2/20/03

Why no funerals for miscarriages?


The idea that personhood could rest on social recognition or sentiment is denied by John Noonan because neither criterion could possibly be fixed enough to determine what counts, metaphysically, as a person.



For some, however, these criteria are enough to make abortion morally illegitimate. Many non-philosophers don't need further proof, and the potential mobility of feeling or social conviction doesn't bother them. (Either "the worse for them" or "the worse for philosophy.")



Why are there no well established traditions for the loss of a fetus from miscarriage? Just about everyone agrees that this is a grievous loss, but for those who believe that personhood begins at conception, is it not a loss that deserves the same treatment that an adult death would receive: namely, a funeral? Is the lack of common and well-established rituals to mark the passing of a fetus due to miscarriage (among those who believe personhood begins at conception) evidence for anything metaphysical (e.g., that it is not actually believed that a fetus is a person, even though it may still be of the highest immorality to end its life)? Or is it more innocuous than this, for example the fact that since a fetus has no social connections there is no purpose to the closure that a funeral would bring?

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