One of the reasons why most of us feel puzzled about the problem of abortion is that we want, and do not want, to allow to the unborn child the rights that belong to adults and children. When we think of a baby about to be born it seems absurd to think that the next few minutes or even hours could make so radical a difference to its status; yet as we go back in the life of the fetus (...) we are more and more reluctant to say that this is a human being and must be treated as such. No doubt this is the deepest source of our dilemma, but it is not the only one. For we are also confused about the general question of what we may and may not do where the interests of human beings conflict. We have strong intuitions about certain cases; saying, for instance, that it is all right to raise the level of education in our country, though statistics allow us to predict that a rise in the suicide rate will follow, while it is not all right to kill the feeble-minded to aid cancer research. It is not easy, however, to see the principles involved, and one way of throwing light on the abortion issue will be by setting up parallels involving adults or children once born. So we will be able to isolate the “equal rights” issue and should be able to make some advance... (shrink)
Don Marquis has put forward a non-religious argument against abortion based on what he claims is a morally relevant similarity between killing adult human beings and killing fetuses. He asserts that killing adults is wrong because it deprives them of their valuable futures. He points out that a fetus’s future includes everything that is in an adult’s future, given that fetuses naturally develop into adults. Thus, according to Marquis, killing a fetus deprives it of the same sort of valuable (...) future that an adult is deprived of in being killed and this makes abortion seriously wrong. Commentators have raised a number of objections to Marquis’s argument, to which he has satisfactorily responded. In this paper, difficulties with Marquis’s argument that have not been considered by previous commentators are pointed out. A main thesis of this paper is that Marquis does not adequately defend his argument against several important objections that he himself has raised. These new considerations support the view that Marquis’s argument is unsuccessful. (shrink)
Sharge explores the moral pemises of feminist sexual politics, focusing in particular on the emotive issues of abortion, prostitution and adultery, in order to develop an interpretative and pluralist approach to feminist ethics.
The formula of universal law (FUL) is a natural starting point for philosophers interested in a Kantian perspective on the morality of abortion. I argue, however, that FUL does not yield much in the way of promising or substantive conclusions regarding the morality of abortion. I first reveal how two philosophers' (Hare's and Gensler's) attempts to use Kantian considerations of universality and prescriptivity fail to provide analyses of abortion that are either compelling or true to Kant=s understanding (...) of FUL. I then turn to some recent interpretations of Kant=s FUL contradiction in conception (CC) and contradiction in will (CW) tests. I argue that none of the interpretations of the CC testBincluding the practical interpretation favored by KorsgaardBdoes much to reveal moral problems with maxims of abortion. The CW test (as developed by Herman) is more helpful. Nevertheless, I argue that neither by considering abortion maxims as a subset of maxims of convenience killing, nor by considering such maxims as maxims of refusing to aid, can the CW test generate a general prohibition of abortion. At best, the CW test illuminates the abortion issue because by forcing us to think about how killing a fetus differs from killing other human beings, what attitudes we may reasonably have toward a fetus, and whether Kant's moral theory must be amended to do justice to the problem of abortion. But to pursue these questions, we must look beyond FUL; Kant’s formula of humanity and doctrine of virtue may well have more to offer. (shrink)
This paper situates abortion in the context of women’s duties to themselves. I argue that Kant’s fundamental moral requirement (found in the formula of humanity) to respect oneself as a rational being, combined with Kant’s view of our animal nature, form the basis for a view of pregnancy and abortion that focuses on women’s agency and moral character without diminishing the importance of their bodies and emotions. The Kantian view of abortion that emerges takes abortion to (...) be morally problematic, but sometimes permissible, and sometimes even required. I first sketch Kant’s account to duties to oneself, highlighting duties to oneself as an animal and moral being. Next, I discuss pregnancy and the challenges it poses to women’s self-preservation, development, and efficacy as rational human agents. I then give my main argument: that abortion is morally problematic because it is antagonistic to an important subset of morally useful emotions that we have self-regarding duties to protect and cultivate. I argue that self-regarding moral considerations ground a rebuttable deliberative presumption against maxims of abortion for inclination-based ends. Finally, I consider three objections to this account of abortion: that it rests on implausible assumptions about the effects of abortion on women’s morally useful sentiments; that it portrays the virtuous agent’s reasoning about abortion as objectionably self-regarding; and that it fails adequately to recognize the moral significance of the fetus as a potential rational being. (shrink)
Based on a non-consequentialist ethical theory, this book critically examines the prevalent view that if a fetus has the moral standing of a person, it has a right to life and abortion is impermissible. Most discussion of abortion has assumed that this view is correct, and so has focused on the question of the personhood of the fetus. Kamm begins by considering in detail the permissibility of killing in non-abortion cases which are similar to abortion cases. (...) She goes on to consider the case for the permissibility of abortion in many types of pregnancies, including ones resulting from rape, voluntary pregnancy, and pregnancy resulting from a voluntary sex act, even if the fetus is considered a person. This argument emerges as part of a broader theory of creating new people responsibly. Kamm explores the implications of this argument for informed consent to abortion; responsibilities in pregnancy that is not aborted, and the significance of extra-uterine gestation devices for the permissibility of abortion. (shrink)
I use the example of abortion to show that there are some unresolvable moral disagreements. I list four sources of unresolvable moral disagreement: 1) differences in the rankings of the basic evils of death, pain, disability, loss of freedom, and loss of pleasure, 2) differences in the interpretation of moral rules, 3) ideological differences in the view of human nature and human societies, and 4) differences concerning who is impartially protected by the moral rules. It is this last difference (...) that is the source of unresolvable disagreement concerning the moral acceptability of abortion. I examine the views of Don Marquis and Mary Ann Warren who present opposing arguments concerning the moral acceptability of abortion. I show that their failure to take account of this last difference leads to flaws in their arguments that show that neither has been successful in showing that their position is the uniquely correct one. (shrink)
In this paper I discuss what contemporary virtue ethics can say about abortion by considering both what has been said and what we may further argue from a virtue-focused perspective. I begin by comparing virtue ethics to the two other dominant approaches in normative ethics and then consider what some important virtue ethicists have said about abortion, especially Rosalind Hursthouse. After recognizing the many contributions her analysis offers, I also note some of the deficiencies in her approach, particularly (...) in her attempt to bracket the problems of fetal status and women’s rights. Finally, in light of these criticisms I attempt to extend a virtue ethics analysis to embrace a more robust recognition of the humanity of the fetus and the attendant demand of a near absolute prohibition on abortion. (shrink)
In a previous paper, I had argued that Strong’s counterexamples to Marquis’s argument against abortion—according to which terminating fetuses is wrong because it deprives them of a valuable future—fail either because they have no bearing on Marquis’s argument or because they make unacceptable claims about what constitutes a valuable future. In this paper I respond to Strong’s criticism of my argument according to which I fail to acknowledge that Marquis uses "future like ours" and "valuable future" interchangeably. I show (...) that my argument does not rely on not acknowledging that "future like ours" and "valuable future" are interchangeable; and that, rather, it is exactly by replacing "future like ours" with "valuable future" that I construct my argument against Strong. I conclude with some remarks on how Marquis’s concept of "future like ours" should be interpreted. (shrink)
