A Womans Right to Abortion the Concept of Genetic Humanity



The traditional meaning of ‘human’—genetic humanity—refers simply to any life, which is or has the potential to become genetically human. In ordinary parlance, the term ‘genetic’ may be equated with ‘physical’. And being genetically human, a fetus has as much a right to life as a baby or an adult. Once conception is over, a woman does not have the right to eliminate the embryo, even if it is completely in her power, and its existence conditional on hers. Warren distinguishes between the moral and genetic states of being human, by stating five attributes of moral human existence. 1)“Consciousness”—of objects and happenings—both outside and within the self. Here, the emphasis is placed on the capacity to experience pain. 2)“Reasoning”—a capacity to learn from experience and solve new and relatively more complex problems. 3) Ability to undertake “self-motivated activity”, that is not directly attributable to genetic and/or external control. 4)“The capacity to communicate” messages of indefinite variety and content. 5) The existence of a “self-concept and self-awareness”, individual, racial or both. Using the above criteria, Warren comes to the conclusion that being human is not the preserve of homo-sapiens alone. It is quite possible that some other form of life could exist which has all the above characteristics without being a genetic human being. She gives the example of aliens from another planet and also talks about highly developed robots/ humanoids of the future who could qualify as persons without being genetically human. On the other hand, a fetus, although genetically human, has no self-awareness or consciousness. A fetus is the extension of the body of its host (mother). Therefore, a fetus may be denied the right to life and aborted. By an extension of the same premise, it could be argued that newborn infants not being persons—not possessing the ability to reason or a self-concept—can be killed. This line of logical reasoning is dangerous as it gives the power of life and death over an infant to his/her mother/father/any other person with partially or fully developed ability to think, reason and emote. The danger arises from the fact that not all persons are altruistic or moral, and some may be ready to sacrifice the life of an infant for the sake of personal benefit. (“Why should I look after a baby, when it is so inconvenient? It binds me down. I can’t afford it.”) There is also post-partum depression—a medical/emotional condition experienced by many new mothers—which makes it difficult for her to care for a child. It is to avoid the dangers of blurring the line between eliminating a fetus and eliminating a child that most pro-abortionists state that while it is okay to kill a fetus, it is definitely not okay to kill a child, even if the child is born monstrously malformed or grossly non-human-like.