David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics 20 (1):93-101 (2011)
In a footnote to the first edition of Political Liberalism, John Rawls introduced an example of how public reason could deal with controversial issues. He intended this example to show that his system of political liberalism could deal with such problems by considering only political values, without the introduction of comprehensive moral doctrines. Unfortunately, Rawls chose “the troubled question of abortion” as the issue that would illustrate this. In the case of abortion, Rawls argued, “the equality of women as equal citizens” overrides both “the ordered reproduction of political society over time” and also “the due respect for human life”. It seems fair to say that this was not the best choice of example, and also that Rawls did not argue for his example particularly well: a whole subset of the Rawlsian literature concerns this question alone. Rawls went on to clarify his views on abortion and public reason, but he continued to maintain that a society’s policy on abortion could be decided without introducing comprehensive moral doctrines concerning the moral status of the fetus. The three aims of this paper are to argue: (i) that a society cannot legitimately decide on its abortion policy using purely political values; (ii) that Rawls’ stances on abortion in his two major works are incompatible; and (iii) that neither of Rawls’ conceptions of justice could permit abortion.
|Keywords||John Rawls Abortion Justice Children Political liberalism Original position|
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