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. (shrink)
In England and Wales, there is significant controversy on the law related to abortion. Recent discussions have focussed predominantly on the health professional's right to conscientious objection. This article argues for a comprehensive overhaul of the law from the perspective of an author who adopts the view that all unborn human beings should be granted the prima facie right to life. It is argued that, should the law be modified in accordance with this stance, it need not imply that (...) health professionals should enjoy an unqualified right to object to participating in the provision of abortion. Indeed, it is proposed that – in some situations – women should be granted a positive right to abortion. While the focus of this article is on changing the law in England and Wales, it is hoped that the position developed here will also inspire legal debate and reform elsewhere. (shrink)
Although abortion remains one of the most controversial issues of our age, to date most studies have centered on the debate in Western countries. This book discusses abortion in a non-Western, non-Christian context - in Thailand, where, although abortion is illegal, over 200,000 to 300,000 abortions are performed each year by a variety of methods. The book, based on extensive original research in the field, examines a wide range of issues, including stories of the real-life dilemmas facing (...) women, popular representations of abortion in the media, the history of the debate in Thailand and its links to politics. Overall, the work both highlights the voices of women and their subjective experiences and perceptions of abortion, and in addition places these 'women's stories' in an analysis of broader socio-political gender and the power relations - national and international - that structure sexuality and women's reproductive health decisions. (shrink)
In an article published recently in this journal Daniel Hill argues that it is unacceptable that British law allows doctors to refuse to terminate non-emergency pregnancies but not to refuse to refer given that many doctors who are opposed to non-emergency abortion will be opposed also to any action that aids non-emergency abortion, including the action of referral. In this reply, I argue that Hill’s argument fails to describe properly the correct function of the law, which has never (...) been about ensuring people can exercise moral consistency in their behaviours. (shrink)
The debate concerning abortion abounds in miraculous narratives. Judith Jarvis Thomson has contrived the most celebrated set among related ones, to wit the “violinist analogy,” the “Good Samaritan” narrative, and the “Henry Fonda” allegory, by virtue of which, she intends, on the one hand, to argue that women’s right to autonomy outweighs the alleged fetus’s right to life, and on the other, to prove that no positive moral duties can be derived towards other persons alone from the fact that (...) a moral agent is ascribed certain rights. What this short paper endeavors to prove is that Thomson’s argumentation by analogy is a weak one, since neither the number nor the relevance of similarities invoked is adequate or satisfactory, while crucial parameters concerning the morality of abortion are being totally overlooked. (shrink)
We are beings endowed with “personal capacities”—the capacity for reason, for a concept of self, perhaps more. Among ontologically salient views about what else we are, I focus on the “Big Three.” According to animalism, we are animals that have psychological properties only contingently. According to psychologistic materialism, we are material beings; according to substance dualism, we are either immaterial beings or composites of immaterial and material ones; but according to both psychologistic materialism and substance dualism, we essentially have some (...) psychological properties. I argue that—contrary to what has been argued and is natural to think—none of the Big Three yields different assignments of moral status to early fetuses from any of the others, and consequently the moral status of early abortion doesn’t depend on which (if any) of these views of personal ontology is correct. (shrink)
In a recent paper, Giubilini and Minerva argue for the moral permissibility of what they call ‘after-birth abortion’, or infanticide. Here I suggest that they actually employ a confusion of two distinct arguments: one relying on the purportedly identical moral status of a fetus and a newborn, and the second giving an independent argument for the denial of moral personhood to infants (independent of whatever one might say about fetuses). After distinguishing these arguments, I suggest that neither one is (...) capable of supporting Giubilini and Minerva's conclusion. The first argument is at best neutral between permitting infanticide and prohibiting abortion, and may in fact more strongly support the latter. The second argument, I suggest, contains an ambiguity in its key premise, and can be shown to fail on either resolution of that ambiguity. Hence, I conclude that Giubilini and Minerva have not demonstrated the permissibility of infanticide, or even great moral similarity between abortion and infanticide. (shrink)
In Roman Catholic Moral Theology, a direct abortion is never permitted. An indirect abortion, in which a life threatening pathology is treated, and the treatment inadvertently leads to the death of the fetus, may be permissible in proportionately grave situations. In situations in which a mother’s life is endangered by the pregnancy before the fetus is viable, there is some debate about whether the termination of the pregnancy is a direct or indirect abortion. In this essay a (...) recent case from a Roman Catholic sponsored hospital in Phoenix is reviewed along with the justifications for and arguments against viewing the pregnancy termination as an indirect abortion. After review of several arguments on both sides of the debate, it is concluded that termination of the pregnancy itself as the means of saving the mother cannot be considered an indirect abortion and that the principle of “double effect” does not justify the termination. In addition, the importance of a breakdown in communication between the local bishop and the administration of the hospital is shown to have contributed to the ultimate loss of Catholic sponsorship of the hospital. (shrink)
Some recent commentators have thought that, if updated with the findings of modern embryology, Aristotle’s views on abortion would yield a pro-life conclusion. On the basis of a careful reading of the relevant passage from Politics VII, I argue that the matter is more complicated than simply replacing his defective empirical embryological claims with our more accurate ones. Since Aristotle’s view on abortion was shaped not only by a defective embryology but also by an acceptance of the classical (...) Greek practice of exposure/ infanticide, substituting a more accurate embryology will not straightforwardly generate a strongly pro-life conclusion. In the end, this analysis reveals how different Aristotle’s ethical thought on this matter really is from the contemporary discussion of abortion. (shrink)
I argue that the personhood of a fetus is analogous to the the heap. If this is correct, then the moral status or intrinsic value of a fetus would be supervenient upon the fetus's biological development. Yet to compare its claim vis-a-vis its mother's, we need to consider not only their moral status, but also the type of claim they each have. Thus we have to give weight to the two factors or variables of the mother's moral status and her (...) claim to some lesser good (assuming that this is not the kind of case in which the mother would suffer some great harm, such as death). And then we have to consider the fetus's lesser moral status and its claim to some greater good, namely, life. I argue that we do not know how to compare these two-variable claims. This also explains why the central cases of abortion have been so difficult to resolve. I suggest that the problem of animal rights has a similar structure. (shrink)
Philosophy to the rescue -- What is the soul? -- Life begins at conception. So what? -- Abnormal human development -- Responsibility -- The potentiality argument -- The golden rule argument against abortion -- Rights of the pregnant woman -- Consequences -- Virtue ethics and conclusion.
