General Question

maxlynn's avatar

What are the rights of unborn children?

Asked by maxlynn (7points) June 13th, 2011
30 responses
“Great Question” (2points)

what are the rights of unborn children as against the abortee’s right to privacy.

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Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

In this nation (the USA) a dairy goat has more rights. By the definition of law an unborn child has not rights, they are seen just as tissue unless their death came by way of someone other than its mother, then it gets seen as human only for the sake to give the criminal more time.

fredesterly's avatar

They have the right to born….....

Mamradpivo's avatar

I’m going to stick with “none.”

Response moderated (Unhelpful)
Nullo's avatar

Morally, they have the right to a shot at life out in the world.

tinyfaery's avatar

A group of cells is not a person. A parasite is not a person. An unborn child is not a person and thus has no rights, and it shouldn’t.

syz's avatar

When you say “unborn children”, what do you mean? Unfertilized eggs? Sperm? A fertilized ovum? A zygote? A 16 cell morula? A blastocyst?

How about at 5 weeks, when the embryo face “has a distinctly reptilian aspect.”...the embryo still has a tail and cannot be distinguished from pig, rabbit, elephant, or chick embryo.” Source

Or at ten weeks, when it officially becomes a fetus? What about at 22 weeks, when premature babies aren’t resuscitated because they are essentially unable to survive outside of the womb?

Your question oversimplifies the issue by encouraging a blanket response. That’s why I believe that this is an issue that cannot be legislated, except for broad protection to prevent overt abuse (if the fetus is able to survive outside of the womb). I believe that this is a decision that must be left to those most intimately involved.

syz (35788points)“Great Answer” (12points)
keobooks's avatar

Well, there is fetal homicide in most States. If you kill or injure a pregnant woman in such a way that the fetus dies, you will be charged with the murder of the unborn child.

You can be pro-choice and not say that a fetus is nothing but a parasitic clump of cells until the moment it is born, btw. It’s ridiculous to say that until the second a fetus touches the air it’s nothing at all. With modern science there is SUCH a grey area here. It’s odd some 23 week micropreemie with a 5% chance of survival outside the womb is more of a person that a 42 week overdue fetus that is pretty much a 2 week old baby that hasn’t been born yet.

I think if a fetus has a reasonable chance of survival outside the womb, they should be granted some rights—very minor ones, but a few.

tom_g's avatar

@keobooks: “I think if a fetus has a reasonable chance of survival outside the womb, they should be granted some rights—very minor ones, but a few.”

Reasonable statement. But what does this mean? Invariably, it seems that any application of rights to a fetus by definition means a reduction in rights to the woman who is carrying the fetus. I think there are plenty of reasonable people who hold different points of view of where this line should be drawn, and actually propose amazingly-detailed descriptions of what laws should look like.

I hold the (unpopular) opinion, however, that the fetus should not have any rights that reduce the rights of the woman carrying the fetus. Of course, everyone should be able to cook up some absurd example that causes the above statement to seem callous, but I feel that protecting the right of a woman is so important, that the fringe cases are unfortunate and should be addressed when a reasonable answer is possible. I support many positions and laws that I feel are right even though it is possible to abuse such a right.

keobooks's avatar

@tom_g in the US, less than 1% of abortions occur after week 20. And most of those are done for therapeutic reasons, like discovering the fetus has just about 0% chance for survival outside the womb due to a lethal birth defect. There are a few that happen because the mother has cancer that needs to be treated, but the window between 20 – 23 weeks is pretty narrow and so only a few fetuses fall through the cracks on the time line to save a mother’s life.

Also 23 weeks is the time when doctors will attempt to save your fetus instead of marking it off as a miscarriage when you go into irreversible labor.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with setting a deadline around that time. Most of the “rights” a fetus should have are more for the parents anyway. The right to have their fetus count as a person if it dies due to someone attacking the mother, the right to medical care instead of being left to die if there is a chance for viability.

tom_g's avatar

@keobooks – Did I say, “reasonable statement” before? I should change that to “extremely reasonable statement and position”. I don’t really have anything to disagree with you on here. My inability to draw that line might actually be emotionally-influenced. I interpret womens’ reproductive rights to be under attack. If everyone approached this in a logical way, as you have done, I would probably be ok with that. One look at my 8-year-old daughter gets me thinking that some fundamentalist is out there trying to control her body. Probably has me taking a position that may not be the most logical. Maybe. Who knows.?

