Second Short Paper
A Defense of Abortion In Judith Thomson’s paper Defense for Abortion, she provides examples that argue in
favor of abortion to declare that it is permissible. Thomson states an implicit argument that she believes many philosophers presuppose. Premise one is that the fetus has a right to life.
Premise two states that the mother has a right to say what happens to and in her body.
Premise three says the fetus’ right to life outweighs the mother’s right to say what happens.
The conclusion to this argument is that abortion is impermissible. Thomson disagrees with this argument for abortion and says that this argument is valid but not sound. Premise three is not true, making the argument not sound. She believes that the fetus’ right to life does not outweigh the mothers right to say what happens to her body (Thomson, 1971). Thomson’s strategy to challenging this argument is by creating cases analogous to abortion to show how abortion can be permissible.
Thomson’s first case is another way to imagine being connected to another person for
nine months in order to save their life. She creates a case where there is an important violinist who is at risk of dying and you are the only person who can help. You have no say and are unwillingly attached to this person by the Society of Music Lovers. You must stay surgically attached to this man for nine months for him to remain alive (Thomson, 1971).
Thomson creates this case to show how a person’s right to say what happens to and in their body can dominate another person’s right to life. It seems in this case, it is morally permissible to unplug yourself because of your right to say what happens to your body.
Thomson also uses this case to compare it with and show that an abortion due to rape is permissible. Since in this case, you had no control of what happened to your body it is similar
to being raped. Thomson believes prolifers should agree that an abortion would be permissible at least in this case.
Thomson’s second case challenges the implicit argument with a case of a mother who
is in danger of carrying a baby. In this case, you are trapped in a very tiny house with a rapidly growing baby. You are at risk of losing your life if nothing is done to stop this baby from crushing you. If nothing is done to stop this baby, the baby will be free and unharmed, whereas you will not (Thomson, 1971). This case is created to show that selfdefense is important for the woman if her life is at risk. Say the mother finds that she has a cardiac condition and deciding to carry the baby will kill her. Who has the greater right to life
(Thomson, 1971)? Thomson uses this case to show that the mother has a permissible right to save herself and kill the baby. Even if an outside source cannot choose which person to save, she should be able to do something to save herself. She is in danger and has the right to save herself even when an outside source cannot (Thomson, 1971).
Thomson’s next case is used to describe where a third party is involved to help the
woman save herself. Jones finds a coat and wears it to save himself from freezing to death.
This coat is Smith’s and if he does not get it back he will freeze to death. Smith asks if a third party will help him get his jacket back so he can live because it is his jacket (Thomson, 1971).
In this case one person will die, either the mother or the baby. This case is analogous to a woman asking someone else to preform an abortion for her to save herself. Thomson uses this case to describe that a woman can decide to have an abortion because her body is her property, just like the jacket is Smith’s property. Thomson uses this to challenge that a woman can ask a third party for help and it is permissible for that person to help or for them to refuse to help. The woman has a right to what happens to her body and getting an abortion