George, B. J. Jr. The evolving law of abortion.--Guttmacher, A. F. The genesis of liberalized abortion in New York: a personal insight.--Callahan, D. Abortion: some ethical issues.--Jakobovits, I. Jewish views on abortion.--Drinan, R. F. The inviolability of the right to be born.--Schwartz, R. A. Abortion on request: the psychiatric implications.--Fleck, S. A psychiatrist's views on abortion.--Niswander, K. R. Abortion practices in the United States: a medical viewpoint.--Macintyre, M. N. Genetic risk, prenatal diagnosis, and (...) selective abortion.--Messerman, G. A. Abortion counselling: shall women be permitted to know?--Pilpel, H. F. and Zuckerman, R. J. Abortion and the rights of minors. (shrink)
I argue that it is possible for prospective mothers to wrong prospective fathers by bearing their child; and that lifting paternal liability for child support does not correct the wrong inflicted to fathers. It is therefore sometimes wrong for prospective mothers to bear a child, or so I argue here. I show that my argument for considering the legitimate interests of prospective fathers is not a unique exception to an obvious right to procreate. It is, rather, part of a growing (...) consensus that procreation can be morally problematic and that generally talking of rights in this context might not be warranted. Finally, I argue that giving up on a right to procreate does not imply nor suggest giving up on women’s absolute right to abort, which I defend. (shrink)
Writers, philosophers, and theologians have oft made the comparison between being a mature human being and a masterpiece work of art or design. Employing the analogy between the creation of artistic value and the creation of full-fledged human value, this paper stakes out a middle ground between pro-choice and pro-life by considering a more general account of value and the relationship between being a potential X and a mature implementation of X's potential. I argue that the value of a potential (...) X is a function of a number of factors, most importantly, what I call the "accessibility relation" between a potential X and a full-fledged instantiation of this potential. The value is as much intrinsic to the “seed” as to some future implementation of the seed’s potential. This approach inclines even a secular humanist to reasonably confer a significant degree of moral value to a human conceptus, and even more to an early term fetus. (shrink)
I provide an account of the moral status of pre-birth humans that integrates ideas from Charles Peirce, including: synechism, the idea that "all that exists is continuous"; the reality of "Seconds," independently existing individual entities; and Peirce's pragmatic conceptions of truth and reality. This account implies that destroying a pre-birth human is determinately moral very soon after conception and determinately immoral very late in pregnancy. But it also implies that during much of gestation, destroying a pre-birth human is of indeterminate (...) moral status, neither determinately moral nor determinately immoral. (shrink)
George Kegode, in this book, has presented a wide range of critical reflections on one of the most controversial moral issues of our times, the intentional and deliberate termination of the life of the unborn human being.
In this article, I urge that mainstream discussions of abortion are dissatisfying in large part because they proceed in polite abstraction from the distinctive circumstances and meanings of gestation. Such discussions, in fact, apply to abortion conceptual tools that were designed on the premiss that people are physically demarcated, even as gestation is marked by a thorough-going intertwinement. We cannot fully appreciate what is normatively at stake with legally forcing continued gestation, or again how to discuss moral responsibilities (...) to continue gestating, until we appreciate in their own terms the goods and evils distinctive of gestational connection. To underscore the need to explore further the meanings of gestation, I provide two examples of the difference it might make to legal and moral discussions of abortion if we appreciate more fully that gestation is an intimacy. (shrink)
This essay explicates and evaluates the roles that fetal metaphysics and moral status play in Rosalind Hursthouse’s abortion ethics. It is motivated by Hursthouse’s puzzling claim in her widely anthologized paper Virtue Ethics and Abortion that fetal moral status and (by implication) its underlying metaphysics are in a way, fundamentally irrelevant to her position. The essay clarifies the roles that fetal ontology and moral status do in fact play in her abortion ethics. To this end, it presents (...) and then develops her fetal metaphysics of the potential and actual human being, which she merely adumbrates in her more extensive treatment of abortion ethics in her book Beginning Lives. The essay then evaluates her fetal ontology in light of relevant research on fetal neural and psychological development. It concludes that her implied view that the late-stage fetus is an actual human being is defensible. The essay then turns to the analysis of late-stage abortions in her paper and argues that it is importantly incomplete. (shrink)
This article is a critical review of David Boonin's book, A Defense of Abortion (Cambridge University Press, 2002), a significant contribution to the literature on this subject and arguably the most important monograph on abortion published in the past twenty years. Boonin's defense of abortion consists almost exclusively of sophisticated critiques of a wide variety of pro-life arguments, including ones that are rarely defended by pro-life advocates. This article offers a brief presentation of the book's contents with (...) extended assessments of those arguments of Boonin's that are his unique contributions to the abortion debate and with which the author disagrees: (1) Boonin's critique of the conception criterion and his defense of organized cortical brain activity as the acquired property that imparts to the fetus a right to life: (2) Boonin's defense of J. J. Thomson's violinist argument and his distinction between responsibility for existence and responsibility for neediness and its application to pregnancy. (shrink)
Suppose you and I are "human beings" in the sense of human animals, members of the genus Homo. Given this supposition, this article argues first and foremost that (it's at least very plausible that) we originated not at the moment of our biological conception but either before or after. For biological conception is most plausibly seen as a momentous event in the continuing life of a preexisting organism—the egg—rather than a cataclysmic event ending one life and creating another. This article (...) considers and rebuts the most likely challenges to this claim. This metaphysical point carries moral freight concerning abortion. This article surveys familiar "pro-life" principles and argues that if any of them raises moral qualms about the permissibility of aborting zygotic pregnancies, then these qualms apply equally (or at least almost equally) to the permissibility of contraception and abstinence. Hence no such principle provides a justification for condemning zygotic abortion while condoning abstinence or contraception. (shrink)
abstract David Boonin, in his A Defense of Abortion, argues that abortions that involve killing the foetus are morally permissible, even if granting for the sake of argument that the foetus has a right to life. His primary argument is an argument by analogy to a 'trolley case'. I offer two lines of counterargument to his argument by analogy. First, I argue that Boonin's analogy between his trolley case and a normal unwanted pregnancy does not hold. I revise his (...) trolley case in light of my objections. Second, I argue that Boonin's arguments for the permissibility of killing, when applied to this revised trolley case — and by extension, typical unwanted pregnancies — do not succeed in justifying killing. (shrink)
Don Marquis offered the most famous philosophical argument against abortion. His argument contained a novel defence of the idea that foetuses have the same moral status as ordinary adults. The first half of this paper contends that even if Marquis has shown that foetuses have this status, he has not proven that abortion is therefore wrong. Instead his argument falls victim to problems similar to those raised by Judith Thomson, problems that have plagued most anti-abortion arguments since. (...) Once Marquis's anti-abortion argument is shown to fail, this raises the question of whether there is some way to circumvent the problems. The second half of the paper argues that this issue hinges on important questions about responsibility for risky behaviour and the duties of parenthood. Because we have yet to develop appropriate theoretical frameworks for judging such questions, we cannot yet know whether Marquis's anti-abortion argument — and indeed most other anti-abortion arguments — can be completed. (shrink)
In Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice (Cambridge University Press, 2007) Francis Beckwith argues that fetuses are such that, from conception, they are prima facie wrong to kill. He thinks abortion is almost never permissible beyond rare cases where, unless the fetus is killed, both the pregnant woman and the fetus will die. He defends his view not from religiously-justified premises but by appealing to “a particular metaphysics of the human person” that he calls (...) “The Substance View.” I will argue that such metaphysics is irrelevant to the morality of abortion. Beckwith’s metaphysics thereby neither supports, nor detracts from, his abortion ethic. Moral, not metaphysical, assumptions drive the argument, and Beckwith inadequately defends these assumptions. Indeed, they are often false, and his main argument is unsound. (130 words). (shrink)
This article is not about abortion, but rather about how one can reflect on abortion - in particular its moral and political status. My aim, however, is not to defend any particular position regarding such status, rather, I will try to say something comprehensible about how one can (and cannot) reason one's way from a stand regarding the morality of abortion to a stand on the issue of abortion policy.
