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The moral and legal status of Abortion. Two questions:. Under what, if any, circumstances is it morally permissible to have an abortion? Under what, if any, circumstances, ought there be legal prohibition of abortion.

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Presentation Transcript
two questions
Two questions:
  • Under what, if any, circumstances is it morally permissible to have an abortion?
  • Under what, if any, circumstances, ought there be legal prohibition of abortion.
  • If you think abortion is immoral, it does not follow that you think it must be outlawed.
  • But if you think abortion ought to be illegal, you probably also think it is immoral.
noonan what makes an individual human
Noonan: What makes an individual human?
  • Noonan holds that conception is when a human being begins to exist. So:
  • All Human beings have a right to life
  • The fetus is a human being
  • Therefore abortion is a serious wrong and should be outlawed.
other possibilities
Other possibilities
  • Does human life begin at viability?
  • No, because viability depends on medical advances. Also babies and young children are not “viable” on their own.
  • Does human life depend on experiences or memories?
  • No, b/c the embryo “is responsive to touch after eight weeks and at least at that point is experiencing. Also adult human beings lose memories and still have right to life.
slide5
People have different feelings when a fetus dies as opposed to a “living child”
  • Noonan: this will not make a moral difference. Racism and other forms of discrimination are usually based on differences of feeling, but these are unjustified.
slide6
What about social visibility?
  • Again, this seems arbitrary. Social visibility can make anyone be treated as a non-human, but that does not make those individuals non-human.
biological probability
Biological probability
  • N argues that conception is the likely beginning of human life because the chance of an embryo being born is 4 out of 5, whereas the chance that sperm and egg meet is huge. It is a natural breaking point in the development of life.
questions for noonan
Questions for Noonan:
  • Should we change our attitudes towards the 20% of embryos that spontaneously abort?
  • Why is biological humanity so important? Is having a unique genetic code enough? What if someone takes a cell from my body in order to clone it? Would squishing the cell be murder?
  • What about non-human animals?
warren s defense of abortion
Warren’s defense of abortion
  • The anti-abortion argument:
  • 1. All human beings have a right to life
  • 2. The fetus is human
  • 3. Therefore the fetus has a right to life
  • Is flawed. Human means one thing in premise 1, another in premise 2
slide10
Premise one involves the moral concept of a human being, “being part of the moral community,” personhood.
  • Premise two is using a purely biological, non-moral concept of a human being (being alive, having human DNA)
consider the space traveler
Consider the space traveler
  • Who lands on a planet chuck full of living things. How should she determine her moral attitude towards these living things? Which would be appropriate food sources and which would it be seriously wrong to kill
  • Biological humanity is not an issue here. What matters are personhood characteristics.
slide12
On page 111, Warren lists personhood characteristics.
  • These are not all required to be a person, but if a being lacks “all or most” of them, then it is not a person.
objections
Objections
  • Fetus is a potential person
  • W: moral status of potential people cannot outweigh actual people (e.g. the mother’s right over her body)
  • New born infants are also not persons on this view. So the personhood theory leads to the morally unacceptable consequence of allowing infanticide
response to infanticide obj
Response to infanticide obj.

Newborns are not people, but they are close to being people. So they have value (as do chimps, dolphins etc).

Infants are dependent, but not dependent on particular people. There are lots of people wanting to adopt a newborn.

People value the life of babies.