A Critique of Judith Thomson’s A Defense of Abortion Essays

A Critique of Judith Thomson’s A Defense of Abortion Essays

Length: 1883 words (5.4 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Term Papers

Open Document

Essay Preview

In A Defense of Abortion (Cahn and Markie), Judith Thomson presents an argument that abortion can be morally permissible even if the fetus is considered to be a person. Her primary reason for presenting an argument of this nature is that the abortion argument at the time had effectively come to a standstill. The typical anti-abortion argument was based on the idea that a fetus is a person and since killing a person is wrong, abortion is wrong. The pro-abortion adopts the opposite view: namely, that a fetus is not a person and is thus not entitled to the rights of people and so killing it couldn’t possibly be wrong.
Thomson’s argument is presented in three components. The first section deals with the now famous violinist thought experiment. This experiment presents a situation in which you wake up one morning and discover you have been kidnapped and hooked up to an ailing violinist so that his body would have the use of your kidneys for the next nine months. The intuitive and instinctive reaction to this situation is that you have no moral duty to remain hooked up to the violinist, and more, that he (or the people who kidnapped you) does not have the right to demand the use of your body for this period. From a deontological point of view, it can be seen that in a conflict between the right of life of the fetus and the right to bodily integrity of the mother, the mother’s rights will trump those of the fetus. Thomson distills this by saying “the right to life consists not in the right not to be killed, but rather in the right not to be killed unjustly”.
Thomson recognizes that this thought experiment has a very limited application – specifically to those instances where a pregnancy is the result of coercion or violence. In the sec...


... middle of paper ...


...t the court left for states to ban late-term abortions. Many feel that a fetus near the end of a pregnancy is simply too like a human to come up with any justification for killing it, unless the pregnancy threatens the health of the mother. The line on the spectrum that the court ended up defining was based on when the fetus becomes viable. Before this point, the fetus is entirely dependent on the mother and the court left the mother with the ability to withdraw her support from the fetus. After the point of viability, society as a whole is then able to assist in taking care of the infant. This then, is where the fetus gains the added requirement to its right to life discussed earlier.


Works Cited
Cahn, Steven M. and Peter Markie, Ethics: History, Theory and Contemporary Issues. 4th Edition. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.
Roe v. Wade. No. 410. U.S. 1973.

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

A Defense Of Abortion By Judith Jarvis Thomson Essay

- The topic of abortion has been one of the most controversial in bioethics, revolving around the issue of whether a fetus has the right to life and when a fetus is considered a person. In Judith Jarvis Thomson’s article, “A Defense of Abortion”, she presents the belief that the fetus is granted with the right to life and is considered a person upon contraception. Throughout the article, Thomson attempts to argue that abortion is not always considered murder under specific cases. She uses analogical reasoning to explain her reasoning for abortion; in this case, she uses the metaphor of a sick violinist and relates it to a mother and fetus....   [tags: Pregnancy, Abortion, Fetus, Analogy]

Term Papers
956 words (2.7 pages)

Essay about A Defense Of Abortion By Judith Jarvis

- also on its environment where it will develop until birth, the mother’s womb.A woman is lending her body as an environment of growth. Some argue that the decision of whether this fetus should be carried to term or not lies in the decision of the woman carrying the fetus. The term pro-choice suggests that the choice of pregnancy and eventually birth of a child is simply that, a choice. The choice in this case, lies in the hands of the woman, since it is her body that is being subject to the most change....   [tags: Abortion, Pregnancy, Human rights]

Term Papers
1018 words (2.9 pages)

Essay about A Defense Of Abortion By Judith Thomson

- In her essay, “A Defense of Abortion”, Judith Thomson argues that abortion is morally permissible in most cases even when the fetus is considered a person. She does this by claiming that the right to bodily autonomy supersedes the right to life in almost every case and that the intention of the mother is important in defining when an abortion is permissible. Through multiple thought experiments she shows that the Western perspective often places more importance on the right to autonomy than the right to life even though it is claimed otherwise, and that if a mother does not intend to become pregnant she is not morally obligated to carry the fetus to term in most cases....   [tags: Morality, Abortion, Pregnancy, Human]

Term Papers
1135 words (3.2 pages)

