Chile is one of the few countries in the world where abortion is criminalized under all circumstances. The “pro-life” activists argue against decriminalization of abortion in Chile on the following grounds: Major premise = Human life is sacred and therefore inviolable. Minor premise = Human life begins with fertilization. Conclusion = The fertilized egg is sacred and inviolable human life and its termination amounts to murder.
The main problem with the syllogism lies in the minor premise: that after the fertilization of the egg all the genetic material to create a human being is completely available. The fertilized egg would be a “potential” human being.
Now, if it is biological potential – and it is arguable to assign such potential to the fertilized egg and not to each gamete separately – the argument has an important flaw. If by “all the available genetic material” they mean all that is necessary to create an individual of the human species, how to explain situations in which two fertilized eggs become one (the “chimeras”) or just one can result in two identical twins?
The pro-life activist may reply that the fertilized egg actually has, not biological potential, but moral potential. It is correct to distinguish between biological and moral potential. However, it is not until 12 weeks have passed– and not since the fertilization – that the biological reality and the moral potential come together for the first time, giving rise to a morally relevant landmark.
Indeed, we are in the presence of a being that has developed the central nervous system and is capable of feeling pain, therefore becoming imperative not to cause any suffering.
Moreover, having developed the system that in the future will allow the deployment of our specific difference, rationality, we are before a morally relevant potential worthy of special protection. Sentient reality bound to potential rationality: Ecce Homo.
Therefore, the termination of pregnancy before 12 weeks of gestation should be utterly decriminalized under all circumstances. After 12 weeks, we are in the presence of an actual sentient being, as well as potentially rational. From that moment on, the analysis to prohibit or not an abortion should be based on a due assessment of the values and rights in possible conflict.