Flesh of the unborn: on the political philosophy of the unborn

Aireen Grace T. Andal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This work situates the unborn within the wider discussions in political philosophy. Much existing work on the unborn’s relevance to theoretical discussions focuses on personhood, moral status and pregnant bodies. However, this work argues that the embryonic or fetal body is the crux of political philosophy’s interest in the unborn. There is less work on whether or not to protect the unborn by virtue of having a body, yet it is important because the embryonic or fetal body complicates the boundaries of the unborn’s membership to humanity. This work unpacks the relevance of political philosophy in furthering the discussions on the body of the embryo or fetus. The unborn’s membership to humanity is inescapably embodied because it is with and through a body that the unborn gains access the human world and touches discussions on moral status, personhood, identity and rights. Three cases are provided to substantiate these discussions: moral status, birth restrictions and gene editing, all of which are related to how the embryonic or fetal body becomes a contested space for membership to humanity. This work concludes that the political philosophy of the unborn contributes to both academic scholarship and political life by problematizing what virtues ought to govern laws and policies on the unborn. Discussions imply that the connection between the contested embryonic or fetal body and political philosophy gathers a variety of deep and important questions, which justifies an intellectual and practical pursuit.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)53-67
Number of pages15
JournalChanging Societies and Personalities
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • political philosophy
  • unborn
  • pregnancy
  • discourse
  • ethics
  • moral status
  • Pregnancy
  • Discourse
  • Ethics
  • Political philosophy
  • Moral status
  • Unborn


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