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Arguments about AbortionPersonhood, Morality, and Law$
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Kate Greasley

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780198766780

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2017

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198766780.001.0001

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Human Equality and the Significance of Birth

Human Equality and the Significance of Birth

(p.181) 8 Human Equality and the Significance of Birth
Arguments about Abortion

Kate Greasley

Oxford University Press

This chapter addresses two prominent issues in the abortion ethics literature: the human equality problem and the difference between abortion and infanticide. The human equality problem asserts that any theoretical account which takes personhood status to supervene on developmentally acquired attributes, such as self-consciousness or rationality, is inconsistent with a commitment to basic human equality, since those same attributes are possessed in greater and lesser degrees by human beings post-birth. The argument defends a ‘range property’ analysis of personhood, according to which personhood status, is equally possessed by all human beings past a certain minimum threshold. It suggests, moreover, that there are good reasons for the law to set that minimum threshold at live birth. However, it does call into question the conventional philosophical view that there is no morally significant difference between human beings immediately prior to and subsequent to birth.

Keywords:   abortion ethics, human equality problem, infanticide, fetal personhood, range property

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