Blackberry's avatar


gasman's avatar

Having “rights” requires sentience. Only human beings have rights. Animals don’t have rights (though people have a moral obligation to treat them humanely). Human zygotes, blastulas, and embryos likewise have no rights because there is no humanity and no sentience.

The case of a 3rd-trimester fetus is more ambiguous because by 30 weeks or so, the fetus has a functioning cerebral cortex (which continues to develop after birth) & is thought to be able to feel pain. By “feel” I mean experience negative human emotions—not simply demonstrate avoidance behavior, which even microscopic invertebrates can do.

So ethically there is room for debate on whether the fetus achieves “rights”—including the right to life— in its last weeks of brain development versus not until birth. Surviving birth is a stronger requirement, but viability outside the womb is blurred today by high-tech hospital care. Proponents of euthanasia for severely handicapped newborns would move the “rights” line to some time after birth. I think these are all valid points for ethical debate.

Declaring that rights magically appear as some sort of religious “emplacement of the soul” into the zygote at the moment of conception is uninformed delusional fantasy. It is not a valid point for ethical debate, even if a popular belief. There are no scientific approaches to resolving the issue.

Being a “potential” human only confers “potential” rights!

The question is loaded (sorry @maxlynn) because the phrase “unborn children” is an oxymoron to all but the most ardent right-to-lifers. The question presupposes the answer: Real children have rights.

Qingu's avatar

I agree with the Flutherites who have pointed out that an “unborn child” can mean anything from an unfeeling, brainless clump of cells to a fully-formed, thinking near-infant.

I don’t think brainless clumps of cells have any rights.

I think once the fetus has a brain, the capacity to feel pain, and the ability to think—somewhere around the third trimester—then it should in general have the right to life, unless the life of the mother is at stake.

gasman's avatar

Btw, @syz : GA !

@keobooks: You mention fetal homicide. It’s an underhanded (if politically savvy) way for states sneak a religious viewpoint into law. Killing a pregnant woman, tragic as it is, should (normally) count as one homicide. I wonder if this is a future SCOTUS concern?

Nullo's avatar

@gasman All legislation beyond things like traffic regulations comes from somebody’s idea of right and wrong. Some of us – a lot of us, really – get that idea from a religion, others from… wherever. Influential authors, maybe. It’s no less valid a method; heck I’d even say that the fact that they’re codified and voluntarily followed by vast blocs of people (to say nothing of divine inspiration, since that’s another topic) gives them more legitimacy than a vague, “cos I think so, lol.”

Qingu's avatar

Getting ideas of right and wrong from ancient Mesopotamian mythology that condones slavery, rape, and genocide seems like a much worse method than through secular moral philosophy, Nullo.

That said, the Bible nowhere describes fetuses as human. In fact, Exodus 21 makes it clear that a fetus is not equivalent to a human being. If you’re fighting and you hit a pregnant woman and cause her to miscarry, you just have to pay a fine. But if the woman is injured or killed in the process, it’s eye for an eye.

(That said, early Christian church fathers were against abortion. So was the Hippocratic oath, fyi).

Nullo's avatar

@Qingu Kinda missing my point, but eh.

Qingu's avatar

I agree that voters in a democracy have the right to base their votes and political stances on Mesopotamian mythology.

I disagree that basing your votes and political stances on Mesopotamian mythology is a worthy or rational idea.


Unfortunately none. Apparently the laws of this country do not see that an unborn child is a human being, with living, fully functioning human cells, and the potential to become a great human being if given the opportunity.

syz's avatar

@MRSHINYSHOES The “potential to be great” argument doesn’t really work. There are currently approximately 6,852,472,823 humans on the planet. How many of them are better than mediocre, if not downright crappy? You probably have a better chance of winning the lottery a dozen times than giving birth to the next Gandhi or the discoverer of the cure for cancer.

