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Abortion Rights And The Acorn Analogy

1269 words - 5 pages

This essay will examine an often discussed pro-choice analogy. It will consider to what extent the abortion issue is still controversial if the terms of this analogy are accepted as true. This essay will first discuss the premises of the analogy in question. Then it will consider counter-arguments to the analogy. The objective of this paper is to make a determination on whether the controversial nature of the issue of abortion still pertains in light of the acorn analogy. It will be the argument of this paper that this controversy is not subdued by the acorn-fetus comparison.

Acorn Analogy and Related Issues

The acorn analogy means that oak trees are grown from acorns as human beings are grown from fetuses. Thus every acorn is a potential oak tree as every fetus is a potential human being. However, the fetus is not a human being from the point of conception any more than the acorn is an oak tree. Therefore, terminating the existence of one or the other is not tantamount to murdering a full developed living being. This is the argument that Thomson (47-48) presents in her oft-cited work on the permissibility of abortion.
The argument that an acorn is not an oak tree delineates where the determination should be made concerning whether a person exists. Indeed, one of the main controversies in the debate over abortion rights, hinges on the question of whether a person exists at the point of conception, during its development in the womb, or after birth. Thomson (47-48) allows that the fetus clearly develops into a human being prior to birth. She points out that, by the tenth week of pregnancy, the fetus has quickly evolved into a living being with discernible human physical characteristics. That is to say, it already has a face, arms, legs, fingers and toes. Also, brain activity is apparent and internal organs have developed. But the essential question concerns the acorn-fetus comparison. For the author, the newly fertilized ovum is not a human being any more than an acorn is an oak tree.
Indeed, the author goes on to say that this is an example of slippery slope argument. That is, whether an acorn is not an oak tree is crucial to assessing where the line should be drawn in determining when a person exists (Thomson 47-48). Does a person exist at the point of conception, or after birth. Does a person develop before birth but sometime after the point of conception. For Thomson where the line is drawn is patently arbitrary. In addition, she argues, abortion rights opponents rely on such slippery slope arguments entirely. They do so without subjecting their views to any criticism. They also avoid any self-examination as to the merits of their determination.
A related argument is how one gets from the point that the fetus is a person to outlawing any and all right to abortion. Those in the pro-life community who oppose abortion, argue that every individual has a God-given right to life. They also contend...

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