- person - an individual human being.
- individual - a single organism capable of independent existence [Biology definition]
- zygote - the cell formed by the union of the nuclei of two reproductive cells (gametes), especially a fertilized egg cell.
- embryo - an animal in its earliest stage of development, before all the major body structures are represented. In humans, the embryonic stage lasts through the first eight weeks of pregnancy. In humans, other placental mammals, and other viviparous animals, young born as embryos cannot thrive.
- fetus - the unborn offspring of a mammal at the later stages of its development, especially a human from eight weeks after fertilization to its birth. In a fetus, all major body organs are present.
Some say the zygote has rights. Others say rights are acquired at birth. I differ with both camps. Here are viewpoints from both camps, which do not include religion-based arguments:
"The question as to when a human person begins is a philosophical
question—not a scientific question. I will not go into great detail here,
but "personhood" begins when the human being begins—at fertilization."
"Rights do not pertain to a potential, only to an actual being. A child
cannot acquire any rights until it is born."
"What of the fetus? Does it have rights which must be respected? The
concept of rights is based on man's nature and presupposes the existence
of an actual, fully formed and separate human being. Fetuses and embryos
are not actual human beings; they are potential human beings. They have
no rights until they exist apart from the mother, i.e., at birth. This is not to
condone the morality of arbitrarily delaying an abortion until the last
months of pregnancy--when the fetus is approaching humanness. But the
function of the law is to protect rights--not to dictate moral issues which
involve no violation of rights."
Here is An Objectivist Condemnation of Abortion.
Does a zygote have the right to enslave? I answer this question using the following principles of Thomas Jefferson:
"The principles on which we engaged, of which the charter of our independence is the record, were sanctioned by the laws of our being… Man [is] a rational animal, endowed by nature with rights… A free people [claim] their rights as derived from the laws of nature…”
“We hold these truths to be sacred & undeniable;
That all men are created equal & independent,
That from that equal creation
They derive rights inherent & inalienable,
Among which are the preservation of
Life, & liberty, & the pursuit of happiness…”
"Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add 'within the limits of the law' because law is often but the tyrant's will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual."
“No man has a natural right to commit aggression on the equal rights of another, and this is all from which the laws ought to restrain him."
The zygote has the complete number of chromosomes of a unique human. But, does a zygote have the right to force its mother to feed and take care of it for the next 19 years? Many Objectivists hold that rights commence at birth. But, birth does not give the baby ability to procure its own food in order to preserve its own life. Using birth as the basis of rights is using a principle based on location, since the only difference of an unborn six-month-old fetus with a baby born prematurely after six months in the womb is its location. This is contrary to Jefferson's principle that rights are based on the laws of man's nature.
The zygote cannot have a right no man has. "No man has a natural right to commit aggression on the equal rights of another." Its mother must choose to be responsible for it. The pregnant girl/woman is free to make this decision until the onset of the fundamental independence of the new unique human, which is the presence of brain activity that makes the unborn capable of breathing. No one has the right to stop an innocent from breathing, whether the innocent is in a crib, in an incubator, or in the womb.
The embryo is not sentient. It does not have brain activity. The central nervous system is fully formed on the 9th week, the start of the fetal stage. The fetus takes its first breath on the 10th week. [link]
A fetus has its own bodily parts. Its brain activity is separate from its mother's. The placenta, which the fetus uses to breathe, comes from embryonic cells. The new human breathes using an organ created from itself. A fully formed human with brain activity has acquired the NATURAL ATTRIBUTES of an ACTUAL living human. It is not birth that accords actuality; birth only changes the location of the innocent.
Rights are UNOBSTRUCTED actions according to one's will, limited only by the equal rights of others. If the mother is in coma and life support, the fetus will continue to breathe. This further evinces that the breathing of the fetus is an independent action. The unborn with brain activity has INHERENT NATURAL rights. It has the right to continue breathing.
Based on the laws of man's nature, the zygote has no rights. Man is fallible, and even the young have strong sexual urges. The individual right to the preservation of liberty and the pursuit of happiness guarantees the pregnant girl's right to choose whether or not to be responsible for another human for 19 years. This right is consistent with what nature has provided: a window to change course, which is the stage where the unborn has no brain activity. Based on human nature, the criterion for the cessation of the life of a fully formed human should be the criterion used for its onset.