Author(s): RimonZarfaty N, Raz AE, HashiloniDolev Y
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Abstract BACKGROUND AND METHODOLOGY: 'Biological' and 'human' life or 'personhood' are not necessarily identical. While the Catholic Church does not separate the two, concluding that human life commences at conception, Judaism endows the fetus with personhood gradually throughout the pregnancy. Gradualism is also reflected in many Western abortion laws that prohibit 'late abortion'. Importantly, the Israeli law does not prohibit abortion at any stage of pregnancy. To examine attitudes regarding the status of the fetus vis-a-vis its stages of development, a questionnaire presenting ten successive stages was distributed to Israeli respondents (n = 281). For each stage participants were asked to grade the fetus as having 'personhood' or as a 'living organism' on a five-point scale. Data were analysed to show frequency distribution. RESULTS: The fetus gains its ascribed personhood gradually. Most of the participants perceived the fetus as a person at the stage in which the woman feels its movements. Additionally, many (especially secular respondents) evaluated the fetus as a living organism at earlier stages, thus making a distinction between the fetus as a living organism and as a person. An international comparison with English-speaking countries revealed a local 'Israeli' tendency to attribute personhood status to the fetus only at a relatively late stage. DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS: The 'Israeli' fetus acquires its status gradually. This finding challenges the dichotomous conceptualisation of the fetus as 'a person' or 'non-person'. The authors conclude by presenting the perceived transformation of the fetus to 'personhood' as being influenced by national and religious factors.
This article was published in J Fam Plann Reprod Health Care
and referenced in Journal of Clinical Research & Bioethics