Four things differentiate a human fetus from a newborn. They’re easy to remember with the acronym SLED.
Size and physical appearance: Larger, more attractive people do not have more rights than others. The civil rights movement has established beyond a doubt that discrimination based on physical attributes is wrong.
Level of development: In a democracy, people do not lose rights simply because they lack the abilities possessed by others.
Environment: Fetuses within the womb can be killed, but those of the same age who are born prematurely receive full legal protection. And yet, intuitively, we know that one’s status as a person does not change when they change locations.
Degree of dependency: All children are dependent on caregivers, as are people with disabilities. The idea that degree of dependency defines one’s value insults the equality of these persons.
Are “persons” those who can sustain their lives independently?
This definition is inadequate because many human persons, such kidney dialysis patients, people with disabilities, and young children, require outside help to remain alive.
Are “persons” those who are part of society?
Humans who cannot communicate (or who choose not to, such as hermits) are still persons with rights.
Are unconscious humans merely “potential persons” without rights?
If this is so, many individuals other than the unborn do not have the rights of a person either. Newborn babies, people knocked unconscious, and coma victims should not be treated as persons. They could, if inconvenient circumstances arise, lose their right to life and be killed.
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