The Journal of Ethics 19 (1):23-52 (2015)

Jeremy Williams
University of Birmingham
This paper provides a new analysis and critique of Rawlsian public reason’s handling of the abortion question. It is often claimed that public reason is indeterminate on abortion, because it cannot say enough about prenatal moral status, or give content to the political value which Rawls calls ‘respect for human life’. I argue that public reason requires much greater argumentative restraint from citizens debating abortion than critics have acknowledged. Beyond the preliminary observation that fetuses do not meet the criteria of political personhood, I contend, public reasoners may say nothing about prenatal moral status. Indeed, respect for human life is not, I show, a genuine political value, whose interpretation lies within public reason’s remit. This fact does not, however, prevent deliberators from drawing determinate conclusions regarding the law of abortion. Instead, I show, public reason has radically permissive implications for the legal regulation of feticide, inclining heavily towards the view that abortion should be allowed with little or no qualification, right until birth. I end by giving grounds for thinking that, even if the argumentative restraint which public reason enjoins over prenatal moral status does not generate indeterminacy, it is nonetheless objectionable
Keywords Abortion  Moral status  Political liberalism  Public reason  John Rawls
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DOI 10.1007/s10892-015-9190-9
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References found in this work BETA

Justice as Fairness: A Restatement.John Rawls (ed.) - 2001 - Harvard University Press.
Political Liberalism.J. Rawls - 1995 - Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 57 (3):596-598.
Rawls.Samuel Freeman - 2007 - Routledge.

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Citations of this work BETA

Public Reason.Jonathan Quong - 2013 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Public Reason and Abortion: Was Rawls Right After All?Robbie Arrell - 2019 - The Journal of Ethics 23 (1):37-53.
A Framework for Analyzing Public Reason Theories.Paul Billingham & Anthony Taylor - forthcoming - European Journal of Political Theory.

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