IVF technology and the argument from potential.

Peter Singer, Karen Dawson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Singer and Dawson point out that two arguments against abortion, that the embryo is entitled to protection because from fertilization it is (1) a human being or (2) a potential human being, are also used by opponents of embryo experimentation. They focus on the second argument, evaluating the notion of potentiality as it applies to gametes, to the unimplanted embryo, to the implanted developing embryo, and to the embryo created by in vitro fertilization (IVF). They argue that there is a crucial distinction between natural reproduction, in which all that is needed for the embryo to have a prospect of reaching its potential is for those involved to refrain from stopping it, and IVF, in which the embryo cannot develop into a person without a deliberate human act. Reproductive techniques necessitate our rethinking of established views about potentiality, and how it should be applied to the embryo in a laboratory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)87-104
Number of pages18
JournalPhilosophy and Public Affairs
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1988

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Political Science and International Relations
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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