Thomson's View of Abortion Essay Example

The debate of the moral permissibility of abortion has been an essential topic of discussion among scholars who offer different views on the matter. Whether and when abortion should be considered correct and when it should not have dominated these debates. Depending on their stance on the matter, different scholars have come up with varying arguments to justify their positions on the matter. The Moral Status of abortion has, in particular, become the basis on which these arguments are based. Consequently, this paper provides an overview of the major views on the matter as presented in Thomson's A Defense of Abortion, Hursthouses's Virtue Theory and Abortion, and Warren's On the Moral and Legal Status of Abortion, besides providing personal moral permissibility of abortion. 

Judith Thomson's main argument in defense of abortion is that abortion is morally permissible. She points out the claim that the fetus becomes a person from the moment of conception and questions the morality of the claim as applied by most of the opponents of abortion. Thomson does not think that the argument is morally right, as explained by the opponents of abortion who believe that everyone has the right to life and that it is ethically wrong to intentionally kill a bearer of life. To support her argument, Thomson compares the fetus to a violinist who has been attached to one's kidneys. At the same time, they were unconsciously asleep, and they are told that once they unhook it, it will die, but if you do not unhook it, you will be confined in the bed for nine months. Thomson, therefore, concluded that it is permissible to unhook yourself from the violinist, which claims intentional killing to be incorrect. 

For Thomson, the only immoral thing is killing unjustly, a case that can justify abortion. Just like the fetus, the violinist has no right to use your body and makes it your decision to decide whether or not it should stay in your body. She adds to her claim that "no person is morally required to make large sacrifices to sustain the life of another who has no right to demand them." Although she does not identify the circumstances under which a mother should allow a fetus to live inside her, being pregnant does not imply giving the fetus the right to use her body. Therefore, in the case of abortion, such a circumstance does not make it unjust. Abortion is, therefore, although indecent sometimes, morally permissible. 

Rosalind Hursthouse, while defending the virtue theory, argues that an action thus abortion is only morally permissible and proper if it is what the virtuous agent would do at that particular point and time. Hursthouse provides the possible objections to the virtue theory and replies to the same complaints in the argument. Most of the protests, as Hursthouse puts it, are based on the misunderstanding of the idea. According to the virtue theory, abortion and thus any other activity can be considered correct if the agent, i.e., the person exercising the virtues, has no other option other than performing the act. Abortion should, therefore, only be considered correct if it is the only option the mother has, which most commonly involves saving his life or ensuring her wellbeing. Hursthouse believes abortion is callous and light-minded and that those who engage in the act are considerably mistaken. 

However, according to the virtue theory, the two considerations of the mother's rights and the fetus's status on which the anti-abortionist theory is based are considered irrelevant to the debate. He argues that the basis of the matter should be founded on familiarity with the biological facts of the abortion figures and explains that pregnancy is not just a physical condition of an individual. Pregnancy is followed by solid emotional attachments between the fetus and the mother, which makes abortion virtually wrong as it separates the two. Just like Thomson, Hursthouse ends up recognizing that there are particular instances where abortion would be permissible and the most appropriate moral choice to assume. Unfortunately, such cases require one to be sensitive to the context presented and reflect on the pursuits in life worth abortion. 

Moreover, Mary Warren's, On the Moral and Legal Status of Abortion defends the permissive view of abortion and argues that abortion will be considered morally permissible under any circumstances occurring under any stage of life. She argues that the anti-abortionist claims are wrong based on the ambiguity of human-being and that there is no clear definition of who can be considered human beings. In her defense, Warren challenges the equivocation of the word 'human beings and what it means to be human. She identifies two insinuations of the term based on being a set of full moral rights consisting of all persons and identifying as a biological species. The first case implies that the fetus is not regarded as human, while the second includes the fetus in human beings. Accordingly, the contrast suggests that both claims could be considered suitable, and whether or not to abort would be based on the individual's understanding of the interpretations. 

In addition, Warren argues that only human beings have moral sense; an aspect not shared by the fetus disqualifies it from being regarded as human. Although they are genetically humans, fetuses are not persons since they do not have the moral senses. She comes up with criteria based on specific characteristics, which are she argues, can be used to establish whether or not a thing is human. Accordingly, she identifies humans as emotional, aware, capable of communication, rational, moral agency, and self-aware. Fetuses lack such characteristics early in pregnancy and develop a minor degree late in pregnancy. Due to this, any rights that the fetuses could hold are outweighed by the same features enjoyed by the person, in this case, the mother making it her right to decide the fetus's right. The importance of personhood is based on the fact that persons invent moral rights and follow them, excluding the fetus from the privilege of making moral rights as they are not persons. Only persons can extend the application of the moral rights to non-person creatures, and this should only happen in cases where it does not interfere with their wellbeing. On occasions where women are unwilling to get pregnant, it is permissible to abort the fetus as they lack the fundamental rights, making abortion morally acceptable. 

In a close consideration of the circumstances behind pregnancies and the moral rights of fetuses compared to those of what Warren regards as persons, abortion is morally permissible. The rights of the fetus do not in any way outweigh those of the mother. Just like it is the right of the mother to decide whether or not to get pregnant, then it is their right to decide whether or not to abort. Besides, before birth, the fetus does not practically enjoy the moral rights of being a person but only through the notion of being genetically human. Human beings are also consciously equipped to identify situations in which an act is considered morally correct. Therefore, there are always considerations by human beings before they act. In cases where they deem abortion the only option, it is acceptable to regard abortion as permissible. Although permissible, there is always the need to ascertain factors before deciding to abort. Abortion should only be permitted if and only when the pregnancy threatens the wellbeing of the mother in any way. However, the incidents under which such would be acceptable are questionable and vary from individual to individual. 

Therefore, based on the arguments from the three philosophers discussed in this paper, the permissibility of abortion can be concluded that abortion is a difficult decision to ascertain when it should be considered morally right and when it is not. Unlike the anti-abortionist theorists claiming that abortion is ethically wrong, the three philosophers Thomson, Hursthouse, and Warren provide reasons why abortion is considered permissible. In their arguments, they base their thoughts on identifying the mother's life as being more important than that of the fetus. From the views, it is concluded that the fetus has no rights, and the decision on whether it should be kept alive or not lies with the mother since she is the one thought to be morally responsible.


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