The Moral Significance of Birth

Ethics 106 (2):378 - 403 (1996)
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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.



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Jose Luis Bermudez
Texas A&M University

Citations of this work

How the Body Shapes the Mind.Shaun Gallagher - 2005 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press UK.
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If Abortion, then Infanticide.David B. Hershenov & Rose J. Hershenov - 2017 - Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics 38 (5):387-409.
What Must Pro‐Lifers Believe About the Moral Status of Embryos?David B. Hershenov - 2020 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 101 (2):186-202.

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