Fetuses may develop consciousness much earlier than thought. Does this change things?

You know, I don’t think that we can use “can survive without mother’s womb” as the test, because if you allow prenatal care to influence the number, then you can argue that a sperm cell, given the prenatal care of egg + womb, can become human.

And, IMHO, might-makes-right is about the (unlawful) change of ownership of property. If you own something, you don’t need might to work your will upon it.

Excellent point. The question is not “can something feel pain?” What we should ask is, “Does it suffer?”

That is, does its response to pain go beyond simple survival instinct? Of course, there is some evidence that pigs and other higher mammals do, in fact, suffer when pain is infliced upon them. I don’t have a cite, but anyone who read The New York Times Magazine cover story on this a few months ago knows what I’m talking about.

But, yeah, saying it’s conscious doesn’t say much. All that means is that it’s not dead, has some sort of brain, and it can respond to stimuli, even if those reactions are involuntary. That definition would include just about every vertebrate on Earth.

Ok, sorry. Let me rephrase. Do we know for sure when to consider it a “biological something” and when to consider it human? From my contribution to this thread you all surely suspect by now that I am not an expert biologist. Despite that I understand that scientist can agree the exact moment. Therefore in the absence of a precise way of determining the fetus “status” we should be more carefull.

Depends on how you define “human”. Is “human” a living object with human DNA? Then would a cloned liver be a human? Is “human” a sentient being? Then is a brain dead human no longer human?

I think the issue is not preserving “humans” but is preserving “persons”. And “persons” is varyingly defined. Many consider a person to be a sentient human, and therefore do not accord the rights of personhood to a braindead human. This appears to be moral basis underlying of the article in the OP. Some allow personhood only to humans who can live without being biologically attached to another human. Some consider personhood to be dependent on number of chromosomes, and so a fertilized egg is a person.

Perhaps we should be more careful to not deny the rights of a person with clearly “human status” to dictate what lives in their own body, in favor of the rights of a living thing that might have “human status”.

Given that the report of all the medical research I have seen is that sentience cannot exist without a sufficiently functional cerebral cortex, I do not feel I am being unduly careless to assume that prior to this development, or after the destruction of the cortex, there is no sentience. Caution is admirable, but to limit a person’s control over their own body based on the possibility that we may be completely wrong about all we know about science so far seems perhaps a bit too cautious. Like in my previous example, we do not think a single cell can be sentient so we do not mind killing bacteria, and if we were to forbid killing them it could cause a decent amount of harm to other persons without their consent. Should we forbid antibiotics because bacteria might be sentient if we are completely wrong about science so far? Or should we make our best judgement as to the likelyhood of sentience based on the facts available, limit the possibilty of harm when it is considered reasonable to assume there is sentience, and leave the rest up to the dictates of an individual’s conscience?

No. I’ve never heard of a miscarriage carrying the same sort of weight that the loss of a child does. Clearly there is a distinction being made since a miscarried foetus is not treated with the same sort of burial and death rituals that even a still born infant would receive. Nor are would be mothers vilified for getting over a miscarriage more easily or not mourning a miscarriage with the same intensity that they would for a dead child. That doesn’t mean that to the woman and her husband the loss isn’t a tragedy; but the fact that it is a tragedy doesn’t imply that the foetus was a child. For better or worse, a child and a foetus are simply two different things.