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Primacy of abortion

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Some time ago I read about a situation where a criminal had assaulted a pregnant woman which caused the child to die. There was some bit of hoopla over whether or not he ought to be tried for murder and assault or just assault. This has always troubled me for a bit and I am looking for some input about the ethics involved.

Seems like, if an fetus is not considered a child prior to birth, then that would include the case above, but this doesn't sit well with me.

One alternative, the mother's intention to bring the pregnancy to term seems to reduce to a primacy of consciousness issue, while the other, viewing the fetus as a child leads to the illegality of abortion.

Any thoughts?

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I imagine viewing a fetus as a woman's very valuable property--hers to see fit to dispose of, of course, resolves this. It would be a punishable offense to destroy that property without the consent of the owner. It's certainly wrong to consider this a murder on that basis, but right to charge the assailant with two crimes.

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Some time ago I read about a situation where a criminal had assaulted a pregnant woman which caused the child to die. There was some bit of hoopla over whether or not he ought to be tried for murder and assault or just assault. This has always troubled me for a bit and I am looking for some input about the ethics involved.

Seems like, if an fetus is not considered a child prior to birth, then that would include the case above, but this doesn't sit well with me.

One alternative, the mother's intention to bring the pregnancy to term seems to reduce to a primacy of consciousness issue, while the other, viewing the fetus as a child leads to the illegality of abortion.

Any thoughts?

Considering intentionality doesn't reduce to primacy of consciousness because intentionality is considered in court cases all the time. Simply we are determining what exactly was lost when this woman the fetus died. If the woman intended to bring this fetus into the world, then a human was lost, if there never was such an intention then nothing was lost other than the mother.

However loosing a potential human shouldn't be considered the same thing as loosing an actual human. For instance, if a fetus was lost in a car accident, but everyone else was alive and was going to recover, would the person at fault be charged with manslaughter? I am not entirely sure that would be correct, even though the woman did loose something of great value.

I think we need a new crime like "Destruction of potential life" or something like that, I am not good with names right now.

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It is definitely a complicated issue.

One thing that stands out to me is that unlike a piece of property being destroyed a miscarriage or other disruption that kills a fetus can be permanent. That is- piece of property can be restored with money (except in rare instances where the property is totally unique). Miscarriages can cause complications that could make a woman unable or unlikely to be able to carry another fetus to term. That is definitely one thing that needs to be considered.

Having not previously given this a great deal of thought I would say off the top of my head that a comparison could be made to a planted field. If you go to someone's farm and raze their planted field before harvest are you simply destroying seed since none of it was ready to eat yet? Or do we say that what you destroyed was the intended end product- food and a livelihood?

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I think this issue is contingent on property rights, very personal ones at that but all property is of course personal. If force was initiated on the woman

which directly caused a forced miscarriage I think this can be similar to an initiator of force damaging or removing something similar to a fetus, collection

of cells, an organ or a shiny golden tooth. They are all personal property.

If the criminal was charged for manslaughter then I would think the judge would also have tried the woman for murder when she had menstruated.

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Having not previously given this a great deal of thought I would say off the top of my head that a comparison could be made to a planted field. If you go to someone's farm and raze their planted field before harvest are you simply destroying seed since none of it was ready to eat yet? Or do we say that what you destroyed was the intended end product- food and a livelihood?

That is where I'm stuck. It isn't quite either a seed or a product, as Steve and element noted. In the case of crops it would be possible to work out some sort of algorithm seed price+labor+%growth time or whatever. Pretty assessable. In the case of a fetus, however, there is a pretty unquantifiable(and extremely high) emotional cost, especially if, as you mention, it was connected to a loss of capacity to have other children later.

If it is treated as a property issue, there is no realistic way to quantify its potential value, and if there were, it would be so high that recompensation by the offending party would be impossible.

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Some time ago I read about a situation where a criminal had assaulted a pregnant woman which caused the child to die. There was some bit of hoopla over whether or not he ought to be tried for murder and assault or just assault. This has always troubled me for a bit and I am looking for some input about the ethics involved.

Seems like, if an fetus is not considered a child prior to birth, then that would include the case above, but this doesn't sit well with me.

The question in need of an answer, in a case like this, isn't whether it's a child or not (the answer to that is not a moral/legal issue), or whether the victim was the fetus or the mother. The question is: How should the perpetrator of the crime be treated? How should he be judged/sentenced?

Personally, I find the answer pretty clear cut. What would possibly make a person who sets out to kill a woman's fetus less evil/violent/anti-social/dangerous/irrational/etc. than a person who sets out to kill another person? I submit to you that nothing, if anything he would have to be more heinous than your average killer. So he should be treated the same way a murderer is treated, end of story. A semantic distinction should be made to avoid confusion, of course (because a fetus is not an individual/person - that's a fact of reality, and any confusion on that, especially in today's US legal environment, is dangerous), but there's no reason for any distinction between the punishments.

In the US, there are fetal homicide laws in place which prescribe the same punishment for this particular crime as they do for the killing of a person, both in federal law (when the crime falls under federal jurisdiction) and in states' laws. In some states, the legal definition of murder in the first degree includes the killing of a person or an unborn child (with both crimes listed in the definition of the legal term "murder"). They distinguish between the acts, but not the punishments. I think that's perfect.

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