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Keywords:

  • abortion;
  • embryo;
  • fetus;
  • moral status;
  • stem cell research

Abstract: It seems that if abortion is permissible, then stem cell research must be as well: it involves the death of a less significant thing (an embryo rather than a fetus) for a greater good (lives saved rather than nine months of physical imposition avoided). However, I argue in this essay that this natural thought is mistaken. In particular, on the assumption that embryos and fetuses have the full moral status of persons, abortion is permissible but one form of stem cell research is not—the practice of creating embryos and then destroying them to extract cell material. Furthermore, I argue that the same is true on the assumption that embryos and fetuses have at least some moral status. I conclude that this form of stem cell research is permissible only if the embryos in question lack moral status. I then present and briefly defend a view on which these embryos lack moral status.