Although there is a significant number of books and essays in which Aquinas's thought is examined in some detail, there are still many aspects of his writings that remain unknown to those outside the field of Thomistic studies; or which are generally misunderstood. An example is Aquinas's account of the origins of individual human life. This is the subject of a chapter in a recent book by Robert Pasnau on Thomas Aquinas on Human Nature (Cambridge: CUP, 2001). Since there will (...) be readers whose only knowledge of the issues in question will come from Pasnau's account, and since that account is contentious in substance, and advanced in advocacy of a particular moral interest, it is necessary to provide another, and, we believe, more credible account of the issue of when human life begins, as this may be determined on the basis of known empirical facts and Aquinas's metaphysics, and a more accurate representation of how (and how extensively) this matter has been treated hitherto. The morality of abortion turns on two important sets of issues: the first metaphysical, concerning the beginnings of human life and the specific status of the embryo; the second, ethical, having to do with the nature and scope of value and associated moral requirements. Besides engaging in exegesis we address both issues in philosophical terms. (shrink)
What have modern Buddhist ethicists to say about abortion and is there anything to be learned from it? A number of writers have suggested that Buddhism (particularly Japanese Buddhism) does indeed have something important to offer here: a response to the dilemma of abortion that is a 'middle way' between the pro-choice and pro-life extremes that have polarised the western debate. I discuss what this suggestion might amount to and present a defence of its plausibility.
This essay seeks to introduce representative beliefs, attitudes, policies, and practices from the Confucian tradition concerning the ethical aspects of abortion and bring these into productive engagement with some of the best and most influential philosophical accounts of abortion available in contemporary Anglo-American philosophy. The essay begins with a discussion of the ethical dimensions of abortion and a critical review of two of the best and most influential contemporary Western accounts; it then moves on to describe and (...) discuss an alternative Confucian approach. The aims are to demonstrate the resources within the Confucian tradition for providing a distinctive philosophical account of abortion and to show that comparative work has the potential to augment, amend, and ultimately enrich our understanding of this morally challenging aspect of human life. (shrink)
Conclusions about the morality of abortion have been thought to receive some support from metaphysical doctrines about persons. The paper studies four instances in which philosophers have sought to draw such morals from metaphysics. It argues that in each instance the metaphysics makes no moral difference, and the manner of failure seems indicative of a general epistemic irrelevance of metaphysics to the moral issue.
It seems that if abortion is permissible, then stem cell research must be as well: it involves the death of a less signiﬁcant thing (an embryo rather than a fetus) for a greater good (lives saved rather than nine months of physical imposition avoided). However, I argue in this essay that this natural thought is mistaken. In particular, on the assumption that embryos and fetuses have the full moral status of persons, abortion is permissible but one form of (...) stem cell research is notFthe practice of creating embryos and then destroying them to extract cell.. (shrink)
In "The Insignificance of Personal Identity to Bioethics," David Shoemaker argues that, contrary to common opinion, considerations of personal identity have no relevance to certain important debates in bioethics. My aim is to show that Shoemaker is mistaken concerning the relevance of personal identity to the abortion debate -– in particular, to Don Marquis’ well-known anti-abortion argument.
: A threat to women is obscured when we treat "abortion-as-evacuation" as equivalent to "abortion-as-killing." This holds only if evacuating a fetus kills it. As technology advances, the equivalence will fail. Any feminist account of abortion that relies on the equivalence leaves moral room for women to be required to give up their fetuses to others when it fails. So an account of the justification of abortion-as-killing is needed that does not depend on the equivalence.
Can one consistently deny the permissibility of abortion while endorsing the killing of human embryos for the sake of stem cell research? The question is not trivial; for even if one accepts that abortion is prima facie wrong in all cases, there are significant differences with many of the embryos used for stem cell research from those involved in abortion—most prominently, many have been abandoned in vitro, and appear to have no reasonably likely meaningful future. On these (...) grounds one might think to maintain a strong position against abortion but endorse killing human embryos for the sake of stem cell research and its promising benefits. I will argue, however, that these differences are not decisive. Thus, one who accepts a strong view against abortion is committed to the moral impermissibility of killing human embryos for the sake of stem cell research. I do not argue for the moral standing of either abortion or the killing of embryos for stem cell research; I only argue for the relation between the two. Thus the conclusion is relevant to those with a strong view in favor of the permissibility of killing embryos for the sake of research as much as for those who may strongly oppose abortion; neither can consider their position in isolation from the other. (shrink)
The problem of the morality of abortion is one of the most complex and controversial in the entire field of applied ethics. It may therefore appear rather surprising that the most popular proposed “solutions” to it are extremely simple and straightforward, based on clear-cut universal rules which typically either condemn abortion severely in virtually every case or else deem it to be morally quite unproblematic, and hence permissible whenever the mother wishes. This polarised situation in the theoretical debate, (...) however, is in clear contrast with the abortion law in many countries (including Britain), where abortions are treated very differently according to the stage of pregnancy at which they are carried out, so that early abortions are permitted relatively easily, whereas very late abortions are sanctioned only in exceptional cases. It seems likely, moreover, that in thus taking account of the time of an abortion, the law genuinely reflects the weight of public opinion - there may be no overall consensus on the underlying moral issues, but it does appear to be part of “commonsense” morality to accept that, whatever the ultimate rights and wrongs of abortion in general may be, at any rate abortion early in pregnancy is morally greatly preferable to late abortion. Let us call this “the developmental view”, since it holds that the moral gravity of abortion increases with the degree of development of the fetus. (shrink)
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â I am going to give an argument showing that abortion is wrong in exactly the same circumstances in which it is wrong to kill an adult.Â To argue further that abortion is always wrong would require showing that it is always wrong to kill an adult or that the circumstances in which it is not wrong--say, capital punishment--never befall a fetus.Â Such an argument will be beyond the scope (...) of this paper, but since it is uncontroversial that it is wrong to kill an adult human being for the sorts of reasons for which most abortions are performed, it follows that most abortions are wrong. Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â The argument has three parts, of decreasing difficulty.Â The most difficult will be the first part where I will argue that I was once a fetus and before that I was an embryo.Â This argument will rest on simple considerations of the metaphysics of identity.Â The next part of the argument will be to show that it would have been at least as wrong to have killed me before I was born as it would be to kill me now.Â I will argue for this in more than one way, but the guiding intuition is clear: if you kill me earlier, the victim is the same but the harm is greater since I am deprived of more the earlier I die.Â Finally, the easiest part of the argument will be that I am not relevantly different from anybody else and the fetus which I was was not relevantly different from any other human fetus, and so the argument applies equally well to all fetuses. Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â The advantage of this argument over others is that it avoids talking of personhood, except in one of the independent arguments in part 2. (shrink)
Philosophical debate about the ethics of abortion has reached stalemate on two key issues. First, the claim that foetuses have moral standing that entitles them to protections for their lives has been neither convincingly established nor refuted. Second, the question of a pregnant woman's obligation to allow the gestating foetus the use of her body has not been resolved. Both issues are deadlocked because philosophers addressing them invariably rely on intuitions and analogies, and such arguments have weaknesses that make (...) them unfit for resolving the abortion issue. Analogical arguments work by building a kind of consensus, and such a consensus is virtually unimaginable because (1) intuitions are revisable, and in the abortion debate there is great motive to revise them, (2) one's position on abortion influences judgments about other issues, making it difficult to leverage intuitions about other ethical questions into changing peoples' minds about abortion, and (3) the extent of shared values in the abortion debate is overstated. Arguments by analogy rely on an assumption of the commensurability of moral worldviews. But the abortion debate is currently unfolding in a context of genuinely incommensurable moral worldviews. The article ends by arguing that the default position must be to permit abortion as a consequence of the freedom of conscience protected in liberal societies. (shrink)
In ‘An Almost Absolute Value in History’ John T. Noonan criticizes several attempts to provide a criterion for when an entity deserves rights. These criteria, he argues are either arbitrary or lead to absurd consequence. Noonan proposes human conception as the criterion of rights, and justifies it by appeal to the sharp shift in probability, at conception, of becoming a being possessed of human reason. Conception, then, is when abortion becomes immoral.The article has an historical and a philosophical goal. (...) The historical goal is to carefully present the probability argument in a charitable manner. The philosophical goal is to offer a unique criticism of Noonan's probability argument against abortion. I argue that, even on a very charitable reading of Noonan's argument for the conception criterion, this criterion is also susceptible to charges of arbitrariness and absurdity. Noonan's claim that probability shifts have anything to do with the moral rights of fetuses cannot be made coherent. I also show that there are problems with Noonan's assumptions about moral rights and the potential to become a being possessed of human reason. (shrink)
In the first part of this article, I raisequestions about Dworkin''s theory of theintrinsic value of life and about the adequacyof his proposal to understand abortion in termsof different ways of valuing life. In thesecond part of the article, I consider hisargument in ``The Philosophers'' Brief on AssistedSuicide'''', which claims that the distinctionbetween killing and letting die is morallyirrelevant, the distinction between intendingand foreseeing death can be morally relevantbut is not always so. I argue that thekilling/letting die distinction can (...) be relevantin the context of assisted suicide, but alsoshow when it is not. Then I consider why theintention/foresight distinction can be morallyirrelevant and conclude by presenting analternative argument for physician-assistedsuicide. (shrink)
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. (shrink)
Fathers do not have an absolute obligation to provide for the welfare of their children. If mothers have the right to opt out of future duties towards their children by deciding to have an abortion instead, fathers too should be considered to have the right to avoid similar future duties. I also argue that fathers should be granted a mechanism by which they can exercise such a right. The discussion is initially motivated by showing an apparent inconsistency among three (...) widely accepted principles regarding a woman's right to an abortion, equality, and parental obligations. I argue that by allowing fathers (with certain restrictions) to refuse to support their forthcoming progeny, the inconsistency among the three principles is resolved. I also argue that this is the best resolution, and provide three other independent arguments in favor of a paternal right of refusal. (shrink)
One often hears Catholic and non-Catholic politicians and private citizens claim “I am personally opposed to abortion . . . ” but add that it is morally permissible for others to accept abortion. We consider a Rawlsian defense of this position based on the recognition that one’s opposition to abortion stems from acomprehensive doctrine which is incompatible with Public Reason. We examine a second defense of this position based upon respecting the autonomy of others and a third (...) grounded in the harm to the unwilling mother overriding that to the aborted fetus. We look at a fourth and fifth defense based upon our epistemic ignorance regarding the burdens on others of unwanted pregnancies and the ontological and moral status of embryo. We find most versions of these defenses to be wanting and conclude that only if the proponents of the position are subjectivist about morals, which few are, can they offer a coherent defense. (shrink)
The purpose of this paper is to argue that the tactic of granting a fetus the legal status of a person will not, contrary to the expectations of opponents of abortion, provide grounds for a general prohibition on abortions. I begin by examining two arguments, one moral (J. J. Thomson's A Defense of Abortion) and the other legal (D. Regan's Rewriting Roe v. Wade), which grant the assumption that a fetus is a person and yet argue to the (...) conclusion that abortion is permissible. However, both Thomson and Regan rely on the so-called bad samaritan principle. This principle states that a person has a right to refuse to give aid. Their reliance on this principle creates problems, both in the moral and the legal contexts, since the bad samaritan principle is intended to apply to passive refusals to aid; abortion, however, does not look like any such passive denial of aid, and so it does not seem like the sort of action covered by the bad samaritan principle. In defense of the positions outlined by Thomson and Regan, I argue that the apparent asymmetry between abortion and the usual type of case covered by the bad samaritan principle is only apparent and not a genuine problem for their analyses. I conclude with a defense of the morality of the bad samaritan principle. (shrink)
The concept of a time-relative interest is introduced by Jeff McMahan to solve certain puzzles about the badness of death. Some people (e.g. McMahan and David DeGrazia) believe that this concept can also be used to show that abortion is permissible. In this paper, I first argue that if the Time-Relative Interest Account permits abortion, then it would also permit infanticide.
In 1934, Karl N. Llewellyn published a lively essay trumpeting the dawn of legal realism, "On Philosophy in American Law." The charm of his defective little piece is its style and audacity. A philosopher might be seduced into reading Llewellyn's essay by its title; but one soon learns that by "philosophy" Llewellyn only meant "atmosphere". His concerns were the "general approaches" taken by practitioners, who may not even be aware of having general approaches. Llewellyn paired an anemic concept of philosophy (...) with a pumped-up conception of law. Llewellyn's "law" included anything that reflects the "ways of the law guild at large" - judges, legislators, regulators, and enforcers. Llewellyn argued that the legal philosophies implicit in American legal practice had been natural law, positivism and realism, each adopted in response to felt needs of a time. We must reckon with many other implicit "philosophies" to understand the workings of the law guild, not the least of which has been racism. Others, maternalism and paternalism, my foci here, persist in American law, despite women's progress toward equality. Both maternalism and paternalism were strikingly present in a recent decision of the U.S. Supreme Court, Gonzales v. Carhart, upholding the federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act. (shrink)
Earl Conee has argued that the metaphysics of personal identity is irrelevant to the morality of abortion. He claims that doing all the substantial work in abortion arguments are moral principles and they garner no support from rival metaphysics theories. Conee argues that not only can both immaterialist and materialist theories of the self posit our origins at fertilization, but positing such a beginning doesn’t even have any significant impact on the permissibility of abortion. We argue that (...) this thesis is wrong on both accounts. We do so, in part, by relying on a hylomorphic rather than a Cartesian conception of the soul. There are good reasons for believing such a soul theory can favor an earlier origin than the leading materialist accounts. We also show that the theological metaphysics of hylomorphism provide greater support for a pro-life position than the Cartesian position Conee discusses. However, we argue that even on a materialistic account of personal identity, metaphysics has substantial bearing upon the morality of early abortions. (shrink)
The Christian tradition has always taken a generally negative view of abortion, but the moral basis and perceived implications of this negative view have varied greatly. In the early Church abortion and contraception were often seen as broadly equivalent, both involving interference with the natural reproductive process (and an association with sexual immorality which even led some to see contraception as the more sinful of the two). But the tendency to conflate abortion with contraception, and even on (...) similar grounds with male masturbation, declined in the face of the biological discovery of the mother's role as more than just an incubator for the male "seed" - with the recognition of conception as a distinct and crucial event, abortion became generally seen as morally far more serious than contraception, potentially involving threat to an innocent life and therefore, arguably, equivalent to homicide. When seen as homicide, abortion has naturally been subject to an almost total prohibition, the only generally agreed exception being where it is necessary to save the mother's life. Within the Roman Catholic communion, moreover, even this exception has tended to be countenanced only when sanctioned by the doctrine of double effect - where the abortion is not directly intended, but is only a foreseen but unintended consequence of a surgical intervention whose primary intention is to save the mother's life (e.g. the removal of a cancerous uterus or of a fallopian tube containing an ectopic pregnancy). (shrink)
This paper shows that the counterexamples proposed by Strong in 2008 in the Journal of Medical Ethics to Marquis’s argument against abortion fail. Strong’s basic idea is that there are cases — for example, terminally ill patients — where killing an adult human being is prima facie seriously morally wrong even though that human being is not being deprived of a "valuable future". So Marquis would be wrong in thinking that what is essential about the wrongness of killing an (...) adult human being is that they are being deprived of a valuable future. This paper shows that whichever way the concept of "valuable future" is interpreted, the proposed counterexamples fail: if it is interpreted as "future like ours", the proposed counterexamples have no bearing on Marquis’s argument. If the concept is interpreted as referring to the patient’s preferences, it must be either conceded that the patients in Strong’s scenarios have some valuable future or admitted that killing them is not seriously morally wrong. Finally, if "valuable future" is interpreted as referring to objective standards, one ends up with implausible and unpalatable moral claims. (shrink)
This paper explores the rationale for violence and coercion aimed at preventing abortion conceived as the killing of an innocent person. Some important arguments for personhood at conception are examined, and in the light of the examination the paper considers whether they warrant concluding that a free and democratic society should pass laws recognizing personhood at conception. The wider concern is what principles such a society should use as a basis for legal coercion and what principles conscientious individuals should (...) use insofar as they judge that self-defense or, especially, protection of the innocent, requires violence. (shrink)
I challenge the idea that the argument from potential (AFP) represents a valid moral objection to abortion. I consider the form of AFP that was defended by Hare, which holds that abortion is against the interests of the potential person who is prevented from existing. My reply is that AFP, though not unsound by itself, does not apply to the issue of abortion. The reason is that AFP only works in the cases of so-called same number and (...) same people choices, but it falsely presupposes that abortion is such a kind of choice. This refutation of AFP implies that (1) abortion is not only morally permissible but sometimes even morally mandatory and (2) abortion is morally permissible even when the potential person’s life is foreseen to be worth living. (shrink)
In Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice (2007) and an earlier article in this journal, "Defending Abortion Philosophically"(2006), Francis Beckwith argues that fetuses are, from conception, prima facie wrong to kill. His arguments are based on what he calls a "metaphysics of the human person" known as "The Substance View." I argue that Beckwith’s metaphysics does not support his abortion ethic: Moral, not metaphysical, claims that are part of this Substance View are the (...) foundation of the argument, and Beckwith inadequately defends these moral claims. Thus, Beckwith’s arguments do not provide strong support for what he calls the "pro-life" view of abortion. (shrink)
This paper argues that, if we are committed to a Pro-choice stance with regard to selective abortion for disability, we will be unable to justify the prohibition of sex-selective abortion (SSA), for two reasons. First, familiar Pro-choice arguments in favour of a woman’s right to select against fetal impairment also support, by parity of reasoning, a right to choose SSA. Second, rejection of the criticisms of selective abortion for disability levelled by disability theorists also disposes, by implication, (...) of the key objections to SSA, as developed, most notably, by feminists. The paper, then, consists of a conditional defence of SSA, under which SSA should be available, and protected by a right, if selective abortion for disability is. Opponents of SSA might respond by conceding additional restrictions on selection against disabled fetuses. It should become clear throughout the paper, however, that any such new restrictions would be unacceptably onerous for women. (shrink)
This Article examines the influence of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) on affective attitudes toward children with disabilities and on the incidence of disability-selective abortion. Applying regression analysis to U.S. natality data, we find that the birthrate of children with Down syndrome declined significantly in the years following the ADA's passage. Controlling for technological, demographic, and cultural variables suggests that the ADA may have encouraged prospective parents to prevent the existence of the very class of people the Act (...) was designed to protect. We explain this paradox by showing how specific ADA provisions could have given rise to demeaning media depictions and social conditions that reinforced negative understandings and expectations among prospective parents about what it means to have a child with a disability. We discuss implications for reproduction law and antidiscrimination policy. (shrink)
A caveat: The topic of abortion is both highly controversial and extremely complex, and I certainly cannot hope to address all of its important ethical aspects in the brief notes that follow. Readers are urged to consult a good annotated bibliography such as the one compiled by James DeHullu for references to more extensive scholarly treatments of abortion.
Personhood constitutes the pivotal point in the abortion debate. There exists a diversity of views as to when foetal personhood actually starts—from conception and implantation to viability and even birth. One perspective that has lost support for decades is that of quickening, a stance associated with Lord Ellenborough’s 1803 Act. This paper attempts to put quickening back into the limelight, albeit through a new interpretation. After discussing its philosophy and underpinning rationale, I will assess a number of arguments that (...) have been directed against quickening as a viable point of distinction. I conclude by suggesting that according to modern proponents of quickening proponents, rational soul ensoulment begins after a certain degree of cerebral cortical formation has been realized, thus marking foetal volition, which promotes foetal interests, for the first time. (shrink)
The paper investigates the significance of the question of the fetus's status as a person for resolving the moral issues of abortion. It considers and evaluates several proposed solutions to this question. It also attempts to explain how different questions about the permissibility of abortion are appropriate to discussions at different levels of decision-making: the pregnant woman, the health professional, and the social policy level. The author's own conclusions to all these questions are offered along with other popular (...) views. (shrink)
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. (shrink)
I argue that people who believe fetuses have the same moral right to life as the rest of us have sufficient reasons to refuse to classify abortion as legal murder and to refuse to punish abortion as severely as legal murder.
