Reinterpreting the 'quickening' perspective in the abortion debate

Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics 30 (2):161-171 (2009)
Personhood constitutes the pivotal point in the abortion debate. There exists a diversity of views as to when foetal personhood actually starts—from conception and implantation to viability and even birth. One perspective that has lost support for decades is that of quickening, a stance associated with Lord Ellenborough’s 1803 Act. This paper attempts to put quickening back into the limelight, albeit through a new interpretation. After discussing its philosophy and underpinning rationale, I will assess a number of arguments that have been directed against quickening as a viable point of distinction. I conclude by suggesting that according to modern proponents of quickening proponents, rational soul ensoulment begins after a certain degree of cerebral cortical formation has been realized, thus marking foetal volition, which promotes foetal interests, for the first time.
Keywords Abortion  Personhood  Quickening
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