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Is the fetus a resident or a body part?

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Pregnancy has variously been described as unique, confusing and full of ambivalence; as involving a doubling or splitting the person; and as challenging widely-held philosophical assumptions about firm distinctions between self and other or mind and body. But what, exactly, is pregnancy? What is this unique human – and mammalian – state? What is its nature? I would not be the first to note this question that appears to have been under-researched in philosophy – and Western intellectual history as a whole. That may seem a surprising claim given the burgeoning philosophical literature about, and the widespread public discussion of, abortion. But discussions about abortion rarely focus on the nature of pregnancy. Abortion discussions they tend to ask what a fetus is. Such discussions focus on whether a fetus has values, rights, or entitlements and whether another person can legitimately decide to cease providing it with the highly intimate and invasive, constant and irreplaceable life-support that is necessary for its existence. That, however, does not tell us what pregnancy is. Such discussions do not tell us about the nature of pregnancy, or the nature of the maternal-fetal relationship. In a way this omission is all the more surprising because all people agree – at least if they pause to think about it – that questions about abortion are only so unique, intractable, and entrenched because of the unique nature of pregnancy. Only in pregnancy – and in no other human circumstance – do we routinely find ourselves not only providing direct, constant and irreplaceable life-support to a developing human through direct use and wholesale involvement of our entire body; we also find that that human is developing in our most intimate insides. Or – to capture the perspective from the other inside – only in pregnancy does a developing human find itself not only wholly dependent and reliant on a single irreplaceable other human, but residing in its most intimate insides,. . .

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News source: OUPblog » Philosophy

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