Write five to seven pages on one of the following questions. Papers must be typed, double-spaced and are due in class on October 23. You may also create your own topic but I must approve it. For each question you can make use of any of the class readings but you must use at least two additional articles. These must be actual philosophical articles that have appeared in journals (not websites on the topic). It may also be of value, if you use writings from class, to find the full article from which the excerpt comes. Please cite your sources, number your pages and proofread your papers. I will read drafts and the earlier you get one to me, the more I can help.
1) When is abortion morally permissible? Explain which elements of your response are consequentialist, deontological or virtue-theoretic. Be sure to address arguments against your view.
There are two cases which are extremely obvious that abortion is absolutely morally acceptable. The first case is that of rape. When a woman becomes pregnant as the result of rape, she has given no form of consent whatsoever that a fetus may use her body. She is culpable for no responsibility, because at no point did she consent to any act which would result in the possibility of carrying a child. In cases of consensual sex, even when every measure is taken to prevent pregnancy through the use of contraceptives, there is still acceptance of the possibility of conception, and the consenting parties accept that risk. Judith Thomson presents a celebrated analogy for this instance. She offers the comparison to being kidnapped and attached to a dying violinist in order to save his life. She states that it would be morally permissible to unhook yourself from the violinist, thus killing him, because you did not give him a right to use your body for sustenance, but rather were kidnapped against your will. Thus Thomson states that, “the right to life consists not in the right not to be killed, but rather in the right not to be killed unjustly.” This would mean that while a fetus may have a right to life, it is not unjust to kill the fetus if the mother gave the child no right to use her body because she was raped.
The other, similar argument involves cases where the mother is at risk of being harmed by carrying the child to term. The main reason for this is because a woman is a person and a person has more of a right to life than a potential person. Thomson again illustrates this point with an analogy. She presents the idea of being trapped in a tiny house with a rapidly growing child. The child will soon grow so large as to crush the person inside the house, while cause no harm to himself, as he will soon burst the house open and walk away unharmed. While it may be wrong for a bystander to intervene, Thomson argues, she finds it permissible for the person inside the house to act in self-defense. Because the woman houses the child, she does not have to sit idly by while the child kills her. Another important consideration in cases of harm to the mother is her duty to others. She may have a husband or other children who need her to care for them. The unborn child has a duty to no one, thus it does not have as much value to the mother, and no one but itself will be harmed by its death.
The argument for the permissibility of abortion in cases of rape is a deontological argument. The motive behind an abortion is not wrong in these cases, because such a terrible and undeserved injustice was done to a woman, and she should not have to suffer further consequences for her unfortunate situation. The case of harm to the mother however is a utilitarian argument. Here we accept abortion for the same reason that some killings may be just if they bring about the most good. For example killing in self-defense saves your life and executing a mass murderer takes a life but saves