In the last debate post, we talked about the humanity of the unborn and some of the arguments you will hear against that. Now that we have that covered, we'll move on to what makes human beings valuable.
Substance things are distinguished from property things. Humans are substance things, because we are living organisms who maintain our identity through time and change, unlike property things such as cars, decks and houses. For example; if a dog loses it's leg, is it still a dog? Of course. But if you rebuild your deck plank by plank, is it still the same deck? No, not really. That is because dogs are substance things, and a deck is a property thing.
The substance view of humanity says that you and I are identical to our former embryonic selves. We have gone through physical changes, but we have an inner human nature given to us by God at the moment of conception that determines what we are, regardless of our stage of development. There is a good chance that you will come across people who will argue that the unborn are human beings, but they are not persons- as if there is some kind of difference. Mary Anne Warren claims that to be a person, you have to be *self-aware, you have to be able to react with your environment, and you have to have some sense of continuance over time, amongst other things.
Here's a thought experiment for you. If someone is in an accident and goes into a coma, are they still the same person they were before they were in the accident? What if they come out of the coma with no recollection of their past; are they still the same person then? Yes, of course. That is because things like self- awareness, a sense of continuance over time, etc. are not what makes us valuable human beings or "persons"; our inner human nature determines what kind of thing we are, and the kind of thing we are has never changed. If we are human now, we have always been human. If not, what species were we in the womb? Also, if those things are what makes a person, who else can we disqualify from personhood? The mentally disabled, newborns, and anyone in a deep sleep! We also need to be asking people who make this argument why human beings have to possess these qualities to be considered a person- what is it about self- awareness that has the power to define who is worthy of life and who isn't?
Another argument you may hear is that you have to have a desire to live to have a right to life. One question- what about suicidal people?
One more thing to consider is that if an accidental property such as self-awareness, viability or the experience of pain/pleasure is what makes human beings persons, then could we not throw human equality right out the window? If one person has experienced more pain or pleasure than the other, could we not say that that person has more of a right to life than the other? We are equal because we share the same inner nature; you either have a human nature or you don't, and no one has more of it than another.
Long story short, the unborn are human beings. They are persons just like you and me, and they are valuable because they have a God given human nature and are made in His image.
**Embryos actually possess the basic capacity for self-awareness- they only lack maturity or an immediately exercisable capacity for self-awareness.