Sources & Extracts
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Baruch Brody has offered an entirely secular argument against
most abortions. He argues that the embryo becomes a human being
sometime between the end of the second week and the end of the
third month of gestation. By "human being" Brody means
"a member of the species Homo sapiens who has a right to
life similar to the right to life had by you, me, and so on."
Brody's argument is difficult to summarize and anyone interested
should carefully read chapter seven of his book. He writes as
Consider the moment of death. It would be wrong to think of it just as a moment at which the human undergoes a significant alteration. Rather, it is the moment at which he stops being human and goes out of existence .So a human being goes out of existence when he stops being human, being human is therefore an essential property of every human being, and humanity is a natural kind .
Traditionally, death was defined in terms of a cessation of cardiac and respiratory activity .
This tradition has, of course, come under important challenge in recent years. There is a growing tendency to define death in terms of an irreparable cessation of brain function .
[Brody then considers the following argument.] The property of having a functioning brain (or, at least, a brain that, if not functioning, is susceptible of function) is one that every human being must have because it is essential for its being human; by the time that an entity acquires that property, it has all the other properties that are essential for being human; the class of human beings is a natural kind; therefore, when the fetus acquires that property, it becomes a human being.
[He then considers whether the second premise, that by the time an entity acquires a functioning brain it has all the essential properties of a human being. He supports this view by describing the ways in which a six week old fetus is similar to or different from an ordinary human being. He notes that the differences are not essential to being a human being because an ordinary human being can lose these properties or functions without ceasing to be a human being. For example, someone might lose fingernails or vocal chords or hair or eyelashes or the ability to move without ceasing to be a human being.]
We might therefore conclude, on the supposition that the brain-death theory is correct, that the fetus becomes a human being about the end of the sixth week after its development.
[Brody then considers an alternative definition of death that stresses brain, heart, and lung functions. Even on that theory, he concludes that the fetus becomes a human being sometime after the second week and before the end of the third month of pregnancy.]
Reference: Baruch Brody, Abortion and the Sanctity of Human Life: A Philosophical View, chapter 7. Text in brackets added.