few cells are a person… not so much.

    What makes the embryo a person to you? The way it is completely dependent on you for everything? In which case, why aren’t the lice that live in your eyebrows people? The way it’s genetically human? Like your skin is. The way it might one day be a person? In which case, why draw the line at an embryo? Why not any human egg?

    My point is that embryos are less important to most people than people are, and so there’s a real risk that your claims will lower the perceived value of people rather than lifting the value of embryos. As has happened with sexual assault, now that looking at someone funny is “sexual assault”.

  7. Chris says:

    “What makes the embryo a person to you? … The way it might one day be a person? In which case, why draw the line at an embryo? Why not any human egg?”

    Since you asked, I’d be inclined toward this sort of criterion for personhood–being the same organism that is later an adult. But the ovum doesn’t become an adult–it fuses with another separate organism, producing a new entity.

    I’m not sure what criterion you’d want to use, though. The most common criterion I’ve seen deployed against fetal personhood–Tooley and Warren’s argument that the fetus doesn’t have higher mental function–can’t deal well with the reversibly-comatose-people counterexample. What’s your ground for saying the embryo isn’t a person? Simply that lots of embryos die? Adults die too.

  8. Joel says:

    Isn’t it equally arbitrary to use viability, quickening, or birth as the line for when a baby-to-be becomes a baby?