Justifying "Wholesale Slaughter"

Canadian Journal of Philosophy 5 (2):245 - 258 (1975)
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Abstract

In a recent trial in the United States a physician was convicted of manslaughter during the performance of a hysterotomy on a woman pregnant from twenty to twenty eight weeks. Some members of the jury, in their deliberations, were much impressed by seeing a photograph of a fetus of about the same age. The experience apparently provided some jurors with reason to conclude that the fetus which did die during or immediately after the hysterotomy was a human being or a person or, at least, was so like a child that the killing of it was prohibited by the law of homicide. If being a human being is not the same as being a pre-natal progeny of homo sapiens, it is difficult to understand how one could “tell by looking” whether the fetus is a human being. But the sight of a fetus of twenty weeks or longer does, I think, tempt us to think that from a moral standpoint we ought to extend the same treatment to such fetuses, or virtually the same, as we extend to newborn babies and young children. The visual similarities between middle or late stage fetuses and newborn babies is striking.

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A. Donald VanDeVeer
North Carolina State University

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Understanding the abortion argument.Roger Wertheimer - 1971 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 1 (1):67-95.

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