Paradoxes of abortion and prenatal injury

Ethics 116 (4):625-655 (2006)
Many people who believe that abortion may often be justified by appeal to the pregnant woman’s interests also believe that a woman’s infliction of significant but nonlethal injury on her fetus can seldom be justified by appeal to her interests. Yet the second of these beliefs can seem to cast doubt on the first. For the view that the infliction of prenatal injury is seriously morally objectionable may seem to presuppose a view about the status of the fetus that challenges the permissibility of abortion. The fear of being interpreted as implicitly endorsing such a view has thus led some defenders of abortion to be reluctant for tactical reasons to condemn the infliction of prenatal injury. In this they are encouraged by those who exploit the issue of prenatal injury in their campaign against abortion. When, for example, the House and Senate in 2004 passed legislation recognizing two victims of an assault against a pregnant woman, many viewed this as a tactic in a larger strategy to restrict access to abortion. This tactic is potentially effective. For people may find it compelling to infer that, if injuring a fetus is seriously objectionable, abortion must be even more objectionable, since killing is normally more seriously objectionable than merely injuring.
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DOI 10.1086/504621
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