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Person 1 (our hero): You and I equally deserve the right to life. So do all our friends. What do we have in common that makes us equal? Person 2: We all have brains. Person 1 (our hero): Hm. If that were the right explanation, mice would deserve the same right to life as us.

Mice Have Brains

Josh Brahm calls this the most undervalued argument in the prolife movement. It’s called the Equal Rights Argument. On all sides of the abortion debate, most people agree that those of us outside the womb have equal value. Ask what we have in common that makes us equal, and listen carefully to the answer.

In this example, the proposed answer is that having brains is what makes us equal. Many non-human animals such as mice have brains too. This is important, because most people agree that humans and mice are not equal; we should grant more rights to humans than to mice. (Animal abuse is not okay, but for example, it’s a good idea to test medical products on animals before humans.) So having brains can’t be what makes us equal.

We think what makes us equal is simply that we’re all members of the human species. The human fetus is also a member of the human species, so if we’re correct, then the fetus is a person with the same value as you and me.

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Suggested:
Person 1: We check for brainwaves to see if someone’s dead, so a fetus without brainwaves isn’t alive. Person 2 (our hero): I agree the brain is a critical organ. But it’s not required for biological life. E.g., trees don’t have brains, but they are alive.Our hero: The reason brain death matters is that it points to something more fundamental: the end of an integrated organism. When an adult’s brain totally stops working, he or she stops acting as a unit, even if there’s still living tissue.Person 1 (our hero): You and I equally deserve the right to life. So do all our friends. What do we have in common that makes us equal? Person 2: We can all think. Person 1 (our hero): Hm. If that’s the right explanation, pigs deserve the same right to life as us.Person 1 (our hero): You and I equally deserve the right to life. So do all our friends. What makes us equal? Person 2: We’re all intelligent enough to have a conversation. Person 1 (our hero): Hm. If that’s the right explanation, infants don’t deserve the right to life.
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