Whereas many [pro-lifers] have comfortably embraced distinguished allies in the academy, abortion rights advocates cannot easily do so. In fact, pro-choice philosophers are badly at odds with the pro-choice movement. As Rosamund Rhodes, the pro-choice director of bioethics at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, confessed more than three decades after Roe [v. Wade], abortion rights proponents are simply not prepared to explain "how or why the fetus is tranformed into a franchised 'person' by moving from inside the womb to outside or by reaching a certain level of development." ... As [pro-choice philosopher Peter] Singer put it, "[L]iberals have failed to establish a morally significant dividing line between the newborn baby and fetus."
Nonetheless such thinkers have articulated strong pro-choice arguments. They are not likely, however, to be embraced by the pro-choice movement because of their political liabilities. ... Scholars such has Mary Anne Warren, Michael Tooley, and Peter Singer defend abortion rights by rooting personhood in self-consciousness. From this perspective, human organisms acquire rights only when they become willful, self-aware beings. The pro-choice movement, however, has been reluctant to accept this view of the human person because it also justifies infanticide. As Singer has starkly put it, there is no "intrinsic wrongness [in] killing an infant."
These problems have left abortion rights advocates severely handicapped in the context of public debates. When pressed by pro-life activists, they have no ready explanation for why fetuses become persons at any point between conception and birth.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Jon Shields, professor at Claremont McKenna College, writes: