In the excerpt “Virtue Theory and Abortion,” Rosalind Hursthouse presents the following argument for the moral acceptance of abortion: 1) If a virtuous woman would – under the circumstance that pregnancy would inhibit her ability to pursue other virtuous tasks – have an abortion, then having an abortion is justified 2) Virtuous women have abortions (under circumstances that pregnancy would inhibit their ability to pursue other virtuous tasks) -) Therefore, abortion is justified
As a high-level argument against Hursthouse, it seems her argument is circular. While premise one is plausible in that it could convince someone on the fence of the abortion issue, both premises rely on the definition of a “virtuous woman,” an idea which is quite abstract. However complicated her argument may be, Hursthouse supports premise two through examples of more worthwhile – which is inexplicably attached to virtuous – endeavors than parenthood, motherhood, and childbearing. These include, “a woman who discovers her pregnancy may well kill her… a woman who decides to lead a life centered around some other worthwhile activity or activities which motherhood would compete … a woman looking forward to being a grandma…” (Hursthouse, 165). My problem with this premise centers around the issue of how to define a virtuous woman. In other words, my question is, “Do the actions define the virtuous woman, or does the virtuous woman define the virtuous actions by doing them?” Moving to premise one, Hursthouse wants us to imagine, again, what the virtuous woman would do. In her article, Hursthouse seems to argue that, in the case that pregnancy would inhibit other virtuous deeds, abortion is justified. However, as mentioned in the previous paragraph, defining a virtuous woman is problematic. Hursthouse’s theory seems to rely on the idea that we already know a woman who is intrinsically virtuous – not just by nature of her actions. However, how can we base our actions on...
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