Of all the issues that have invited controversy over the years, the moral debate regarding the right to end a fetus' life has easily been one of the most divisive and tempestuous. The very fact that a human life is involved makes it all the more sensitive.The whole debates stems from the single issue- at what stage does a fetus actually become alive. If one was to speak in purely biological terms, life is created the moment conception takes place between the male and female gametes. But it is way more complicated than that. The development of the fetus within the womb is an extremely complicated process, characterized by a number of prominent events. The foremost, is obviously fertilization which is marked by the union of the male and female gametes, forming the embryo. The next significant event is implantation, when the embryo gets implanted in the mother's uterus. While both of these events can easily be detected in the human body, critics often argue that their timing is as arbitrary as any other date. They theorize that till the stage of implantation, the embryo is not "human" enough, and thus abortion is not condemnable. The major discerning voices against this notion comes from religious followers, which has been discussed in detail later. Another group of people believe "quickening" to be the stage when the fetus can be termed "human" enough. Quickening refers to the movement of the fetus inside the womb. Interestingly, this idea was supported by a Christian theologian, St. Augustine, who made a distinction between embryo inanimatus, not yet endowed with a soul, and embryo animatus, endowed with a soul.
The debate invariably extends to the issue of abortion. The right to abortion first gained popularity in the 1960's during the second wave of feminism. It constituted one of the major demands of the feminists during the movement. But the practice of abortion was legalised as late as 1973 in a historic ruling of the United States Supreme Court. The judgement declared that a pregnant mother may abort her pregnancy for any reason, up until "the point at with the fetus becomes viable". Viability usually occurs at about seven months (28 weeks) but may occur earlier, even at 24 weeks"(Thomson). Till date the judgement remains extremely controversial in character.
The opponents of abortion have vehemently criticised it on both moral and religious grounds. The opponents of abortion, popularly known as pro life maintain that abortion is morally wrong as it leads to the death of an innocent fetus. But this argument is rejected by the pro choice people (supporters of abortion) on the grounds that there is a huge difference between a human being and human person. They contend that the fetus has not attained a level of personhood and thus cannot be considered alive in the real sense of the word. They also believe that because the fetus does not possess any self consciousness or autonomy, it is certainly not a complete person and thus cannot exercise the right to live.
But the property of self consciousness is not potent even in human infants and comatose patients (Marquis).Does that also automatically imply that they have forfeited the right to live The alternate approach which is often adopted by anti abortionists is to base a person's right to live on his or her inherent or natural capacities. Even though a fetus might not fulfil all criteria of personhood, he or she has the inherent capability to do so in the future, if he or she is allowed to live. Every human fetus, unless affected by a serious genetic disorder, has the genetic potential to develop psychological features essential to life and personhood. And the pro life activists consider that to be the paramount ingredient of life.
The theory of deprivation is an extension of the above hypothesis. By aborting a fetus, which has the innate ability to transform into a whole person eventually, people are depriving it of a bright and promising future. But as mentioned