Arguments for the start of life

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The point at which the unique selection of genetic information is present

- It comes from the Roman Catholic view that the sperm and the egg have combined to create a fertilised ovum

- Pro-life supporters believe that the fertilised ovum has the potential to become a human being, therefore having an abortion would be classed as murder

- However, pro-choice supporters would argue that a fertilised ovum cannot be classified as a person

- Glover says that the fertilised egg is too different from anything that we would recognice as a person, therefore they cannot be called the same thing

- Thompson says "There is continuous growth from acorn to oak tree; just as a fertilised ovum is not a human being"- This means that the fertilised ovum needs to grow and develop before it can be classified as a human

- This is because the fertilised ovum does not have any qualities that are similar to human qualities yet because they are still developing in the mother’s womb. 

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Primitive streak


It states that on the fourteenth day of fertilisation, a human being is said to exist

- Pro-life supporters believe this because the embryonic structures are beginning to organise and align themselves, therefore there is now the potential for human life to begin

- There is now evidence for the start of the nervous system, therefore the foetus now has the ability to feel pain

- Having an abortion at this stage would be wrong because the baby can feel pain, therefore you are causing pain to the foetus by having an abortion

- The fourteenth day is also the cut off point for embryonic research because the foetus now has the ability to feel pain 

- The foetus now possesses human qualities and should be classified as a person

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Primitive streak

- However, pro-choice supporters believe that the foetus is still unrecognisable as a human being

- Glover agrees and he states that a child and a foetus are different because a child can develop a relationship with the mother and father, whereas the foetus is still inside the mother's womb and so cannot develop these close relationships with the parents

- This means that the foetus still does not possess these human qualities that would classify it as a human being

- This links to consciousness because this is the stage that the foetus develops a distict human quality and so could be suggested as the start of personhood

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The foetus has the ability to feel pleasure and pain and it can be applied to all living tissue as it is a sensory experience

  • Self-consciousness defines a person because the foetus now has feelings and this a distinct feature of a human being
  • However, a potential person is not equal to a born human because the mother has not given birth to the child, therefore the child still only has the potential to become a human being
  • This means that it is still acceptable to have an abortion because the foetus is a potential person, not a human being
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It is the 20-24 week mark in the pregnancy and at this stage the foetus can now survive outside of the mother's womb, independant of the mother

  • This means that the foetus could be born at any point when the mother reaches this point in the pregnancy, therefore the foetus possesses all of the human qualities as hey are ready to exit the mother's womb
  • However, even healthy babies that are born at this time would not survive without lots of medical attention
  • Also, medical technology is rapidly progressing which means that the age that the foetus can survive outside the womb is reducing. This is problematic because the 24th week is the latest that the mother can have an abortion, therefore as the age that the foetus can survive outside the womb is reducing, there will be more abortions carried out at this stage and therefore it can be classified as murder
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