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More Fetal Facts

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To the editors:

I am glad that Mr. Homiak in his editorial letter of July 20th recognizes the importance of facts in ethical discourse. Ideology too often directs people to a blind denial of reality especially when issues like abortion are on the agenda. It is important not to forget, however, that ethical standards are value statements and therefore inherently philosophical. Facts can be used only in a consideration of the consequences of the adoption of a particular ethical standard (or value) or to assure that ethical standards, once adopted, are applied consistently. Mr. Homiak attempts to show that the widely accepted ethical standard that prohibits one person from killing another is applicable to fetuses by proving that fetuses are, in fact, people. Unfortunately, the facts marshalled to this end fall short of the goal. The ability to hear, brain waves, heartbeats, swimming, and sensitivity to pain are not unique characteristics of human beings taken either separately or together. In fact, the use of these standards would result in half the animal kingdom being included in the same ethical category as human beings. The purpose of this letter, however, is not to take a position on the animal rights issue or even to argue whether fetuses are, in fact, human, but rather to point out that ethics is inherently philosophical and that the presented evidence for the humanness of fetuses is not quite conclusive.

John Perry

E. 50th St.

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