A Critique of Alison M. Jaggar on Abortion

Jason Zarri
San Francisco State University
Alison M. Jaggar begins her article “Abortion and a Woman’s Right to Decide” by saying that she seeks to defend a right to abortion that is contingent on particular social circumstances; it is neither universal nor absolute. Her core claim is as follows: “… each woman should have the sole legal right to decide whether or not, in her own case, an abortion should be performed” (Living with Contradictions, p. 281). In formulating her ideas as she does, Jaggar hopes to sidestep a host of issues, such as the moral status of the fetus and whether or not a woman’s right to abortion derives from a right to control her own body. She assumes only what she takes to be two relatively uncontroversial moral principles, from which she concludes that in at least some cases abortion can be morally justified. I will argue below that these assumptions are far too flimsy a foundation to support the rights that Jaggar wants them to support.
Keywords Ethics  Applied Ethics  Alison Jaggar  Abortion  Rights  Feminist Ethics  Reproductive Ethics  Medical Ethics  Normative Ethics
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