Who needs the ’actual future principle’?: Harman on abortion

Southwest Philosophy Review 18 (2):55-63 (2002)
Elizabeth Harman has presented a novel view on the moral status of early fetuses that she calls the “ Actual Future Principle” : An early fetus that will become a person has some moral status. An early fetus that will die while it is still an early fetus has no moral status. This view is said to justify a "very liberal" position on abortion, that "early abortion requires no moral justification whatsoever," and show this position to be "more attractive than has previously been thought." Harman concedes that the AFP "may appear to be incoherent or be plainly wrong on its face." I argue that she does not defeat this appearance: strong arguments are not given in its favor. I will undercut Harman's main argument for the AFP by showing that no defender of abortion needs to accept the AFP to reasonably retain her views. Since the AFP is not adequately defended, Harman does not provide a strong argument for her view on abortion. I will note, however, that Harman's liberal view on abortion may, in fact, imply very little about the morality of most actual abortions.
Keywords abortion  metaphysics  bioethics
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DOI 10.5840/swphilreview200218228
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