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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 human and self-aware. Person 1 (our hero): Hm. If that were the right explanation, comatose people wouldn’t deserve the right to life.

Unconscious People Aren’t Self-Aware

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 being human and self-aware is what makes us equal. But some adult humans, such as people in comas, are not self-aware. Depending on exactly what counts as self-awareness, even people who are simply asleep may not be self-aware! This is important, because most people agree that sleeping people and people in comas deserve the right to life. So being human and self-aware 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 (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.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.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?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?
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