On the Moral and Legal Status of Abortion

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Edwin Carter Jr.
Session Paper Draft
Applied Ethics
October 15, 2010

“On the Moral and Legal Status of Abortion”, an essay written by Mary Anne Warren, defend abortion in any stage of a woman’s pregnancy (pg 468). Warren argues that the potential to become a human being is not the same as being human and deserving the same right to life (pg. 468-472). This essay asserts that in order to be human, one must possess five particular traits (pg. 470). These trait are consciousness, reasoning, self-motivated activity, the ability to communicate, and awareness of oneself (pg. 470). Warren claims that since a fetus has not yet acquired all of the traits, then that fetus is not human and therefore does not have the right to life (pg. 470). Besides the argument about a fetus’ right to life, Warren contends that placing restrictions on abortion show “disregard for the rights of women” (pg. 472). She claims that a woman should have absolute control over her decision to become a mother or terminate her pregnancy. Judith Jarvis Thomson’s essay, titled “A Defense of Abortion” illustrates what most would describe as a liberal view on abortion. Although Thomson acknowledges the fetus as a human, she argues that this should not dictate a woman’s choice to abortion. She defends that abortion should be accepted in certain situations, and that “abortion is not unjust killing and does not violate the fetus’ right to life” (pg 479). In order to maintain this argument, Thomson uses different scenarios to characterize the difficulties that a woman goes through when deciding what to do with a pregnancy. She questions how we should weigh the importance of the life of the mother against that of the unborn child in the case of an unplanned and/or unwanted pregnancy (pg. 481). If a woman conceives a child due to the failure of birth control (pg. 483), or by being the victim of rape, do we expect her to just accept her situation or can we all agree that certain situations...
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