JivinJehoshaphat makes this comment on our current stream of posts on the term fetus in this post that is well worth a full read:
What I find interesting here is that I think the prolife movement for the most part has won the debate over what a human fetus is or isn't. I think when most people hear the term fetus, they don't think about a tiny grouping of cell with no value but rather they think about a miniature human being in the womb which has some value. Their minds go to the 3-D images of unborn children or they think of children who are born very premature as being in the womb. As time has passed, more people have become familiar with the term and it is not as abstract as it once was. Hardly anyone thinks fetal farming (killing human fetuses solely for their parts) should be permitted and reading pro-choice blogs I rarely see the term fetus used as if human fetuses weren't worth a dime. Only the dimmest of dim think this somehow amounts to some great point. Some prolifers have even used terms which were once so dehumanizing to humanize the unborn in the eyes of others.
I have two comments in relation to this. The first is that the intention of my initial post was aimed at pro-lifers that I encounter and my desire for them to realize that we are free to embrace the term fetus as an accurate and non-threatening term describing a developmental stage that we all pass through. I agree with Jivin that it is not a popular counter argument from well informed pro-aborts(at least not as a complete argument, many refined arguments are developmental in nature though not as simple as a fetus is not a human) and that as a point I think it so weak and reminiscent of an old mindset that I do not respect it at all. We are past this and so should act accordingly. The hesitancy of some pro-lifers is completely and totally unnecessary and the reason that I gave the illustration of Scott’s debate was to point out how incredibly weak the argument looks in context.
My second reaction is actually more of a question. If a large number of people in our country are familiar with the humanity of the fetus as a matter of fact, then why are we comfortable with the practice of legalized abortion on demand? I am not saying Jivin is wrong or even that this is his point, I am seriously asking the question. If so many people do not see a fetus as less human than a newborn then how do we marry that with a daily indifference to the reality of what is happening with abortion in our culture? How can these two propositions both be true?
1- Most people do not see the fetus as less human than a born child. (not dehumanized by stage of development)
2- Most people are not motivated to stop legalized abortion in the United States.
I see this indifference everyday as fundraiser. A donor and I were talking recently and he said that unlike me abortion was not something he thought about everyday. Why not? We believe that it is human life and yet are not terribly worked up about the large-scale destruction of it? And this is a pro-life donor. One of two things is correct here.
A - People are not as convinced of the humanity of the unborn as we would like to believe. Most people still see the fetus as less human than a newborn and the opposition’s avoidance of the argument is largely of rhetorical necessity and does not indicate a large scale victory on this issue for our side on a popular level.
B - The alternative is more chilling in my mind. Most people will now acknowledge the full humanity of the fetus and see the unborn as equal in qualities of humanity as the born. In this case, the moral response to the moral offense is disturbingly inadequate. If we know that they are fully human beings and have truly won this argument, what kind of people are we that we can not manage to rally any greater moral outrage than what we have seen so far?
If Jivin’s point is that we are winning this argument on the academic and political level in circles that daily consider and weigh the merits of bio-ethics arguments and that the pro-choice side is now largely incapable of dehumanizing the fetus by identifying its developmental stage then I agree. If the point is that the rest of our population who is not actively engaging the pro-life movement everyday, including the majority of those who identify themselves as pro-life, is fully in agreement with us and enjoys the knowledge and fruits of those successes, then I hope that Jivin is wrong. If this is the moral outrage that we can expect from a culture largely convinced that the fetus is fully human then we are in serious trouble.