Judith Thomson Abortion Summary

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Abortion I am presenting a summary of a paper written by Judith Thomson on ethics of abortion. In this summary I will analyze her arguments in support of abortion and her distinction between moral obligation and supererogatory action, under the assumption that a fetus is a person. Thomson justifies the case for abortion by arguing that there are limits to the fetus’ right to life (i.e. there are more important rights at stake). I will summarize Thomson’s three cases for when abortions are justified: 1) pregnancies resulting from rape (mother’s right to autonomy), 2) abortion when the mother’s life is at stake (mother’s right to self-defense), 3) and lastly pregnancies resulting from consensual protected sex (mother’s lack of moral obligation).…show more content…
There are people who contend that it is never morally permissible to undergo an abortion—even if it is to save the mother’s life. This extreme view is usually defended by the principle of killing vs. letting die (Hughes). In the case of an abortion, the doctor would only be allowing the mother to die by not acting. In contrast, if the doctor actively sought to save the mother, he or she would be actively killing the fetus. As the argument goes, killing is always wrong. This claim contrasts with the idea that individuals have the right to defend ourselves in the face of death. Thomson argues that we have the right to self-defense because self-defense is a method for safeguarding our own autonomy. This means we have the inherent right to choose self-defense as well as a moral entitlement to self-preservation. Thomson argues this point with the analogy of the expanding baby as related to abortion. Suppose that you were trapped inside a house with a rapidly growing baby. If you allow the baby to grow, it will eventually crush you to death. On the other hand, “if nothing is done to stop him from growing he’ll be hurt, but in the end he’ll simply burst open the house and walk out a free man” (Thomson). By this line of reasoning, Thomson argues that it is not wrong to perform an abortion in order to save the life of the mother. Thomson acknowledges that the…show more content…
The analogy supposes a situation where the violinist is a stranger. Yet, there is a special bond that is developed between the child and mother during the pregnancy (Patsaouras). In addition, the mother has a parental obligation to protect the fetus into life and adulthood (Patsaouras). This relationship and obligation are clearly lacking in the violinist analogy. For this reason, some people do not accept Thomson’s argument for why abortions are morally permissible for cases resulting from rape. Thomson argues that parents only have special responsibilities to care for their biological children if they willingly accept this responsibility. Yet, we do not need to accept responsibility in order to have responsibility. It is important to note that if parents did not have this duty, then there would be no sense in going to court for child

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