The Instigator
Pro (for)
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The Contender
Con (against)
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A Fetus is Morally Equivalent to a Mature Human

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 8/22/2012 Category: Society
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,595 times Debate No: 25235
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (3)
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I will argue, as Pro, that the unborn, from the moment of conception, are full-fledged members of the human community. Thus, I will uphold the idea that the moral value of a fetus is equivalent to that of a mature human.

Standard dictionary definitions will be used, unless otherwise noted and clarified by a debater. And context will further verify what is meant.

The first round is for acceptance of the terms of debate.

Thank you!


I accept and thank my opponent for the opportunity to participate in this debate. Since I am not clear what my opponent defines "morally equivalent" as, I will assume until further notice that I'm arguing against the idea that the unborn, from the moment of conception, are complete members of the human community as my opponent has stated that he will be arguing for the idea.

Good luck InVinoVeritas.
Debate Round No. 1


Abortion is the termination of pregnancy by the removal or expulsion from the uterus of a fetus or embryo. [1] This effectively precludes the fetus or embryo's potential from developing further. While upholding the premise that murdering a member of the human community, prima facie, is immoral, OneElephant and I will delve into the matter of whether or not a fetus is a member of the human community. Based on our conclusion, we will be able to infer whether the termination of the development of a fetus is moral or immoral.

Now, this is the boring part where I post a variation of the standard pro-life argument. But in order to demonstrate the broader context of this case, I have to go over it, so bear with me.

1. The unborn entity, from the moment of concept, is a full-fledged member of the human community
2. It is prima facie morally wrong to kill any member of that community
3. Every successful abortion kills an unborn entity, a full-fledged member of the human community
4. Therefore, every successful abortion is prima facie morally wrong [2]

(The term prima facie has been used a lot so far, so I'll take the time to explain what it means. In Latin, it means "at first sight," [3] and the reason that it is used is that it excludes rare cases in which abortion may be deemed justifiable (e.g., when a mother's life is at risk.))

The part of the argument this debate is concerned with is the first premise, with whether or not a fetus is a full member of the human community (and consequently, whether or not it is morally equivalent to a mature member of this community.) The second statement in the syllogism will serve as an axiom if it is brought up, unless the opponent contests this. We now understand the broad context of this argument, and where it stands in the abortion controversy.

So, without further adieu, let us put narrow our focus.


1. Photo Album

Well, I'm flipping through my photo album right now. I see a photo of a small, gleeful InVinoVeritas sitting naked on a dinosaur-themed potty. Is that me? I was so much smaller and less mentally and physically developed. Hell, I had only started college at the time the photo was taken.

I case you were wondering, yes, it was me. It was just me at a different stage of development. A baby InVino became a child InVino became an adolescent InVino became a (childish) adult InVino. But through all of it, I was InVino. My mother was pregnant with and gave birth to me, not someone else who would later become me. Although I developed, my body has maintained the same distinct identity of personhood. I was a fetus at an earlier stage of development. That fetus was me.

Now, if I were the victim of a murder right now, prima facie, then the murder would be considered immoral, since I am a member of the human community. Any case of prima facie murder of InVinoVeritas would be immoral; I am a victim against whom such an act of murder is deemed immoral. If I were killed as a fetus, then who would be the victim? Since I have established that the fetus is still me (at an earlier stage of development), then the victim is namely me.

It is immoral to kill me now, and consequently, it is immoral to kill me as a fetus. [4] In both cases, the victim is the same; the victim is me.


I challenge my opponent to come up with a trait that excludes a fetus from the human community. Meanwhile, I will address some of the traits (SLED: Size, Level of Devlopment, Environment, Degree of Dependence) that some use to argue that fetuses should be excluded from the human community [5]:

a. Size:

Are moral rights given to those who are bigger? I am shorter than Michael Jordan, and a four-year-old is shorter than me. Am I more justified to be excluded from the human community than Michael Jordan? Is the four-year-old less human than me? No to both... That's just absurd. Size cannot be used to decide whether one is a human or not, nor moral value.

b. Level of Development:

The developing fetus is far more cognitively underdeveloped than a mature adult. But do we assign moral rights based on cognitive ability? Is a child less morally valuable or less human than an adult due to less developed cognitive abilities? People who are insensitive to pain (e.g., sufferers of Congenital Insensivity to Pain with Anhydrosis) or severely mentally disabled to the point that they are not self-aware are disqualified from being human beings? People in comas who are not cognitively able to actively think, feel pain, or be self-aware are disqualified, too? This is, of course, absurd.

c. Environment:

The location of the fetus is irrelevant. If, hypothetically, my mother grew to twenty times her size, and I climbed back into her womb, would I be less human? Would I lose moral value? Moreover, by being passed from the womb to the outside (a distance of mere inches), a meaningless non-human becomes human?

d. Degree of Dependence:

Dependence determines moral value and whether one is a full member of the human community? Not at all. If you are a lifeguard at a pool, you see someone drowning, and no one else is there to help, what do you do? Do you decide not to help, because the moral value of the drowning person is below human because he/she is dependent on you? That's absurd. An unresponsible teenager may depend on his/her parents, but that does not take away from his/her moral value as a human being.

These traits do not justify the labeling a fetus as a non-member of the human community.

3. Natural abortions

Some state that since many pregnancies result in miscarriages, or spontaneous abortions, that the moral value of fetuses is lower than that of a human being. This, however, is not the case, because it conflates natural death with intentional death. In the words of Norman Geisler, “Protecting life is a moral obligation, but resisting natural death is not necessarily a moral duty… There is no inconsistency between preserving natural life, opposing artificial abortion, and allowing natural death by spontaneous abortion.” [6]

Let us say that a group of ten people have been exposed to extreme radiation. Two of them have died, as a direct result. Would killing the other eight people (by our own will) be more moral than killing someone who was not exposed to the radiation? No. And why not? Because despite the fact that they have a higher chance of facing a natural death in the near future than random members of the general public, they maintain their moral value as human beings. Murdering them would be just as morally wrong, because of the moral value that they hold as members of the human community.


