This is a variant of an argument by Don Marquis.  It starts by trying to figure out one of the things that is wrong with killing an adult human being.

·        For instance, one might think that I am my soul and argue that the fetus does not have a soul.

o       But there is really no scientific evidence either way on whether the fetus has a soul, since souls aren’t observable.  One can argue that in the absence of evidence, one should opt for the safer route of not killing.

·        Or one might argue that I am my brain. 

o       If so, then I only came into existence 4-5 weeks after conception, in which case at least most abortions would be wrong, since most abortions are done after that.

·        Or one might argue that there are two different things here: me and my body.  My body is an animal.  I am a person.  I am not my body.  The fetus became this animal.  I did not come into existence until a fair bit of time after conception—maybe a fair bit of time after birth. 

o       This has the implausible consequence that I am not a mammal or a biological human—only my body is.

·      A relevant question is whether I am an animal.

·        For instance, one might think that what makes killing me wrong is that I want to live. 

o      This would suggest that killing me wouldn’t be wrong if I were suicidal or just did not want to live.  But that is false.

·       A better alternate is that what makes killing me wrong is that it interrupts my life.  My life has a certain value based on the my past experiences and actions, and this is cut off by killing me.

o      One objection to this alternative is to consider the case of a newborn baby.  Such a baby has some past experiences and actions—she has seen the world for a couple of hours or days, she has sucked her thumb before birth, etc.  But these past experiences and actions do not significantly more valuable than those of a pretty unsophisticated animal, say a chicken.  If it is the value of the past experiences and actions that renders killing innocent people wrong, then killing a newborn would not be wrong on that count: it would be more like killing a chicken.  But this is surely false.  In fact, we don’t need to limit ourselves to newborns.  It’s probably only at around one year of age, or quite a bit later, that the actions and experiences start to outstrip those of smart animals.

o      Another objection.  Suppose that Fred, an adult man, is now unconscious following an accident.  Brain scans determine that he has had total and irrecoverable amnesia.  The brain scan, however, also reveals that he is about to wake up, and that he will be able to lead a fairly normal life, once he learns the things he has forgotten.  In the case of Fred, the chain of experiences and actions has already been interrupted.  If interruption is what makes it wrong, then what is wrong with killing him now?

o      A final objection: Consider how we judge end-of-life cases.  Suppose Fred can only be expected to live another couple of days.  We are trying to determine whether it is worth trying to do some difficult medical procedure on him that might prolong his life by a couple of hours.  It seems that it doesn’t really matter here how rich a life Fred lived in the past.  What matters is what we can expect to have happen to Fred in the future, in the next couple of days.  Will the procedure decrease his quality of life in such a way that the extension of life will not be worth while?  Our inclination, I think, would also be that we would be more likely to extend Fred’s life a little bit if Fred were in his 20s than if Fred were in his 90s.  Yet if Fred were in his 90s, he would have had a richer past.

·        Response: Killing someone does deprive her of her future.  This much is clear even if this deprivation isn't the main thing that makes killing wrong.  Moreover, it is a greater harm to deprive someone of her future than it is to deprive her of, say, an arm or a leg.  Thus, killing me now imposes a harm greater than cutting off my arm or leg.  Killing me as a fetus would have imposed a harm that was no less, perhaps even greater.  It is wrong to impose a harm so great upon an innocent person without a compensating advantage to that innocent person--it is wrong for you to cut off my arm or leg without my having a medical need for it.  For the same reason, to have killed me as a fetus would have been wrong, since it would have imposed on me an even greater harm than cutting off my arm or leg now would.


 Mary Ann Warren thinks she can show that abortion is acceptable.

But let’s go back to Warren’s main argument.  She thinks the fetus is not a person because it lacks most of the five traits of personhood.  Is she right?  Discussion.