Is abortion wrong
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Is Abortion Wrong?. Is Abortion Wrong?. III. III. Baruch Brody: “Thomson on Abortion”. Brody’s Project. Brody argues that, given Thomson’s presumption that the squidge has a full right to life, her argument that abortion may be justified fails. Recall Thomson’s Argument:.

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Is Abortion Wrong?

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Is abortion wrong

Is Abortion Wrong?

Is Abortion Wrong?

III

III


Is abortion wrong

Baruch Brody: “Thomson on Abortion”

Brody’s Project

  • Brody argues that, given Thomson’s presumption that the squidge has a full right to life, her argument that abortion may be justified fails.


Is abortion wrong

Recall Thomson’s Argument:

  • Abortion is not morally impermissible at least in (some?) cases where the squidge threatens the mother’s life.

  • Abortion is not morally impermissible at least in (some?) cases where the pregnancy is the result of rape.

  • Famous violinist thought experiment

  • Henry Fonda thought experiment

  • Abortion is not morally impermissible at least in (some?) cases where the mother went to reasonable lengths to prevent the pregnancy.

  • People seeds thought experiment


Is abortion wrong

Brody Rephrases the “Extreme View” Argument

(See Slide #6 from last class.)

Suppose a woman has become pregnant, but learns she has a heart condition such that she will die if she carries the squidge to term.

  • From the moment of conception, a squidge is a human being with the same rights to life as any other human being.

  • It is always wrong to take (directly) the life of an innocent human being.

  • Therefore, it is always wrong to have an abortion.

  • Thomson challenges (2), and argues that a woman has the right to secure an abortion even if (1) is true.


Is abortion wrong

Arguments from Self-Defense

Brody argues that there are much easier ways to defeat premise (2):

It is always wrong to take (directly) the life of an innocent human being.

  • Y is about to shoot X.

  • X can only save his life by takingY’s life.

  • We certainly want to say that X has the right to take Y’s life,“even if Y is a perfectlyinnocent child.”

  • So premise (2) is false.


Is abortion wrong

Arguments from Self-Defense

In a normal case of self-defense, three factors seem to be involved:

  • The continued existence of Y poses a threat to the life of X, a threat that can only be met by taking Y’s life.

  • Y is unjustly attempting to take X’s life.

  • Y is responsible for his attempt to take X’s life and is therefore guilty of attempting to take X’s life.


Is abortion wrong

Arguments from Self-Defense

Indeed, it seems that all three factors must be involved if X isjustified in taking Y’s life in self-defense:

  • Y’s guilt is what makes X’s life take precedence over Y’s.

  • If (a) is not satisfied, then Y’s living is no threat to X, but if (b) and (c) are not satisfied, then there is no relevant guilt on Y’s part that makes X’s life take precedence over his.

But, it seems, if (a) and (b), but not (c), are satisfied, X has the right to take Y’s life in self-defense.

  • So what is the justification for taking a life in self-defense? What conditions are required for an act of self-defense to be justified?


Is abortion wrong

Arguments from Self-Defense

If Z threatens to kill X unless X kills Y, then Y’s continued existence poses a threat to X’s life.

  • Nevertheless, if X kills Y, we want to say that he did so unjustly.

  • So merelysatisfying condition(a) is not enough to justify a killing.


Is abortion wrong

Arguments from Self-Defense

Since the squidge is not attempting to take the mother’s life:

  • The squidge does not satisfy condition (b).

  • The squidge does not satisfy condition (c).

  • So it seems problematic that abortions can bejustified on grounds of self-defense.


Is abortion wrong

Lifeboat Argument

As Thomson points out, in abortion cases, we are dealing with only two individuals (presumably each with an equal right to life). Both are innocent, but one threatens the life of the other. We feel that the one threatened can justly kill the other.

  • Consider this scenario: X and Y are adrift in a lifeboat.

  • Y has a disease that he will survive,but which will kill X if he contractsit.

  • The only way X can avoid thisis by pushing Y overboard, thuskilling him.

  • Surely X has no right to do this.

  • So surely there must be someother grounds to justifyabortion.


Is abortion wrong

Different Duties, Different Outcome

In the lifeboat case, both X and Y have an equal right to use the lifeboat. But in an abortion case, the woman’s body is hers, and not the squidge’s, and she has the primary right to use it.

  • I have no duty to X to save X’s life by giving him the use of my body, and X has no right (even to save his life) to my body.

  • The duty to save X’s life (if such a duty exists) is presumably weaker than the duty not to take X’s life.

  • So I might be relieved of my duty to save X’s life by the fact that fulfilling it means abandoning my primary right to my body.

  • But I am not relieved of my duty not to take X’s life by the same fact.

  • Like the self-defense cases, something more is required here.

vs.


Is abortion wrong

Different Duties, Different Outcome

The woman’s primary rights to her body are not relevant to abortion cases:

  • In a case of abortion, one chooses between saving the woman by taking the life of the squidge, and not taking the life of the squidge, thereby saving the woman.

  • As such, if it is true that from the moment of conception the squidge is a human being and has the same right to life as any other human being, then it is wrong to perform an abortion even to save the life of the woman.


Is abortion wrong

Is it Ever Right to Secure an Abortion?

There is at least one case in which, even if it is true that the squidge has a full right to life, the woman has the right to secure an abortion:

It is permissible for Y to take X’s life in order to save hisown life if:

  • X is going to die anyway in a relatively shorttime; and

  • Taking X’s life is the only way to save Y’s life;and either

  • Taking Y’s life will not save X’s life; or

  • There is a way to save X’s life, but it has beendetermined by a fair random method that Y’slife should be saved rather than X’s.


Is abortion wrong

Is it Ever Right to Secure an Abortion?

In such a case, there is everything to gain by Y’s taking X’s life and nothing to lose:

  • Both Y and X will die soon if nothing is done, so X loses nothing by Y killing him; and

  • Either X’s life cannot be saved, or Y won over X ina fair random choice.

This is not a principle of self-defense – X is in no way attempting to take Y’s life, and is doing no action that leads to Y’s death.


Is abortion wrong

Is it Ever Right to Secure an Abortion?

An abortion would be justified if:

  • Were the abortion not performed, both the woman and the squidge would soon die; and

  • We either cannot save the squidge, or have determinedby a fair random procedure that it is the womanthat should be saved.

This argument makes no appeal to any special fact about the squidge, the woman, or their relationship. It depends solely upon a general principle about the taking of some human lives to save other.


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