An abortion rights demonstrator tries to block an anti-abortion group at the Women's March, which largely focused on abortion rights, at Freedom Plaza in Washington, Sunday, Jan. 22, 2023. Credit: Amanda Andrade-Rhoades / AP

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In a recent letter to the BDN, Chuck Bradshaw points out that not only the religious oppose abortion. Yes, a small minority ( about 5 percent) of atheists are pro-life, but this doesn’t make the pro-life position any more tenable.

It is true that a new human life begins, by definition, at conception. That is the meaning of the word. A human fetus, at any stage of development, is a unique human being, possessing a human genome and a genetic makeup different from that of the mother. These are indisputable facts, though we should be clear about one thing: a fetus is not a baby; a baby is a young child that has been born.

The important question is this: When does a human fetus become a person with moral standing and legal rights that must be protected by the state? It can be approached by considering when the possibility of consciousness first arises in the developing human brain, at about week 24.

Prior to week 24, there can be no self-awareness, no ability to reason, no preferences or desires, no guilt or innocence, no sense of time, no ability to experience pleasure or pain. A being without at least some of these attributes can hardly be called a person or a concern of the state.

Until then, a pregnant woman should be free to decide how much value her fetus has for her. As for the rest of society, lawmakers in particular, it is none of our business. It is a private matter.

Michael P. Bacon