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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Vol 35 no. 17. 19th July 1972

Is the Foetus a Person?

Is the Foetus a Person?

Until the beginning of the 19th century, the time of quickening (16-20th week) was taken as the point at which the foetus became a human being. Professor Liley (see Broadsheet A Case Against Abortion) has pointed out that this was in part due to medical ignorance about the exact moment of conception and how to determine it, but if we examine the current New Zealand abortion and inheritance laws to say nothing of the perceptions of pregnant women (Who often do not identify the tumour growing in their uterns as a baby until the point of quickening), it is obvious that in practice both the law and mam women draw a distinction between a foetus and a human being, Homunculus (or miniature man) arguments about the foetus are sentimental rather than real, since for many of us the foetus does not have the essential characteristics of visibility, viability, human shape and interpersonal responsiveness which enable us to feel that the foetus is a human being like us Finally, the state of development of the brain, at the time most abortions are carried out, is so rudimentary that any notion of foetal consciousness must be dismissed.