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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’re all sentient. Person 1 (our hero): I’d like to understand better. Would you consider squirrels sentient?

Squirrels Are Sentient

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 sentience is what makes us equal. People disagree about what counts as sentience, but it seems like if a newborn infant is sentient, then a squirrel should be too. This is important, because most people agree that squirrels and infants are not equal; we should grant more rights to an infant than to a squirrel. (Animal abuse is not okay, but for example, it’s a good idea to test medical products on animals before humans.) So sentience 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.

First posted

Suggested:
Person 1: The fetus becomes valuable when it becomes sentient. Person 2 (our hero): I’d like to understand your view better. Would you consider newborn infants sentient? How about pigs?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 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.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’re all aware of our surroundings. Person 1 (our hero): Hm, but what about people who are passed out from drinking too much? They deserve the right to life too.
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