106 (2):378 - 403 (1996
The author challenges the view that birth cannot be a morally relevant fact in the process of development from zygote to child. He reviews specific arguments against giving any moral significance to the fact of birth. Drawing on recent work in developmental psychology, he contends that the lives of neonates can have a level of self-consciousness that confers moral significance but can only be possessed after birth. He shows that the position he has argued for provides a framework within which the move from the moral validity of aborting sentient fetuses to the moral validity of infanticide might be resisted. He concludes that arguments suggesting that birth can be morally significant support the view that the acquisition of moral significance is a gradual and multilayered phenomenon.