…the argument from potential is significant because it is the only thing that explains the stewardship that adult human beings have in regard to human neonates. Newborn infants lack the psychological maturity to possess goals, aims, beliefs, or purposes. This does not, however, exclude them from the moral community. The reason why it does not is because we realize that infants have the potential to develop these conscious goods, and it is this potential that, as Jim Stone argues, grounds the infant’s interest in growing up and realizing that potential . Every single semester that I teach the issue of abortion in class, I put up a picture of two cells that look striking similar, almost identical. I then reveal to my students that one is a skin cell, and the other is a fertilized egg at the zygotic stage of development. “Do they have the same moral status”?, I ask them. When I scratch my arm and kill skin cells, is my action as morally problematic as abortion? My students always answer that the two cell types are morally different; that the zygote is of a different status than my skin cells. In defense of this distinction, they always give the same reason: the zygote, if implanted into a uterus, has the potential to become a baby who will then become a person, whereas my skin cells do not. Since the vast majority of my students, in my seven years of teaching, share this intuition, I think that it is an intuition that is worthy of being explored rather than cavalierly dismissed.
Source: Revisiting the argument from fetal potential | Philosophy, Ethics, and Humanities in Medicine | Full Text