I have a question that has come up in private conversation with people close to me and I'd like to ask it here.
We have mostly accepted, politically and philosophically that a fetus is nothing until it is born. Conservatives are going after this as always-- last year the proposal was to increase the penalty of harming a pregnant woman-- slippery slope arguments most obvious. But also obvious is that a woman who is pregnant and wants to have a baby does not consider the fetus to be nothing. That is the point that was raised to me in a conversation and what got me thinking.
My first and strongest reaction of course was that the government is doing nothing about violence against women and it should place its priorities there. But as rare as it may be there is an example that perhaps did deserve a response-- what of harm to a fetus that a mother wanted to have born? My first thought would be it is an assault on the pregnant woman just like any other assault on her person. But I was not sure if that was all.
I thought of an alternative definition of when/why/how the fetus could have some status and wondered if I could hear from others about the merits or risks of such a definition.
We all agree that once born and independently breathing the fetus is a person. That definition is without dispute.
We also agree that a fetus is a potential that is not only dependent on the pregnant woman's choice but also at all times, until independently breathing conditional, on that choice (which could change). But we have avoided much talk of what happens once a choice exists to have a baby, even when personal, philosophical and social values seem to be at odds. Our reason is not to give ANY excuse to those who want to question a woman's choice. I thought about this because while it has been presented as a problem the Conservatives are trying to exploit, I don't think there needs to be a conflict there at all.
What if the definition was the choice itself? So we recognize that a fetus is not a person until born; we recognize that a fetus is nothing more than bio-matter without the woman's choice that it be different. Therefore we recognize that in terms of person-hood nothing happens at conception, nor at any point until birth based on calendar days. But could we/should we recognize that something has happened at the moment the pregnant woman has made a choice that she wants the fetus to be born? If so, of course this is not a moment it is an ongoing choice so:
A fetus has some status of value, less than that of a person but more than nothing so long as a pregnant woman wants the fetus to be born. Further, the fetus should not be considered dependent (which implies rights separate from the woman) but conditional, as having only the rights the pregnant woman conveys to it under the conditions determined by the mother.
I realize the above is more complicated-- however it would recognize the obvious issue of someone seeking to harm a fetus that a woman wants to have born without opening a potential for such status to be used against the mother.
Again none of this seeks to ignore the context of the reality that violence against women is something the Conservatives are ignoring. The point I am making is that while the Conservatives have raised this question -- seeking to transfer some obvious value a fetus that is wanted by a pregnant woman to a fetus that is not wanted by a pregnant woman, any reasonable definition of that value would make it impossible to do so.
I raised this argument with a person who was seeking to make a claim that because some women valued a fetus it must have some status-- it was a short distance for me to say its only status was that value placed on it by the pregnant mother which is what got me thinking here.
I trust that people will understand that I am not trying to create a slippery slope argument so much as a fire-break argument that by definition can't let the argument go beyond a woman's choice.
Anyway, I hoped some of the women who have written eloquently in this forum could let me know how they would respond to this question and if the conditional value I raised works for them. Thanks in advance.