Friday, November 07, 2008

Fetal Minds and Abortion

Here is some information about the development of minds in fetuses and when abortions occur; it's taken from an article by your instructor on abortion.

Concerning fetal minds, Jeff McMahan reports that, “Most neurologists accept that the earliest point at which consciousness is possible is around the twentieth week of pregnancy. . . . The onset of the fundamental core of brain function . . . can be identified within the limits of about 20 to 28 weeks” (2002, p. 257). Beyond consciousness, neurologist Michael Benatar and philosopher David Benatar claim that the data tend to support the view that “fetuses of around 28 to 30 weeks of gestation are capable of feeling pain” (2001, pp. 57, 63, 75). David DeGrazia claims that, “Neurological evidence suggests that a fetus becomes sentient at some time between five and seven months gestation” (2005, p. 279). More conservatively, Peter Singer argues that, “[W]e should disregard the uncertain evidence about wakefulness [‘The fetus begins to “wake up” at a gestational age of around 30 weeks’] and take as a more definitive line the time at which the brain is physically capable of receiving signals necessary for awareness . . at 18 weeks of gestation” (1993, pp. 164-5).

Concerning when abortions occur, McMahan reports that, “Approximately 99 percent of all abortions in the United States are performed prior to twenty weeks” (2002, p. 268). And DeGrazia reports that, “[T]he vast majority of abortions – about 99 percent in the United States – occur before five months,” with “only 1 percentage of abortions . . performed after the twenty-first week or later in . . 1998” (2005, p. 279, in text and footnote 64). Beckwith agrees with these statistics (pp. 90-91).

These facts suggest that most abortions in the United States kill beings – call them early fetuses – that are yet to have minds