Ectogenesis and the case against the right to the death of the foetus

Bioethics 33 (1):76-81 (2019)
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Ectogenesis, or the use of an artificial womb to allow a foetus to develop, will likely become a reality within a few decades, and could significantly affect the abortion debate. We first examine the implications for Judith Jarvis Thomson’s violinist analogy, which argues for a woman’s right to withdraw life support from the foetus and so terminate her pregnancy, even if the foetus is granted full moral status. We show that on Thomson’s reasoning, there is no right to the death of the foetus, and abortion is not permissible if ectogenesis is available, provided it is safe and inexpensive. This raises the question of whether there are persuasive reasons for the right to the death of the foetus that could be exercised in the context of ectogenesis. Eric Mathison and Jeremy Davis have examined several arguments for this right, doubting that it exists, while Joona Räsänen has recently criticized their reasoning. We respond to Räsänen’s analysis, concluding that his arguments are unsuccessful, and that there is no right to the death of the foetus in these circumstances.



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Author Profiles

Bruce P. Blackshaw
University of Birmingham
Daniel Rodger
London South Bank University

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