Document Detail

Separation-survivability--the elusive moral cut-off point?
MedLine Citation:
PMID:  16909187     Owner:  NLM     Status:  MEDLINE    
Act 92 of 1996, the Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Act, seeks to promote female autonomy. The Act makes no reference to the nature of the abortus--implying its moral insignificance. Utilitarian arguments on the value of life strongly support this position. Utilitarians argue that neither belonging to the human species, nor possession of the potential to develop into a person, is a significant intrinsic characteristic in determining the value of life. For them the entrance requirement to any conception of moral significance is sentience--the ability to suffer. Full moral significance is only accorded to 'persons'. A person is someone who has attained a sufficient level of self-awareness to have an interest in the continuance of its existence. This develops some time after birth. 'Conservatives' argue for conception as the moral cut-off point after which termination is morally unacceptable; 'liberals' hold that there is no such prenatal point. Both of these notions are problematic, as is the notion of sentience. We argue that separation-survivability is the only morally acceptable cut-off point, based on four premises, viz. (i) a particular notion of potentiality; (ii) the inextricable, mutual relationship between human beings and their world (without either, the other cannot exist); (iii) the moral correspondence of the viable fetus and the neonate; and (iv) the moral unacceptability of infanticide. We support a graded position on the value of prenatal human life, and a 'moderate' stance on termination--that notwithstanding possessing some moral significance, other arguments may trump this up to the point of separation-survivability. This seriously problematises 'partial birth' abortion, and the utilitarian argument on the value of life.
J A M de Roubaix; A A van Niekerk
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Publication Detail:
Type:  Journal Article    
Journal Detail:
Title:  South African medical journal = Suid-Afrikaanse tydskrif vir geneeskunde     Volume:  96     ISSN:  0256-9574     ISO Abbreviation:  S. Afr. Med. J.     Publication Date:  2006 Jul 
Date Detail:
Created Date:  2006-08-15     Completed Date:  2006-09-28     Revised Date:  2014-09-12    
Medline Journal Info:
Nlm Unique ID:  0404520     Medline TA:  S Afr Med J     Country:  South Africa    
Other Details:
Languages:  eng     Pagination:  623-6     Citation Subset:  IM    
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MeSH Terms
Abortion, Legal / legislation & jurisprudence*
Beginning of Human Life
Infant, Newborn
Personal Autonomy*
Pregnant Women*
South Africa
Value of Life
Comment In:
S Afr Med J. 2006 Nov;96(11):1140-2; author reply 1142-4   [PMID:  17195304 ]
S Afr Med J. 2006 Oct;96(10):1010   [PMID:  17175578 ]
S Afr Med J. 2006 Nov;96(11):1140; author reply 1142-4   [PMID:  17167693 ]

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