This Article criticizes how both sides in the abortion debate have treated the concepts of "human life" and personhood. Much legal scholarship has focused on whether abortion should be permitted, but little attention has been cast on the role of rhetoric in the debate. The Article argues that appeals to "human life" are vague and deceptive, since most conservatives would not consistently treat a fetus as a legal person. Conservatives can commit only to a "thin" conception of life (an embryo or fetus is a human organism in the process of developing into a person) even as they trade on the more emotionally compelling "thick" notions that the term "life" invokes. In response, liberals often simply assume that "life" means "personhood" and then assert that abortion must be permitted even if the fetus is a person. Alternatively, liberals sidestep the question of fetal personhood, arguing that principles of individual autonomy do not permit any single view to be imposed upon everyone. The Article criticizes both of these responses. The first does not hold up under scrutiny, and the second is disingenuous, for if any abortions remain legal, society has not sidestepped the question but rather has rejected fetal personhood. Moreover, the Article claims, the standard liberal responses neglect the important role women's autonomy and dignity should play in the debate.This Article argues that liberals and conservatives must address directly the question of fetal personhood. In reflective equilibrium, conservative and liberal views of abortion would likely converge on a gradualist view of embryonic and fetal life (an embryo is intrinsically valuable but its moral weight increases with gestation). The distracting and misleading question of embryonic or fetal personhood could then be laid aside in favor of a more honest, fruitful public conversation about the morality of abortion.
|Keywords||No keywords specified (fix it)|
|Categories||categorize this paper)|
References found in this work BETA
No references found.
Citations of this work BETA
Membership Has Its Privileges? Life, Personhood, and Potential in Discussions About Reproductive Choice.Jonathan F. Will - 2015 - Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics 43 (2):358-362.
Similar books and articles
The Right to Life and Abortion Legislation in England and Wales: A Proposal for Change.Jan Deckers - 2010 - Diametros 26:1-22.
Abortion: At the Still Point of the Turning Conscientious Objection Debate. [REVIEW]Elliott Louis Bedford - 2012 - HEC Forum 24 (2):63-82.
Hursthouse's Virtue Ethics and Abortion: Abortion Ethics Without Metaphysics? [REVIEW]R. Jo Kornegay - 2011 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 14 (1):51-71.
A Right to Life for the Unborn? The Current Debate on Abortion in Germany and Norbert Hoerster's Legal-Philosophical Justification for the Right to Life.Alfred Simon - 2000 - Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 25 (2):220 – 239.
Abortion, Metaphysics and Morality: A Review of Francis Beckwith's Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice. [REVIEW]N. Nobis - 2011 - Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 36 (3):261-273.
The Fetal Position: A Rational Approach to the Abortion Debate.Chris Meyers - 2010 - Prometheus Books.
Creation and Abortion: A Study in Moral and Legal Philosophy.F. M. Kamm - 1992 - Oxford University Press.
Added to index2009-01-28
Total downloads58 ( #89,930 of 2,164,580 )
Recent downloads (6 months)1 ( #347,948 of 2,164,580 )
How can I increase my downloads?