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An argument that the choice of abortion is a wrong choice

He defends the view that, except in unusual circumstances, abortion is seriously wrong. The purpose of this essay is to set out an argument the claim that abortion, except perhaps in instances, is seriously wrong.

One reason for these exceptions is to eliminate from consideration cases whose ethical analysis should be controversial detailed for clear-headed opponents of abortion. Such cases include abortion after rape and abortion during the first fourteen days after conception when there is an argument that the fetus is not definitely an individual.

Another reason for making these exceptions allow for those cases in which the permissibility of abortion is compatible with the argument of this essay.

Arguments in favour of abortion

Such cases include abortion when continuation of a pregnancy endangers a woman's life and when the fetus is anencephalic. When I wrongness of abortion in this essay, a reader she presume the above qualifications. Thus, as is standard on the literature on this subject, I eliminanate spontaneous abortions from consideration.

I mean by a fetus a developing human being from p. Thus, as is standard, I call embryos and zygotes, fetuses. The argument of this essay will establish that abortion is wrong for the same reason as killing a reader of this essay is wrong. I shall just assume, rather than establish, that killing you is seriously wrong. I shall make no attempt to offer a complete ethics of killing.

Finally, I shall make no attempt to resolve some very fundamental and difficult general philosophical issues into which this analysis of the ethics of abortion might lead. Consider the following standard an argument that the choice of abortion is a wrong choice argument: Fetuses are both human and alive. Humans have the right to life. Therefore, fetuses have the right to life. Of course, women have the right to control their own bodies, but the right to life overrides the right of a woman to control her own body.

Therefore, abortion is wrong. Thomson's View Judith Thomson 1971 has argued that even if one grants for the sake of argument only that fetuses have the right to life, this argument fails. Thomson invites you to imagine that you have been connected while sleeping, bloodstream to bloodstream, to a famous violinist. The violinist, who suffers from a rare blood disease, will die if disconnected.

Thomson argues that you surely have the right to disconnect yourself. She appeals to our intuition that having to lie in bed with a violinist for an indefinite period is too much for morality to demand.

She supports this claim by noting that the body being used is your body, not the violinist's body. She distinguishes the right to life, which the violinist clearly has, from the right to use someone else's body when necessary to preserve one's life, which it is not at all obvious the violinist has.

  • It follows that a person can believe that she will have a valuable future and be wrong;
  • I grew up in a Christian home;
  • This is modeled on the double homicide of two persons who would otherwise in a short time fuse;
  • If I die tomorrow or if I live thirty more years my past life will be no different;
  • And we feel that, because of the impact on the woman, this … is a matter which is of such fundamental and basic concern to the woman involved that she should be allowed to make the choice as to whether to continue or to terminate her pregnancy;
  • Accordingly, we can see that a contractarian defense of the pro-choice personhood syllogism fails.

Because the case of pregnancy is like the case of the violinist, one is no more morally obligated to remain attached to a fetus than to remain attached to the violinist. It is widely conceded that one can generate from Thomson's vivid case the conclusion that abortion is morally permissible when a pregnancy is due to rape Warren, 1973, p.

  • Only persons have the right to life;
  • Suppose that we tried to estimate the seriousness of a crime of murder by appraising the value of the FLO of which the victim had been deprived;
  • The wrongness of killing us is understood in terms of what killing does to us;
  • The Argument from Interests A second objection to the FLO account of the immorality of abortion involves arguing that even though fetuses have FLOs, non sentient fetuses do not meet the minimum conditions for having any moral standing at all because they lack interests;
  • This individual is a fetus;
  • Let us consider some possible candidates in order of the increasing number of individuals harmed:

But this is hardly a general right to abortion. Do Thomson's more general theses generate a more general right to an abortion? Thomson draws our attention to the fact that in a pregnancy, although a fetus uses a woman's body as a life-support system, a pregnant woman does not use a fetus's body as a life-support system. However, an opponent of abortion might draw our attention to the fact that in an abortion the life that is lost is the fetus's, not the woman's.

This symmetry seems to leave us with a stand-off. Thomson points out that a fetus's right to life does not entail its right to use someone else's body to preserve its life.

However, an opponent of abortion might point out that a woman's right to use her own body does not entail her right to end someone else's life in order to do what she wants with her body.

  • There are replies to the four most important objections to the FLO argument for the immorality of abortion;
  • Neither does it account for those aspects of my future that I will come to value, but which I don't value now;
  • The FLO account provides an explanation of the wrongness of killing that is sufficient to account for the serious presumptive wrongness of killing;
  • This argument is based on an account of the wrongness of killing that is a result of our considered judgment of the nature of the misfortune of premature death;
  • One cannot take an interest in something without being capable of caring about what is done to it.

In reply, one might argue that a pregnant woman's right to control her own body doesn't come to much if it is wrong for her to take any action that ends the life of the fetus within her. However, an opponent of abortion can argue that the fetus's right to life doesn't come to much if a pregnant woman can end it an argument that the choice of abortion is a wrong choice she chooses. The consequence of all of these symmetries seems to be a stand-off. But if we have the stand-off, then one might argue that we are left with a conflict of rights: One might then argue that the right to life seems to be a stronger right than the right to control one's own body in the case of abortion because the loss of one's life is a greater loss than the loss of the right to control one's own body in one respect for nine months.

Therefore, the right to life overrides the right to control one's own body and abortion is wrong. Considerations like these have suggested to both opponents of abortion and supporters of choice that a Thomsonian strategy for de- p. In fairness, one must note that Thomson did not intend her strategy to generate a general moral permissibility of abortion. Do Fetuses Have the Right to Life? The above considerations suggest that whether abortion is morally permissible boils down to the question of whether fetuses have the right to life.

