In the arguments concerning abortion, the issue at hand is whether or not the rights of the fetus can be held above those of the mother. Most anti-abortionists claim that a fetus is a human being with all the rights of a human being and, therefore, abortion is murder. However, the idea that a fetus is a human being is flawed.
There are several possible ways to decide what makes a human being, what
constitutes person-hood. A stable, objective way to define what is human is consciousness. Something is human if it has consciousness. The concept of consciousness is very complex, but, according to Clive Wynne in a Psychology Today article (“Do Animals Think?”), a sound psychological definition of consciousness involves three criteria: “language, self-awareness, and theory of mind.'” In order to be considered a person, a being must either have the capacity for language, be cognizant of the fact that it is a being separate from its surroundings, or be aware that there are others with minds separate from it. For a being to be a person it must at least have a consciousness, and for a being to have a consciousness it must satisfy at least one of the above criteria. Clearly a fetus cannot be considered a person and in fact fits more criteria for a parasite than a human.
A problem that some people have with this definition of person is that a comatose patient would not be considered a person. However, a coma is no ones natural state of being. A coma occurs because something happened to a person. Something is wrong when a person is in a coma and the problem should be fixed if possible. This is not the case with a fetus. Part of being a fetus is the lack of consciousness. No one ever looks at an ultrasound and thinks that what they see was once able to communicate and walk and experience the world around them. But this happens when people look at a comatose patient. A comatose patient has lost their consciousness, but a fetus never had a consciousness.
At best an embryo or fetus is a potential person. Some argue that because a fetus is potentially a person it has the right to life. But there is a big difference between potential and actual. No one mistakes an acorn for a big oak tree. Given time and a proper environment, an acorn can grow into an oak tree. Given time and a healthy environment, a fetus can become a person. If a woman decides to be an incubator to a fetus, then the fetus will grow into a person. But only if it is the woman’s choice can what is growing inside of her become an actual person. The fetus is not a person and has no claim to the woman’s body outside of her decision. Just because a fetus is almost a human being does not mean it should be granted all the rights of a human being. Only when it is actually a human being can it be granted the rights of a person. A fetus is not a person and certainly does not have the same rights as the person carrying it. The mother is the one with all the rights and the mother has the right to decide what happens to the fetus.
A fetus does not have the right to life that anti-abortionists claim outweigh the woman’s right to her body. A fetus is not an individual entity as the mother is and it can not be considered to have the same rights as the mother. The mother, as an individual entity, has the rights. A fetus does not have the right to life, but a woman still has the right to her own body. All throughout her pregnancy a woman has the right to her own body and the fetus does not have rights that outweigh the woman’s rights.