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Scott Lamont

Insofar as I can remember, there have been cases in several countries (Canada, the US, Britain) where women have been charged with child endangerment or similarly compelled to take physical care of themselves. These cases are usually pretty extreme, but have always caused controversy (interfering with the mother's right to self-determination, the "nanny-state", conferring inappropriate rights on the fetus). This may muddy the water, but the fact that an unborn human is defined as a fetus once it is old enough to have basic organ structures (like a heart) doesn't necessarily tell us how ethical comportment towards it should be defined. Perhaps the parents intention to have a child should be factored in. Perhaps viability outside the womb is a dividing line. The latter has upset those who wish to see no rights or status conferred upon the fetus, as they fear it will be the slippery slope, which will deprive women of the right to chose to terminate a pregnancy as interventions advance to the point that almost anything post-conception is viable. I think that that possibility is very unlikely. Despite our best efforts, the 24 week gestation seems to be a pretty practical limit. I would suggest that a fetus begins to enter "personhood" and therefore have standing as a being who deserves ethical consideration at the intersecting point where both viability is likely (it's never really guaranteed, believe me) and the parents' expectation of having a child has reached the point that to them, the fetus is a baby - that is to say, a person waiting to be born. Not an easy juncture to define in the legal sense, but I offer it as a thought.

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