In this paper, I will investigate the right to life for embryo based on Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan’s article “Abortion: Is it Possible to be both “Pro-life” and “Pro-Choice”?” My conclusion is an embryo is a potential person thus it has the right to life. Sagan and Druyan argue that embryo does not have human characteristics; therefore it is acceptable to abort it. I will show that embryo is at least a potential person, so it has the right to life.
First, I want to convince embryo may not be a person. If “person” here, means biologically a member of human beings, then after 14 days when primitive streak or after 16 days when gastrulation (Damschen, Gómez-Lobo and Schönecker), an embryo is certainly a person, because at this point, the process of individualization is irreversible. At this time, the embryo can be determined as an individual human being. From this I believe that an embryo is a person in biological meaning after 14 or 16 days. However, the definition of “person” given by Boethius is “naturæ rationalis individua substantia” (Boethius 74). What it means is that if someone who does not have rational yet or permanently loses it, it is uncertain that is the one a person. Form Boethius’s view, I argue that embryo may not be a person. It may be a potential person. On the other hand, if “person” means a person who has personhood, the problem is another matter. Mary Anne Warren suggests the concept of personhood (Warren):
1) Consciousness (of objects and events external and/or internal to the being), and in particular the capacity to feel pain;
2) Reasoning (the developed capacity to solve new and relatively complex problems);
3) Self-motivated activity (activity which is relatively independent of either genetic or direct external control);
4) The capacity to communicate, by whatever means, messages of an indefinite variety of types, that is, not just with an indefinite number of possible contents, but on indefinitely many possible topics;
5) The presence of self-concepts, and self-awareness, either individual or racial, or both.
So far I assert that an individual who has personhood may not be a human beings or a human being may not have personhood, the individual could be another species, or even beyond existence. This means some human beings in biological definition are not essentially a person. For example, hydatidiform mole, anencephalic, Siamese twins, even fetus-in-fetu, or some fetuses develop to a certain stage but discontinue, and even some patient in brain-dead state(unlike vegetative), all of them can be known biologically as human beings, but they would not be considered as a person since they do not have rational.
Notably, even in today’s general understanding, avoid using substance or essence of rationality to talk about the person, instead with the way does the object have rational function, to determine whether it has the personhood. However the concept of personhood, in fact, is inseparable from the meaning of some kind of...