There are two aspects of the abortion debate we need to be concerned about in determining the definition of an unborn child: biological and political. Humanity and person-hood are two different things and we must be careful not to confuse them.
On the biological side, there should be no argument about the humanity of the child, no matter its age. See here. Embryonic biology confirms 100% that a new, unique, human, individual comes into being at the fusion of the sperm and egg cells. This is objective, fixed, and permanent. It is based on science–cold, hard facts.
On the political side, there is the question about person-hood, which is an arbitrary, subjective decision. It is fluid and can mean different things at different times, depending on the fickle whims of the populace or its rulers. This is what we are dealing with in our current debate on abortion, not the humanity of the unborn fetus. See here with my reply to Walter Block concerning a snippet he wrote about the meaning of the libertarian philosophy.
Michael Rozeff has written about creating a new definition—nascent human—attempting to define the time when an unborn child becomes human and therefore legally protected from abortion. See here, here, and most recently, here. During a brief e-mail conversation between Rozeff and myself, he asked the question, “Is the category of nascent-human plausible or specious?”
Merriam-Webster defines nascent as ‘coming or having recently come into existence’, which can easily describe a zygote or embryo, but the fact remains that while the term ‘nascent’ might apply at the very beginning, it must be discarded at some point. When and at what stage of development does that occur? Can that even be determined? When does a nascent human become a full-blown human? Who is going to make the decision? This plays into the political argument, but not the biological one and is no different than trying to determine at what stage an unborn fetus becomes a person. Brain waves? Heartbeat? Viability at 24 weeks? Or maybe 26? As such, it will constantly change and reflect the mindset of societies in the future as the thinking about abortion changes. This is not solid ground on which to base an argument and Rozeff is in danger of losing his footing.
The social trend toward moral subjectivity and away from moral objectivity has not done us any favors. We need to change that as concerns the humanity of the unborn child. It is a human being, no matter what anyone thinks, and, as such, merits protection against the aggression of abortion, which results in the death of an innocent human being, which is murder according to Rozeff’s definition. The descriptive terms—nascent, potential, developing, etc.—are irrelevant. This is not to say they are not accurate, but as far as concerns the humanity of the unborn child, they are irrelevant.
The abortion war can be settled once we decide to stop defining the unborn embryo or fetus in political (subjective) terms and start defining it according to biology (objective). Born or unborn, a human being is a human being. End of argument. So long as we focus on whether it is a person or not, we will have abortions and the legal murders of countless human beings. The attitude of the general public is what will change the dynamic of abortion, not because laws are passed, but because already born individual, human beings decide to do what is right and refuse to be a part of that murderous lifestyle any longer.
Is this wishful thinking or a pipe dream? I think not. Tides advance and they retreat. So do societal and moral values. I am under no illusions about the length of time it may take, but I am certain that abortions will one day, someday, again be verboten, because, as a society, we understand what is right and are willing to act on that understanding.