A DEFENSE OF ABORTION

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1 JUDITH JARVIS THOMSON S A DEFENSE OF ABORTION Phil 100, Introduction to Philosophy Benjamin Visscher Hole IV

2 JUDITH JARVIS THOMSON is an American philosopher who teaches at the Massachusetts Institute for Technology. She has made important contributions in both ethics and metaphysics (385). Trolley Problems A Defense of Abortion After Forty Years: A Critical Appreciation posium.html

3 Pope John Paul II The Unspeakable Crime of Abortion 1. A fetus a person with the right to life. 2. It is morally wrong to kill a person with the right to life. 3. Therefore, it is morally wrong to kill a fetus. (Abortion is immoral.)

4 Pope John Paul II The Unspeakable Crime of Abortion 1. A fetus a person with the right to life. Moral Standing What are the necessary and sufficient conditions for personhood?

5 Pope John Paul II The Unspeakable Crime of Abortion 1. A fetus a person with the right to life. Moral Standing Membership in the human species? Continuity Argument

6 Mary Anne Warren On the Moral and Legal Status of Abortion 1. A fetus a person with the right to life. Moral Standing Warren claims that Personhood is about rights. It involves having at least one of the following five attributes: a) consciousness, b) rationality, c) self motivated activity, d) capacity to communicate, e) and self awareness.

7 Moral Standing 1. A fetus a person with the right to life. Moral Standing a) What would Bentham say? b) What would Kant say? c) What, in your assessment, confers moral standing?

8 Moral Standing 1. A fetus a person with the right to life. Moral Standing Although she disagrees, Thomson concedes this premise for the sake of argument. A newly fertilized ovum, a newly implanted clump of cells, is no more a person than an acorn is an oak tree (386).

9 The Right to Life Rather, Thomson takes issue with the second premise. 1. A fetus a person with the right to life. 2. It is morally wrong to kill a person with the right to life. 3. Therefore, it is morally wrong to kill a fetus. (Abortion is immoral.)

10 The Right to Life Thomson s Main Argument 1. Either fetus a person with the right to life or it is not. 2. If a fetus is a person, then abortion is permissible. 3. If a fetus is not a person, then abortion is permissible. 4. Either way, abortion is permissible.

11 The Right to Life Premise Two: If a fetus is a person, then abortion is permissible. When is it morally permissible to violate the right to life? Thomson s Main Argument E.g., in self defense?

12 The Violinist Premise Two: If a fetus is a person, then abortion is permissible. When is it morally permissible to violate the right to life? Violinist Analogy

13 The Violinist You wake up in the morning and find yourself back to back in bed with an unconscious violinist. He has been found to have a fatal kidney ailment, and the Society of Music Lovers has canvassed all the available medical records and found that you alone have the right blood type to help. They have therefore kidnapped you, and last night the violinist s circulatory system is plugged into yours, so that your kidneys can be used to extract poisons from his blood as well as your own To unplug you would be to kill the him. But never mind, it s only for nine months (386 7).

14 The Violinist An Argument From Analogy 1.A and B are relevantly similar. 2.A has properties q, r, s 3.B has properties q, r, s 4.A has property p (the target property). 5./.: B probably has property p. What is Thomson s argument? a)how similar are A and B? Are there any important dis analogies? b)how relevant are the similar properties? Are q, r, s relevant to p?

15 The Extreme View Let us call the view that abortion is impermissible even to save the mother s life the extreme view The most familiar argument here is the following. We are told that performing the abortion would be directly killing the child, whereas doing nothing would not be killing the mother, but only letting her die (387). Is letting someone die any better than killing someone? For example, if you simply watched the baby drown in the pond.

16 Killing vs. Letting Die Doctrine of Double Effect An action that would bring about at least one evil effect and at least one good effect is morally permissible if (and only if) the following conditions are satisfied: a)intrinsic permissibility: The action in question, apart from its effects, is morally permissible; b)necessity: It is not possible to bring about the good effect except by performing an action that will bring about the evil effect in question; c)nonintentionality: The evil effect is not intended it is neither one s end now a chosen means for bringing about some intended end; d)proportionality: The evil that will be brought about by the action is not out of proportion to the good being aimed at. (Timmons, 13)

17 Killing vs. Letting Die Say the violinist is putting too much strain on your kidneys If anything in the world is true, it is that you do not commit murder, you do not do what is impermissible, if you reach around to your back and unplug yourself from the violinist to save your life (388).

18 The Extreme View, Redux The extreme view could of course be weakened to say that while abortion is permissible to save the mother s life, it may not be performed by a third party, but only by the mother herself [e.g., self defense] But the mother and unborn child are not like two tenants in a small house the mother owns the house (389).

19 Positive vs. Negative Rights Objection everyone has a right to life, so the unborn person has right to life. (389) Response In Thomson s view, the right to life (the one we ascribe to persons) is not a positive right to receive whatever minimum aid is needed to preserve life such as the use of someone s kidneys or Henry Fonda s cool hand (390). The right to life is merely a negative right.

20 Positive vs. Negative Rights Objection In the most ordinary sort of case, to deprive someone of what he has the right to is just to treat him unfairly (390). Response suppose that, having learned that otherwise it means nine years in bed with that violinist, you unplug yourself from him. You surely are not being unjust to him, for you gave him no right to use your kidneys, and no one else can have given him such right (391). The right to life is merely a negative right.

21 The Right to Life The right to life is negative, not positive. the right to life consists not in the right not to be killed, but rather in the right not to be killed unjustly (391)

22 The Right to Life Objection The pregnant person invites the unborn person to share her body (at least in many cases). This indicates that a special responsibility. Clarification this argument would give the unborn person a right to its mother s body only if her pregnancy resulted from a voluntary act, undertaken in full knowledge of the chance pregnancy might result from it unborn persons whose existence is due to rape have no right to use their mothers bodies (391).

23 The Right to Life Objection We may surely grant that there may be cases in which it would be morally indecent to detach a person from your body at the cost of his life (392). Clarification while all rights have correlative obligations, it is not true in Thomson s view that every obligation creates a correlative right rights override certain considerations and so could not depend on how easy they are to satisfy (392)

24 The Right to Life Objection We may surely grant that there may be cases in which it would be morally indecent to detach a person from your body at the cost of his life (392). Response So my own view is that even though your ought to let the violinist use your kidneys we should not conclude that he has the right to do so if you refuse (392). Good Samaritan vs. The Minimally Decent Samaritan

25 The Right to Life What we should ask is not whether anybody should be compelled by the law to be a Good Samaritan, but whether we must accede to a situation in which someone is being compelled by nature, perhaps to be a Good Samaritan (394). Good Samaritan vs. The Minimally Decent Samaritan

26 Two Caveats My argument will be found unsatisfying on two counts by many of those who want to regard abortion both as morally permissible 1. First, while I do argue that abortion is not impressible, I do not argue that it is always permissible. 2. Secondly, while I am arguing for the permissibility of abortion in some cases, I am not arguing for the right to secure the death of the unborn child. (394 5)

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