The unborn are full-fledged members of the human community from the moment of conception. As members of this community, they hold the same moral values.

Thank you.

[2] Scott Klusendorf, The Case for Life: Equipping Christians to Engage the Culture (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2009) p. 29. Originally from: Francis J. Beckwith, Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007)


I thank my opponent for his arguments, as well as for clearing up the ambiguity of the resolution. In my opponent’s next round, I’d like him to tell me if he believes that raped women should have the right to terminate their pregnancies and whether he believes women should have the right to abort fetuses with a high risk of developing severe mental defects, etc.

I also apologize for the delay and the rushed arguments.

Pro’s Case

1. Photo Album Argument

In order to address this argument, we must first establish that membership to the human community (FMTTHC) is not based on potential. In other words, just because the fetus will become someone both Pro and I agree has FMTTHC, it does not necessarily follow that the fetus should have membership.

To illustrate this, we can look at drinking rights. Just because I will become somebody who is of the legal age to drink (19 in Ontario), doesn’t mean I can drink right now.

Now, if I understand correctly, Pro’s “Photo Album Argument” goes something like this-

1. Moral value is based on the degree of MTTHC.
2. FMTTHC is based solely on identity.
3. All human beings from the moment of conception have a unique identity.
4. Since fetuses have the same degree of identity as adult humans, the moral value of the fetus is equivalent to the moral value of an adult human.

This argument falls because nothing validates point 2. In order for Pro’s argument to stand, he must refute all other prerequisites for FMTTHC which I will present in my case.


This isn’t really an argument, this is a rebuttal, so even if I drop some of these points, I should be fine. I won’t argue about natural abortions either, that’s a rebuttal as well.

Size: I agree that rights should not be granted based solely on appearance, however, there’s a much bigger difference between a cluster of cells and a newborn than a four year old and a fully developed human. Even conjoined twins and burn victims are recognizably human. An embryo is not.

Level of Development: Again, there’s a much bigger difference between a cluster of cells and a mentally delayed person. An embryo may not even have a brain, or a thinking process. Additionally, at least a coma patient has normal brain, organ, and respiratory functions, a fetus does not.

Environment: Environment does matter when it infringes on somebody else’s personal space. If your mother grew to twenty times her size, and you crawled into your mother’s womb and demanded she carry you around for three trimesters, I would say she has the right to kick you out. It may not make you any less human, but it sure would make you a sick bastard at least.

Dependency: First of all, lifeguards are paid to save lives, it’s their job. However, ordinary people are not obligated to jump into a pool to save someone, as noble as that might sound. Additionally, spending thirty minutes to swim someone to safety is not quite the same as lugging around a parasite in your womb for nine months while suffering bouts of morning sickness and other pregnancy related issues such as childbirth.

Con’s Case

Pro challenges me to present traits that excludes the fetus or embryo from being a part of the human community. In order to do so, we must first establish what it means to be a “human being” and what it means to be a member of the human community.

1. Are fetuses recognizably human?

Is an acorn the same as a tree? No, and when confronted with why, most people will point out the differences in appearance and the way their cells function. Generally speaking, the term “human being” also refers to something that remotely resembles and behaves like a human. Does an embryo resemble a human? Can a zygote function like a human? The answer is again, no. For the first one or two weeks of conception, embryos are barely visible to the naked eye and contain no skeletal system, no bodies, no brains, and no internal organs. Even fetuses are a long stretch from human- they don’t breathe, they eat and excrete via the umbilical cord, and they can’t produce any sound at all. During some stages of development, fetuses have eyes on stalks, gills, webbed fingers; embryos can even split in two and recombine into one.

An acorn may be part of the tree family, but it clearly cannot be considered a tree. Similarly, an egg may hatch into a chicken, but nobody considers an egg a chicken. There is a similar line with fetuses and human beings, and this line is drawn at childbirth.

2. Does a fetus have a social identity?

If I had an account on DDO which could not participate in any forum or any debate, cannot be seen or recognized and carries no official username, can I really be considered part of the DDO community? A big part of being part of a community is the ability to be recognized, identified, and interact with other members of the community. A fetus is exempt from any form of meaningful social interaction. It can’t even be identified, since names are only officially bestowed after birth.

The point at which one becomes a member of a community isn’t entirely empirical and factual; a large part of membership is a value judgment made by society in response to social customs and needs and generally speaking, we find that society only officially recognizes fetuses as human when they are born.


If we take away the romanticism, what we find is that the fetus, in essence, is a living and breathing tumor embedded in the womb of a woman. Thank you.
Debate Round No. 2


InVinoVeritas forfeited this round.


My opponent accidentally forfeited this round, so I'll just summarize the arguments here. Pro only makes one argument, the rest are rebuttals. His photo album argument, in my understanding, hinges on there being no other important distinction between human beings before and after childbirth (since I have already established that potential is not proper criteria for judging MTTHC). In order for Pro to win, he must explain why social identity and recognizability should not be important deciding factors in MTTHC.
Debate Round No. 3


Eh, college. F***.


Bah, my arguments weren't that great anyway.
Debate Round No. 4
3 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Posted by OneElephant 5 years ago
Sure, no biggie.
Posted by InVinoVeritas 5 years ago
Haha, poop. Sorry about that.
Posted by adontimasu 5 years ago
What do you mean by "morally equivalent" ?
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