The reason I have always considered the fetus a person – a significantly dependent person, but a person nonetheless -, is that I have never been able to find a non-arbitrary point at which the fetus could possibly acquire personhood. If birth is said to be the criterion, preemies acquire personhood at the same developmental stage hat those who could be born at full term, do not yet possess personhood yet. And if some arbitrary ability – such as the ability to think or feel – is used, there is always the risk that some born persons do not meet this criterion. Even the presence of a cerebral cortex at twelve weeks gestation – except when the fetus is anencephalic – becomes arbitrary here.
The criterion used in the Netherlands to guide abortion law, is somewhat complicated. According to the letter of the law, viability is the point at which no abortions can be performed anymore. This makes sense, in that, once a baby/fetus is viable outside the womb, there is no longer a need to kill them to relieve the pregnant person of the discomfort or threat of gestating.
However, where our law becomes complicated, is that it restricts abortion to the first 21 weeks of gestation. That used to be 24 weeks, but it was determined that babies born at 22 weeks, can survive. Now that seems alright, except that babies born at 22 weeks are not viable in the Netherlands. That is, neonatology has decided it will not resuscitate or treat babies born before 25 weeks gestation – and every baby born at this gestational age, will need these. Yet abortion law has decided that babies are viable by 22 weeks. Who is right here: abortion legislators or neonatologists? Some of my readers may know that I’d side with the abortion legislators here, as I am a strong advocate for the treatment of premature infants regardless of gestational age. However, as long as no neonatoligist in the Netherlands is going to treat babies born at 22-24 weeks, the limbo remains.