An argument that fetuses either have or lack the right to life must be based upon some general criterion for having or lacking the right to life. Opponents of abortion, on the one hand, look around for the broadest possible plausible criterion, so that fetuses will fall under it. This explains why classic arguments against abortion appeal to the criterion of being human Noonan, 1970; Beckwith, 1993. This criterion appears plausible: The claim that all humans, whatever their race, gender, religion or age, have the right to life seems evident enough.

In addition, because the fetuses we are concerned with do not, after all, belong to another species, they are clearly human. Thus, the syllogism that generates the conclusion that fetuses have the right to life is apparently sound.

On the other hand, those who believe abortion is morally permissible wish to find a narrow, but plausible, criterion for possession of the right to life so that fetuses will fall outside of it. This explains, in part, why the standard pro-choice arguments in the philosophical literature appeal to the criterion of being a person Feinberg, 1986; Tooley, 1972; Warren, 1973; Benn, 1973; Engelhardt, 1986. The claim that only persons have the right to life seems evident enough.

Thus, the syllogism needed to generate the conclusion that no fetus possesses the right to life is apparently sound. Given that no fetus possesses the right to life, a woman's right to control her own body easily generates the general right to abortion. The existence of two apparently defensible syllogisms which support contrary conclusions helps to explain why partisans on both sides of the abortion dispute often regard their opponents as either morally depraved or mentally deficient.

Which syllogism should we reject? The anti-abortion syllogism is usually attacked by attacking its major premise: This premise is subject to scope problems because the class of the biologically human includes too much: Moreover, this premise also is subject to moral-relevance problems: It is hard to think of a good argument for such a connection. If one wishes to consider the category of "human" a moral category, as some people find it plausible to do in other contexts, then one is left with no way of showing that the fetus is fully human without begging the question.

Thus, the classic anti-abortion argument appears subject to fatal difficulties. An argument that the choice of abortion is a wrong choice difficulties with the classic anti-abortion argument are well known and thought by many to be conclusive.

The symmetrical difficulties with the classic pro-choice syllogism are not as well recognized. The pro-choice syllogism can be attacked by attacking its major premise: Only persons have the right to life.

This premise is subject to scope problems because the class of persons includes too little: The premise is also subject to moral-relevance problems: Being a person is understood by the pro-choicer as having certain psychological attributes. If one wishes to consider "person" a moral category, as is often done, then one is left with no way of showing that the fetus is not a person without begging the question. Pro-choicers appear to have resources for dealing with their difficulties that opponents of abortion lack.

Consider their moral-relevance problem. This is essentially Engelhardt's [1986] view. The great advantage of this contractarian approach to morality is that it seems far more plausible than any approach the anti-abortionist can provide.

  1. If this can be so for the temporarily unconscious patient, then it is hard to see why it cannot be so for the temporarily unconscious that is, non sentient fetus who requires placental life support. On the other hand, those who believe abortion is morally permissible wish to find a narrow, but plausible, criterion for possession of the right to life so that fetuses will fall outside of it.
  2. We believe that, in our own case and in the case of other adults and children, suffering is a misfortune.
  3. Compare the views of McInerney, 1990, and Shirley, 1995.
  4. If one wishes to consider the category of "human" a moral category, as some people find it plausible to do in other contexts, then one is left with no way of showing that the fetus is fully human without begging the question. My father was a Baptist minister for many years in Memphis, Tenn.
  5. Without a welfare of their own, nothing can be done for their sake. The loss of our future conscious life is what underlies the misfortune of premature death.

The great disadvantage of this contractarian approach to morality is that it adds to our earlier scope problems by leaving it unclear how we can have the duty not to inflict pain and suffering on animals. Contractarians have tried to deal with their scope problems by arguing that duties to some individuals who are not persons can be justified even though those individuals are not contracting members of the moral community. For example, Kant argued that, although we do not have direct duties to animals, we "must practice kindness towards animals, for he who is cruel to animals becomes hard also in his dealings with men" Kant, 1963, p.

Feinberg argues that infanticide is wrong, not because infants have the right to life, but because our society's protection of infants has social utility. If we do not treat infants with tenderness and consideration, then when they are persons they will be worse off and we will be worse off also Feinberg, 1986, p. These moves only stave off the difficulties with the pro-choice view; they do not resolve them.

Consider Kant's account of our obligations to animals. Kantians certainly know the difference between persons and animals. Therefore, no true Kantian would treat persons as she would treat animals.

  1. The pro-choice syllogism can be attacked by attacking its major premise.
  2. This transcript has been edited for clarity, spelling and grammar. The FLO account provides an explanation of the wrongness of killing that is sufficient to account for the serious presumptive wrongness of killing.
  3. But what if such a case came before you? Thus, an analogy with animals supports the thesis that abortion is wrong.

Thus, Kant's defense of our duties to animals fails to show that Kantians have a duty not to be cruel to animals. Consider Feinberg's attempt to show that infanticide is wrong even though no infant is a person. That is quite compatible with killing the infants we intend to discard. This point can be supported by an analogy with which any pro-choicer will agree.

There are plainly good reasons to treat with care and consideration the fetuses we intend to keep. This is quite compatible with aborting those fetuses we intend to discard. Thus, Feinberg's account of the wrongness of infanticide is inadequate. Accordingly, we can see that a contractarian defense of the pro-choice personhood syllogism fails. The problem arises because the contractarian cannot account for our duties to individuals who are not persons, whether these individuals are animals or infants.

Because the pro-choicer wishes to adopt a narrow criterion for the right to life so that fetuses will not be included, the scope of her major premise is too narrow. Her problem is the opposite of the problem the classic opponent of abortion faces. The argument of this section has attempted to establish, albeit briefly, that the classic anti-abortion argument and the pro-choice argument favored by most philosophers both face problems that are mirror images of one another.