If you paid any attention to the title of this piece, you would have known what the essay was going to be about before even reading the paper. In “Abortion is Morally Wrong,” John T. Noonan Jr. defends the idea that an entity becomes a person at the time of conception and that abortion is morally wrong. The only exception to his belief is if the mother’s life is at stake (Noonan Jr. 353) Throughout his writing, Noonan Jr. presents oppositions from the opposing stance that abortion is morally right, and then refutes it. He attempts to answer the question: “How do you determine the humanity of a being?” He introduces several opposing viewpoints and promptly refutes them. The two that will be primarily focused on are the ideas of the dependence on the mother and the unborn child’s lack of experience.
The first opposition that he presents is the idea that the lack of experience makes the child less human. He rejects the claim that “a being who has had experiences, has lived and suffered, who possesses memories, is more human than one who has not” (Noonan Jr. 354). The opposition claims that because the child has never yet experienced anything (i.e. happiness, sadness, pain, etc.), it is not qualified to be a human. He rejects this idea by emphasizing “the embryo is responsive to touch after eight weeks and at least at that point is experiencing” (Noonan Jr. 354). Even if humanity were determined by experience, babies experience things while in the womb even before birth. It was found that unborn children could differentiate touch from pain in the womb at several weeks into pregnancy and maybe even before then (Ertelt). Therefore, the idea that the unborn child does not experience anything while in the womb is inaccurate. However, the question is: Is the level of experience an accurate way of measuring how human a person is? Would older people be more human than young people? Older adults have been through and experienced more than small toddlers. So according to the objection, the older adults would be more human than the toddlers. The age of the person has no correlation with how human a person is. Therefore, the unborn child in the mother’s womb should not be considered less human than an adult on the basis that experience determines humanity.
The second opposing view that he presents is the idea that because the child is dependent on the mother during early pregnancy, the child is not a “human.” The objection explains, “this dependence is made on the basis of denying recognition to [the unborn child’s] humanity” (Noonan Jr. 353). However, Noonan Jr. asserts that this distinction is not fully valid because “artificial incubation may make the fetus viable at any time” (Noonan Jr. 353). Nowadays, there is more technology to provide a chance for premature babies to survive without fully developing in the mother’s womb. He mainly argues against this opposition by asserting that the dependency of the child does not end after birth. He claims that “ the fetus is still absolutely dependent on someone care in order to continue existence” (Noonan Jr. 354). After the birth of the child, do the parents just let the child grow on its own without any assistance? Of course not, that would be child neglect; if this were the case, no one would be alive today. The notion that a child’s dependency on the mother to live determines how human it is not valid. Babies and even small children are completely dependent on others to live. Since they cannot fend for themselves, they rely on others entirely.
Noonan Jr. compelling argument against abortion provides great retribution for the opposition’s arguments. An unborn child is no less human than a person who has had more experience or is “less dependent” on the mother. The child has the potential to grow up and become someone but abortion takes that away in a matter of minutes. Despite others attempts to define humanity, an unborn child is human regardless simply because it has the potential to become an experienced and independent human being.
Ertelt, Steven. “Study: Unborn Babies Can Differentiate Touch, Pain in Womb.” LifeNews.com. N.p., 09 Sept. 2011. Web. 08 Nov. 2014.
Noonan Jr., John T. “Abortion is Morally Wrong.” Famine, Affluence, and Morality. N.p. 353-357. Print.