A Defense Of Abortion By Judith Jarvis Essay example

- Is a pregnant woman always responsible for the fetus that lives inside her. In “A Defense of Abortion”, Judith Jarvis Thomson adopts the position that “the fetus is a person from the moment of conception” (212) for her argument. A person has the right to life, which leads some to believe that abortion can never be a morally permissible act. However, a woman, even in pregnancy, reserves a considerable amount of liberty over her body. Thomson uses the analogy of comparing sperm to seeds as a way to examine the ethics of abortion and the responsibility of a pregnant woman to the fetus inside of her....   [tags: Abortion, Pregnancy, Birth control]

Term Papers
1149 words (3.3 pages)

Essay on A Defense Of Abortion By Judith Jarvis Thompson

- Responsibility to the Unborn In “A Defense of Abortion,” Judith Jarvis Thompson argues that abortion is not always impermissible. Thompson begins her argument by pointing out that the debate over abortion often falls on whether the fetus is a person or not. It seems if we had the answer to this then the answer to if abortion was permissible would be simple. Since this is not the case however, Thompson states that for the sake of argument, the fetus is a person, and challenges that there are still circumstances in which abortion can be justified....   [tags: Pregnancy, Abortion, Abortion debate, Fetus]

Term Papers
1355 words (3.9 pages)

Essay on A Defense of Abortion by Judith Jarvis Thomson

- 'A Defense of Abortion' by Judith Jarvis Thomson In the article 'A Defense of Abortion' Judith Jarvis Thomson argues that abortion is morally permissible even if the fetus is considered a person. In this paper I will give a fairly detailed description of Thomson main arguments for abortion. In particular I will take a close look at her famous 'violinist' argument. Following will be objections to the argumentative story focused on the reasoning that one person's right to life outweighs another person's right to autonomy....   [tags: Defense Abortion Articles Essays Thomason ]

Term Papers
1081 words (3.1 pages)

A Defense Of Abortion By Judith Jarvis Thomson Essay

- Abortion is an exceedingly controversial political topic, and it has been hotly debated through the years. Because multiple parties - the mother and the fetus - stand to gain or lose dramatically from each abortion decision, there is much moral gray area; however, society could benefit from looking at the issue philosophically. After all, philosophers often debate moral responsibility. In her argument "A Defense of Abortion," Judith Jarvis Thomson concludes that abortion is morally acceptable in almost all cases....   [tags: Abortion, Pregnancy, Argument, Logic]

Term Papers
901 words (2.6 pages)

Essay on A Defense Of Abortion By Judith Jarvis Thomson

- In the Judith Jarvis Thomson’s paper, “A Defense of Abortion”, the author argues that even though the fetus has a right to life, there are morally permissible reasons to have an abortion. Of course there are impermissible reasons to have an abortion, but she points out her reasoning why an abortion would be morally permissible. She believes that a woman should have control of her body and what is inside of her body. A person and a fetus’ right to life have a strong role in whether an abortion would be okay....   [tags: Pregnancy, Abortion, Childbirth, Fetus]

Term Papers
1559 words (4.5 pages)

A Defense Of Abortion By Judith Jarvis Thomson Essay

- “A Defense of Abortion” is a philosophy paper by Judith Jarvis Thomson in which the author argues for abortion, using several analogies to illustrate her points. In a move that separates this paper from the bulk of others on the same topic, Thomson grants at the start of the paper that a fetus has the right to life. She then proceeds to argue that although a fetus has a right to life, that right does not trump a woman’s right to her body. She concludes that abortion is an acceptable choice in a variety of circumstances....   [tags: Abortion, Pregnancy, Samaritan]

Term Papers
1949 words (5.6 pages)

Essay Abortion

- Abortion has been one of the topics of hot debate for the last three decades in our nation. Since the Roe v/s Wade decision in 1973, some Americans feel the need to ponder whether aborting fetuses is a moral action. On the one hand, some people feel that abortion should be legal because a woman has a right to choose whether she wants to continue a pregnancy or not. It's her body. On the other hand, some feel that fetuses have no advocates and deserve a right to live, so it is immoral to abandon their rights and kill them....   [tags: essays research papers]

Term Papers
1148 words (3.3 pages)