39 Rutgers L.J. 331 (2007-2008)
Abortion and the Margins of Personhood

handle is hein.journals/rutlj39 and id is 335 raw text is: ABORTION AND THE MARGINS OF PERSONHOOD
Margaret Olivia Little*
I. INTRODUCTION
When a woman is pregnant, how should we understand the moral status
of the life within her? How should we understand its status as conceptus, as
embryo, when an early or again matured fetus? According to some, human
life in all of these forms is inviolable: early human life has a moral status
equivalent to a person from the moment of conception.' According to others,
such life has no intrinsic status, even late in pregnancy.2 According to still
others, moral status emerges when sentience does. Until the fetus is
conscious-a point somewhere at the end of the second trimester,3 it has no
moral status at all; after it is conscious, it does.4
*   Assoc. Prof., Philosophy Dept., Senior Research Scholar, Kennedy Institute of
Ethics, Georgetown University, Washington DC 20057. She is currently finishing a book,
entitled INTIMATE ASSISTANCE: RE-THINKING ABORTION IN LAW AND MORALITY, with Oxford
University Press.
1. BARUCH BRODY, ABORTION AND THE SANCTITY OF HUMAN LIFE: A PHILOSOPHICAL
VIEW 116-22 (1975); John Finnis, The Rights and Wrongs of Abortion: A Reply to Judith
Thomson, 2 PHIL. & PUB. AFF. 117, 144-45 (1973); Patrick Lee & Robert P. George, The
Wrong of Abortion, in CONTEMPORARY DEBATES IN APPLIED ETHICS 13 (Andrew I. Cohen &
Christopher Health Wellman eds., 2005).
2. PETER SINGER, PRACTICAL ETHICS 96-99, 186-88 (2d ed. 1993); Michael Tooley, A
Defense of Abortion and Infanticide, in THE PROBLEM OF ABORTION 51, 51-52 (Joel Feinberg
ed., 1973); Mary Anne Warren, On the Moral and Legal Status of Abortion, 57 MONIST 43,
57-59 (1973).
3. Brain activity arises much earlier, but sentience emerges with the development of
organized brain activity of the form EEGs capture. One review of the science puts this
development at somewhere between twenty-four and twenty-eight weeks gestational age. See
DAVID BOONN, A DEFENSE OF ABORTION 107-09 (2003).
4. BOONIN, supra note 3, at 115-27; JEFF McMAHAN, THE ETHICS OF KILLING:
PROBLEMS AT THE MARGINS OF LIFE 267-80 (2002); see generally BONNIE STEINBOCK, LIFE

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