Wrongful Life and Abortion

Res Publica 16 (4):351-366 (2010)
Abstract
According to theories of wrongful life (WL), the imposition upon a child of an existence of poor quality can constitute an act of harming, and a violation of the child’s rights. The idea that there can be WLs may seem intuitively compelling. But, as this paper argues, liberals who commit themselves to WL theories may have to compromise some of their other beliefs. For they will thereby become committed to the claim that some women are under a stringent moral duty to have an abortion: a duty that could, without injustice, at least sometimes be enforced by the state. WL theories in other words imply that some women will lack a right to choose, under which both the decision to abort, and the decision to carry the fetus to term, are protected against interference. The paper exposes a dilemma, then, for liberals who are committed both to (a) the rights of future people not to be subjected to a harmful existence, and (b) the rights of women to refuse an abortion
Keywords Wrongful life  Abortion  Harm  Rights
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