It's Complicated: What our attitudes toward pregnancy, abortion, and miscarriage tell us about the moral status of early fetuses

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Abstract
Many accounts of the morality of abortion assume that early fetuses must all have or lack moral status in virtue of developmental features that they share. Our actual attitudes toward early fetuses don’t reflect this all-or-nothing assumption: early fetuses can elicit feelings of joy, love, indifference, or distress. If we start with the assumption that our attitudes toward fetuses reflect a real difference in their moral status, then we need an account of fetal moral status that can explain that difference. I argue that we can have or lack relational obligations to early fetuses in light of our own activities or choices, independent of the fetus’s own features or properties. Those relational obligations make the early fetus morally considerable to the persons who stand in a moral relation to it. Pregnant persons (and other participants in the procreative process) can come to have relational obligations to an early fetus just in virtue of their own decision to create a person, either by intentionally getting pregnant or by deciding to continue a pregnancy. That decision not only makes it appropriate for them to care about the fetus, but it also generates obligations to the fetus that they didn’t have before that decision.
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First archival date: 2020-09-08
Latest version: 3 (2020-09-10)
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2020-09-08

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