Researchers are increasingly interested in creating chimeras by transplanting human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) into animals early in development. One concern is that such research could confer upon an animal the moral status of a normal human adult but then impermissibly fail to accord it the protections it merits in virtue of its enhanced moral status. Understanding the public policy implications of this ethical conclusion, though, is complicated by the fact that claims about moral status cannot play an unfettered role (...) in public policy. Arguments like those employed in the abortion debate for the conclusion that abortion should be legally permissible even if abortion is not morally permissible also support, to a more limited degree, a liberal policy on hESC research involving the creation of chimeras. (shrink)
The contention that abortion harms women constitutes a new strategy employed by the pro-life movement to supplement arguments about fetal rights. David C. Reardon is a prominent promoter of this strategy. Post-abortion syndrome purports to establish that abortion psychologically harms women and, indeed, can harm persons associated with women who have abortions. Thus, harms that abortion is alleged to produce are multiplied. Claims of repression are employed to complicate efforts to disprove the existence of psychological harm (...) and causal antecedents of trauma are only selectively investigated. We argue that there is no such thing as post-abortion syndrome and that the psychological harms Reardon and others claim abortion inflicts on women can usually be ascribed to different causes. We question the evidence accumulated by Reardon and his analysis of data accumulated by others. Most importantly, we question whether the conclusions Reardon has drawn follow from the evidence he cites. (shrink)
Don Marquis ( 1989 ) has argued most abortions are immoral, for the same reason that killing you or me is immoral: abortion deprives the fetus of a valuable future (FLO). Call this account the FLOA. A rival account is Jeff McMahan’s ( 2002 ), time-relative interest account (TRIA) of the wrongness of killing. According to this account, an act of killing is wrong to the extent that it deprives the victim of future value and the relation of psychological (...) unity would have held between the victim at the time of death and herself at a later time if she had lived. The TRIA supposedly has two chief advantages over Marquis’s FLOA. First, unlike the FLOA, the TRIA does not rely on the controversial thesis that identity is what matters in survival. Second, the TRIA yields more plausible verdicts about cases. Proponents of the TRIA use the account to argue that abortion is generally permissible, because there would be little to no psychological unity between the fetus and later selves if it lived. I argue that advocates of the TRIA have failed to establish its superiority to the FLOA, for two reasons. First, the two views are on a par with respect to the thesis that identity is what matters in survival. Second, Marquis’s FLOA does not yield the counterintuitive implications about cases that advocates of the TRIA have attributed to it, and the TRIA yields its own share of implausible judgments about cases. (shrink)
Abortion raises a number of difficult questions for morality, law, and public policy. When, if ever, is abortion morally permissible? Do women have a legal right to abortion, and how is that right to be justified? Ought abortions for poor women be funded by the state? These questions are related in the sense that answers to any one of them have implications for answers to the others. But it is crucial to remember that they (...) are different questions. For example, suppose abortion is never morally permissible. It would not.. (shrink)
My focus within the topic of abortion is on several models that are used to support the position that a woman has a responsibility to sustain the fetus she carries because she brought about its existence. I consider the following models: a creator, strict liability, fault, and a contract. Although each of these models has been used by opponents of abortion to support the position that women should accept the consequences of engaging in sexual intercourse, I argue that (...) none of the models is adequate. (shrink)
To be recognized as an autonomous agent is to accorded fundamental respect-based, constitutionally protected rights of the sort that cannot be abridged except where a compelling state interest has been found, and whose abridgment survives strict scrutiny. The right to control your body is an expression of personal autonomy. The decision of the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold the federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act violates this right and is thus flawed on legal grounds.
The 2006 trial of Suman Sood put criminal abortion on the public agenda for the first time in 25 years in NSW. Response to the case highlights tenacious myths about abortion law in Australia; namely that the common law “is an ass” that allows for abortion only by way of a lack of application of the law. By briefly explaining the history of abortion in Australia, I argue that the Sood case does not represent a general (...) failure of the common law to allow abortion, nor does it support the popular myth that abortion is “technically” illegal, or that doctors who perform abortions have historically been the target of the criminal law in Australia. I show that contrary to myths promoted particularly around the 1998 Western Australian reforms, abortion has long been lawful in Australia, and the common law has merit compared to other regulatory regimes. Hence, arguments for alternative abortion regimes should not depend on myths which are shown to be unrepresentative of the political and legal situation in Australia. (shrink)
It is now a common opinion in Western countries that a child's impairment would probably place an unexpected burden on her parents, a burden that the parents have not committed themselves to dealing with. Therefore, selective abortion is in general a morally justified option for the parents. I argue that this view is based on biased information about the quality of life of individuals with impairments and their families. Also, a conscious decision to procreate should bring about conscious assent (...) to assuming obligations as a parent. This implies a duty of caring for any kind of child. Consequently, if the child's condition is not such that it would make its life not worth living, and if the parents live in an environment where they are able to provide their child and themselves an adequate well-being, they do not have a morally sufficient reason to terminate the pregnancy on the grounds of fetal abnormality. (shrink)
Some people are opposed to abortion in general because they loved their children when these were fetuses. While this may be a psychological explanation of why these people believe thus, and perhaps an argument for these people not to abort the children they love, it does not at first sight seem to be an argument for the..
In early 2010, the Nebraska state legislature passed a new abortion restricting law asserting a new, compelling state interest in preventing fetal pain. In this article, we review existing constitutional abortion doctrine and note difficulties presented by persistent legal attention to a socially derived viability construct. We then offer a substantive biological, ethical, and legal critique of the new fetal pain rationale.
An obstacle to abortion exists in the form of abortion ‘counselling’ that discourages women from terminating their pregnancies. This counselling involves providing information about the procedure that tends to create feelings of guilt, anxiety and strong emotional reactions to the recognizable form of a human fetus. Instances of such counselling that involve false or misleading information are clearly unethical and do not prompt much philosophical reflection, but the prospect of truthful abortion counselling draws attention to a delicate (...) issue for healthcare professionals seeking to respect patient autonomy. This is the fact that even accurate information about abortion procedures can have intimidating effects on women seeking to terminate a pregnancy. Consequently, a dilemma arises regarding the information that one ought to provide to patients considering an abortion: on the one hand, the mere offering of certain types of information can lead to intimidation; on the other hand, withholding information that some patients would consider relevant to their decision-making is objectionably paternalistic on any standard account of the physician-patient relationship. This is an unsettling conclusion for the possibility of setting fixed professional guidelines regarding the counselling offered to women who are considering abortion. Thus, abortion ought to be viewed as an illuminating example of a procedure for which the process of securing informed consent ought to be highly context-sensitive and responsive to the needs of each individual patient. This result underscores the need for health care professionals to cultivate trusting relationships with patients and to develop finely tuned powers of practical judgment. (shrink)
Abortion is the central issue in the conscientious objection debate. In this article I demonstrate why this is so for two philosophical viewpoints prominent in American culture. One, represented by Patrick Lee and Robert P. George, holds that the fundamental moral value of being human can be found in bare life and the other, represented by Tom Beauchamp and James Childress, holds that this fundamental value is found in the life that can choose and determine itself. First, I articulate (...) Lee and George’s philosophical theory and demonstrate how the fundamental moral value of their theory, personhood, is represented in the issue of abortion. Second, I examine Beauchamp and Childress’ theoretical vision and demonstrate how their fundamental moral value, the right to autonomous self-determination, is represented in abortion. Third, I sketch the theoretical and practical dynamics of the conscientious objection debate as well as each author’s understanding of conscience. Fourth, I demonstrate how abortion, which represents their respective fundamental value, shapes each perspectives’ approach to the conscientious objection debate. I conclude that because each theory finds its fundamental value represented in the issue of abortion, each perspective is bound to engage the conscientious objection debate in a way that centers on the issue of abortion. (shrink)
