Thursday, April 13, 2017

Are all fetuses viable?

Technology enables us (or soon will) to take a fetus out of a womb and put in in an artificial environment where it can survive. So, are all fetuses viable? If so, what happens to viability as a criterion for abortion? 

7 comments:

Stardusty Psyche said...


"Technology enables us (or soon will) to take a fetus out of a womb and put in in an artificial environment where it can survive. So, are all fetuses viable?"
Under US federal law a fetus is viable when it can survive outside the womb with technological aid. That is why a state law that contains a presumption of viability at 20 weeks is constitutional.

Under US law viability has moved as technology has moved. There is no logically defensible dividing line. If a fully artificial environment is developed such that in vitro fertilization to adulthood without ever implanting in a human mother becomes technologically feasible then a fertilized human egg will be viable.


" If so, what happens to viability as a criterion for abortion?"
It becomes moot.

I propose as an alternative, the application of standards of end of life to standards of beginning of life. The core standard for the end of life is brain function. For a person on life support to be declared legally dead that individual must have lost brain function to some technologically measurable level. In my view it is reasonable to apply that same standard to the beginning of life.

Legion of Logic said...

"In my view it is reasonable to apply that same standard to the beginning of life."

Problem with that is the end of life and beginning of life are not equivalent. One has lost brain function and has thus lost its life beyond artificially forcing the heart and lungs to keep functioning, the other is developing toward the point of getting it, which is a normal and necessary part of the human life cycle.

Biologically, from the first cell, it meets the criteria for being a living human organism. There isn't some magical point at which it goes from being "a not-human organism" to "human life".

Jimmy S. M. said...

Question for our socially conservative friends- If this procedure becomes available but costs millions of dollars per attempt, who's paying for that?

Legion of Logic said...

Cost has no bearing on when life begins. The more relevant question on cost would be, when does a pro-choice person consider a human life worth saving?

Jimmy S. M. said...

I'm granting that if viable, it's worth saving for this argument. (personally, there are some limits- the intuition that I'd save a 5 year old child over a million fertilized eggs from a burning building seems relevant)

I don't know if saddling a rape victim who wants the fetus out of her body with a multi million dollar tab is much better than forcing her to carry it. I'm trying to see where the "pay for your own damn healthcare" crowd would take this.

Legion of Logic said...

Well I'm not an outright opponent of single-payer, so I wouldn't be the best one to answer that.

Stardusty Psyche said...

Legion of Logic said...

"In my view it is reasonable to apply that same standard to the beginning of life."

" Problem with that is the end of life and beginning of life are not equivalent."
At any particular time they are equivalent. You are confusing a future possibility with a present reality.


" Biologically, from the first cell, it meets the criteria for being a living human organism."
No, a human organism is not a small clump of undifferentiated cells.


If a small group of cells containing complete DNA constituted a human being then almost any tissue sample from a human being would itself be a human being, owing to the technical feasibility of cloning that tissue sample.


April 14, 2017 8:45 AM