I’m being mildly facetious, but seriously, just how damn many of us do we need on the planet?

syz (35788points)“Great Answer” (2points)

@syz That is facetious. It only takes one person to make a difference, and that very one person could be that unborn child. Without the chance, we will never know, right?

And I’m not only talking about “greatness”, but the very fact that many a woman have said that “they were grateful that they decided NOT to abort their child, because that child has brought so much special-ness to their lives.” Sure, the same can be said that a new life would have a negative impact, but why not let the unborn baby live and give him/her a chance, maybe even to brighten an adoptee’s life, let’s say one who can’t bear children?

Aethelwine's avatar

Google search “unborn child killed in accident”. You’ll see many parents distraught because they lost that clump of cells. If anyone other than the mother was responsible for that accident, that person will more than likely do time.

That unborn child meant something to someone at that moment, but an unborn child not wanted and aborted by the parents because they “cant handle the inconvenience at the moment” is ok?

better yet, google “arrests for killing unborn child”

this man faces one count of involuntary manslaughter of an clump of cells unborn child

wtf is wrong with this picture?

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@jonsblond If anyone other than the mother was responsible for that accident, that person will more than likely do time. I get it, you get it, many other just don’t want to get it. You can’t get manslaughter if he merely ruptured a spleen or took out an eye, that is tissue. It has nothing to do with trying to gospeltize the law, an unborn child is only seen as a child when it is convenient to use as a device to ad severity to the punishment of the man causing the off body abortion.

Too bad I have only one lurve to give because that deserved a couple of million.

Qingu's avatar

@MRSHINYSHOES, that’s a really terrible argument for being pro-life, because it cuts both ways. Imagine if Hitler’s mother decided to abort him. Humans have potential to be good, or evil.

It also falsely locates human potential in a particular body, as if all humans simply “unfold” into greatness or whatever like a tree. In reality, all humans influence each other; any human who becomes great is the product not just of biological union but also a vast culture of knowledge and morals.


@Qingu Using the “Hitler rationale” is a terrible argument for being pro-abortion! Most people aren’t born Hitlers, and those who are are usually the product of their upbringing——blame the irresponsible adults who raised them, not the infants! And like I said, give a healthy unborn child the chance to live and be appreciated by someone childless who really wants him/her. Yes, humans have potential to be good or evil, but unborn humans also have a right to live and experience life. Again, don’t blame the unborn child, blame the irresponsible adults who made him/her.

Qingu's avatar

I’m not pro-abortion. Nobody is.

And when you say “Yes, humans have potential to be good or evil, but unborn humans also have a right to live and experience life,” this isn’t an argument, this is you simply repeating your assertion.

You were supposed to be arguing that fetuses should have that right because they have the potential to be good. If they have the potential to be evil too, and if their goodness or evilness is a product of the culture that would raise them rather than something internal, how does that follow?


@Qingu It follows very accordingly. Again, it is not the fault of the unborn child. They have a right to be born, to experience life for themselves. Just because some adults are screwed up and don’t want to raise a child, or who were so immature and irresponsible that they didn’t take the necessary precautions to prevent a pregnancy, this should never be the fault of the poor unborn human being. They have a right to life, and if they happen to turn good or bad, that’s not really their fault but the environment’s fault.

Enough said. I made my point. This is getting tiresome, so I am ending this discussion here. ;)

Qingu's avatar

“They have a right to be born, to experience life for themselves.”

This is your assertion. This is the point you are supposed to be arguing for. Simply repeating it over and over again does not count as an argument.

I don’t see why a brainless clump of cells has the right to anything. The concept of rights, to me, makes no sense for beings without consciousness.

ReindeerMoon1's avatar

Unborn children is a misnomer. A fetus has no rights separate from that of the mother until it is able to live outside the womb and is not dependent on the mother’s body for lifesustaining nutrients. Currently the cutoff seems to be about 25 weeks of gestation. Of course that assumes access to state of the art medical facilities and round-the-clock care.

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