Abortion and Personhood. Explain how the concept of personhood applies to abortion.

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Ben OâSullivan Explain how the concept of personhood implies to abortion: Personhood can be defined as the quality or condition of being an individual person. Personhood is a topic that debated intensely in philosophy and law, and is closely related to legal concepts of citizenship, liberty and equality. According to law, only a natural person or legal personality has rights, protections, privileges, responsibilities, and legal liability. As well as this, the controversial topic of abortion is considered closely linked with personhood. Abortion is the termination of pregnancy by the removal or expulsion from the uterus of a fetus due to viability. An abortion can happen without an external cause, in which case it is usually called a miscarriage, or it can be carried out with intention. The term abortion most commonly refers to the induced abortion of a human pregnancy. When discussing this argument, it is crucial that when we think about abortion, we need to know what we mean when we discuss 'human life.'


However, the problem from this is that it would include animals. Self-awareness must be taken into account. This means that the individual knows they belong to society, is aware of past events and has a sense of their own identity, three crucial aspects. It is not believed that animals have this sort of awareness, but then again neither do babies or some severely handicapped adults. Related to this point, it would require being able to survive independently as a human. This definition would clarify the status of a foetus or human tissue but is open to debate when a person is dependent on kidney dialysis or any other medical support system/process for their life. Furthermore, it has also been identified that a baby can only survive with adult support. So, due to the above points related to personhood, the argument of defining what is a human person is extremely open and strife debate occurs as a result.


To be consistent, we would then need to permit killing other types of people, such as adults, for the same reasons. The other possibility is that the foetus is never a person until it fully emerges from the birth canal. That is to say, personhood is defined by the foetus/baby's location in three-dimensional space. This would make it reasonable to kill it at any time while it was still inside the womb, but it would also mean having a definition of personhood which was not intrinsic. However, it's clear that this is also not the stance of UK law. If it were, abortion laws would not exist. It also may be the case that the foetus is a person some of the time. If we forget about if the foetus is always or never a person, then the remaining logical option must be the position of UK law. This would mean that abortion law is an attempt to define under what circumstances a foetus is a person, thereby preventing it being killed when it is, and allowing it when it isn't.

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