It is standardly taken for granted in the literature on the morality of abortion that adoption is almost always an available and morally preferable alternative to abortion — one that does the same thing so far as parenthood is concerned. This assumption pushes proponents of a woman's right to choose into giving arguments that are based almost exclusively around the physicality of pregnancy and childbirth. On the other side of the debate, the assumption that adoption is a real (...) alternative seems to strengthen the contention that a woman who wishes to abort is morally deficient, whatever the status of the foetus: that she is selfish or short-sighted in her refusal to bear the temporary physical burden of pregnancy.In this article, I will argue that adoption is not a genuine alternative to abortion. It does not ‘do the same thing’, even setting aside the physicality of pregnancy. I will show that on the most successful model of parental obligation — a causal account that formalises the distinction between parent: progenitor, and parent: carer — birth mothers and fathers remain obliged, life-long, to their birth children even when the child is adopted out. (shrink)
The epistemological and sociological consequences of post-modernity include the inability to show moral strangers, in terms they can see as binding, the moral wrongness of activities such as abortion. Such activities can be perceived as morally disordered within a content-full moral narrative, but not outside of the context it brings. Though one can salvage something of the Enlightenment project of justifying a morality that can bind moral strangers, one is left with moral and metaphysical views that can be recognized (...) as impoverished and incomplete by those who live their lives within the embrace of a content-full moral narrative. The cardinal dualism of post-modemity is not that which separates mind from body, but the gulf between the morality binding moral strangers and that binding moral friends. Keywords: dualism, human embryo, personhood, post-modernity CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us What's this? (shrink)
Discussions regarding abortion are often misguided and confused. This paper critically examines the extreme liberal view, which argues that neither the fetus, at any stage of development, nor the young infant has a right to life. It focuses on the general argumentative strategy employed by a number of philosophers in arriving at an extreme liberal view. An evaluative critique of an extreme liberal view is offered as a step toward clarifying and expanding upon the abortion debate. Keywords: (...) class='Hi'>abortion, personhood, speciesism, right to life, human being CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us What's this? (shrink)
Contrary to the common view, this paper suggests that the Hippocratic oath does not directly refer to the controversial subjects of euthanasia and abortion. We interpret the oath in the context of establishing trust in medicine through departure from Pantagruelism. Pantagruelism is coined after Rabelais' classic novel Gargantua and Pantagruel. His satire about a wonder herb, Pantagruelion, is actually a sophisticated model of anti-medicine in which absence of independent moral values and of properly conducted research fashion a flagrant over-medicalization (...) of human problems. Ultimately this undermines the therapeutic core of medicine itself. We contend that PAS is a case of such over-medicalization and that its institution creates medicophobia. This article does not express an opinion about euthanasia in general. Rather, we claim that physicians should learn from the oath and from Rabelais that they should keep their practice to medical care and not to exploit their expertise and social privileges for the sake of ulterior motives, even when their patients desire those goals. (shrink)
In his discussion of ethics and abortion, Prof. Richard Dawkins makes the provocative claim that: ‘The Great Beethoven Fallacy is a typ ical example of the kind of logical mess we get into when our minds are befuddled by religiously inspired absolutism.’ (Dawkins, p. 339) This supposed fallacy is presented as if it exemplified not only a particular view of abortion held, for instance, by certain fundamentalist Christians but as if it revealed some flaw that is characteristic of (...) the thinking of theists. I shall examine his claim. (shrink)
Currently, the preferred accommodation for conscientious objection to abortion in medicine is to allow the objector to refuse to accede to the patient’s request so long as the objector refers the patient to a physician who performs abortions. The referral part of this arrangement is controversial, however. Pro-life advocates claim that referrals make objectors complicit in the performance of acts that they, the objectors, find morally offensive. McLeod argues that the referral requirement is justifiable, although not in the way (...) that people usually assume. (shrink)
Rights to life for unborn humans and to abortion with impunity are incompatible. This observation by the German legal philosopher Norbert Hoerster contains a fundamental criticism of the state regulation on abortion in Germany. The regulation regards abortion as unlawful, but declines to prosecute if the abortion is conducted within the first three months of pregnancy and the pregnant woman received counseling at least three days prior to terminating the pregnancy. In contrast to the German legislature, (...) Hoerster is in favor of setting the beginning of a right to life at birth. With this suggestion and the consequent demand for a general legalization of abortion, Hoerster himself has become the target of harsh criticism. The following article analyzes Hoerster's position and that of his opponents against the background of the current abortion debate in Germany. The consequences for dealing with the handicaps of Hoerster's suggested regulations will also be addressed. (shrink)
This paper reviews the practice of late abortion in China and summarizes the arguments for morally justifying the ‘one couple, one child’ policy. Keywords: Marxism, Chinese health care, People's Republic of China, abortion, ‘one couple, one child’ policy, pre-marital sex, social good CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us What's this?
Far too often in our society, the input of a potential father is not deemed relevant in a woman’s abortion decision. Men, however, can suffer emotional strains due to the abortion of their potential child, and given this harm it seems that morality must make room for a potential father’s voice in the abortion decision. I will argue that a man cannot have the right to veto a woman’s decision to procure an abortion, yet there may (...) be times where a woman may exercise her right to an abortion in a manner not indicative of a virtuous character. This is especially a danger in the face of a dissenting man who may suffer greatly if his potential child is abortedand thus I will delineate circumstances where a virtuous woman would concede to carrying a fetus to term in order to give a man the child he so desperately desires. In addition to using virtue ethics to make the argument, I will incorporate certain aspects of care ethics in order to further what may seem to some to be a rather contentious claim. (shrink)
There is an argument against abortion that should be rejected. It is the argument that abortion is the killing of an innocent human being, and since the killing of an innocent human being is immoral, abortion is therefore immoral. The major premise should be corrected to read: ?Generally speaking, the killing of innocent human beings is immoral'; for in some situations morality demands the killing of the innocent. Moreover, given the deep structure of English and the differences (...) between unborn and born progeny, the question of whether a human fetus is a human being is best answered in the negative. (shrink)
Abortion is the most common and controversial issue in many parts of the world. Approximately 46 million abortions are performed worldwide every year. The world ratio is 26 induced abortions per 100 known pregnancies. Pakistan has an estimated abortion rate of 29 abortions per 1,000 women of reproductive age, despite the procedure being illegal except to save a woman’s life. 890,000 abortions are performed annually in Pakistan. Many government and non-government organizations are working on the issue of (...) class='Hi'>abortion. Muslim jurists are unanimous in declaring that after the fetus is completely formed and has been given a soul, abortion is haram (forbidden). (shrink)
I have published more than just a few papers on the abortion issue. Instead of taking either the pro choice or the pro life position, I offer a third alternative: evictionism. I claim that this perspective, which, as it happens is a principled compromise between the other two positions, is [...].
By concentrating on abortion, the culture wars have avoided facing a crisis about the end of life. This paper explores four themes: (1) the technological transformation of birth and death into matters of decision, not matters of fact; (2) abortion as the nexus of Eros (sex) with Thanatos (death); (3) the real crisis, conveniently masked by our obsession with sex, looming at the end of life, not at its beginning; (4) the surplus-repression that protects us from assuming responsibility (...) for choosing between life and death. (shrink)
A critical application of Ruddick's model of maternal thinking is the best way to grapple with the ethical dilemmas posed by sex-selectiveabortion which I view as a "moral mistake." Chief among these is the need to be sensitive to local cultural practices in countries where sex-selectiveabortion is prevalent, while simultaneously developing consistent international standards to deal with the dangers posed by the use of sex-selectiveabortion to eliminate female fetuses.