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Peter Singer claimed at a Princeton symposium about abortion that public policy might not be able to reflect it, but in his view, children don’t achieve full moral status until after two years, which is how long it takes to develop into full personhood.  From my transcription of Panel II on 10/15/10 (press “Event Videos,” 20101015-panel two, to link to access streamed session) :

Q (beginning at 1:25:22): When discussing at which point after birth we would give full moral status, you gave . . . a legal or public policy point about practicality . . . Forgetting the practical or public policy questions, if a person is a self aware individual and self awareness isn’t conferred by birth, and we use mirror tests to determine self awarness . . . at what point do you think an infant would pass the mirror test and therefore be self aware and be considered a person.

Singer (beginning at 1:27:18): . . . My understanding is that it is not until after the first birthday, so somewhere between the first and second, I think, that they typically recognize the  image in the mirror as themselves . . . Really, I think this is a gradual matter. If you are not talking about public policy or the law, but you are talking about when you really have the same moral status, I think that does develop gradually. There are various things that you could say that are sufficient to give some moral status after a few months, maybe six months or something like that, and you get perhaps to full moral status, really, only after two years. But I don’t think that should be the public policy criteria.


But our policies follow our values.  If Singer’s views ever prevail, it will lead to human inequality and a loss of human rights for the young (and other so-called human “non persons”). More details, Singer quotes, and analysis over at Secondhand Smoke .

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