Defending The Moral Permissibility of Abortion As of today, the debate regarding the moral and legal status of abortion has not reached an absolute verdict and is still an ongoing controversy. In this paper, I would like to propose my
judgment on this matter, specifically for the moral permissibility of abortion. Before I go into my reasoning, I will discuss a notable view on this matter from a paper titled “A Defense of Abortion” written by Judith Jarvis Thomson. I will use both Thomson’s view and my view to judge an abortion case of a mother named Julie. Julie became pregnant by engaging in a voluntary unprotected intercourse with her ex-husband, and she executed an abortion in the 22th week of her pregnancy due to the fetus being diagnosed with Down syndrome. Both Thomson and I would agree that Julie’s abortion is morally permissible because of two main reasons: it does not infringe the fetus’s right to life, and it is not indecent. However, there is a problem with Thomson’s argument that tries to justify why the fetus’s right to life is not infringed by abortion. I will explain why this is the case, and I will present my own argument afterwards. Let’s discuss Thomson’s argument first. Thomson would argue that Julie’s abortion does not infringe the fetus’s right to life. She states that the right to life is the right not to be killed unjustly. It is unjust to kill the fetus if and only if the fetus has the right to use its mother’s body1. In most cases, the fetus does not have the right to use its mother’s body, because there is no one granting the fetus, implicitly or explicitly, a right to use its mother’s body. Even if the mother initiates a voluntary unprotected sexual intercourse, knowing that there is a possibility of being pregnant, it does not follow that she has given the fetus a right to use her body. Thomson gives the following illustration. Suppose that you live in a neighborhood where burglars exist, and they burgle. One day, you leave your
window wide open to get some fresh air inside your house, knowing that there is a possibility of a burglar entering your house through the window. Then, a burglar actually enters your house through the window. Although you voluntarily open your window and leave your house unprotected, it is absurd to say that the burglar now has the right to use your house. This is analogous to the case of an abortion. Although a mother voluntarily initiates an unprotected sexual intercourse and fully aware that there exists a possibility of a pregnancy, it does not
follow that the fetus is granted the right to use her body. Julie did initiate a voluntary unprotected sexual intercourse with her ex-husband, but it does not follow that Julie has given the fetus a right to use her body. Therefore, Thomson would argue that killing Julie’s fetus is not unjust, as it does not have the right to use Julie’s body. With this, Julie’s abortion meets the first condition for it to be morally permissible. The second condition, according to Thomson, is that the abortion must not be indecent2. She thinks that falling below the minimal decent standard would grant abortion as immoral and not permissible. She gives an example of an abortion due to the mother wanting to go on a trip, which would otherwise need to be cancelled if she wants to carry her fetus to term. This is an indecent reason for abortion because continuing with pregnancy only requires the mother to bear an insignificant cost. However, in Julie’s case, her...
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