The standard argument against abortion rests on the claim that the fetus is a person and therefore has a right to life (Thompson, 1971). Judith Jarvis Thomson shows why this standard argument against abortion is a somewhat inadequate account of the morality of abortion. She argues for the conclusion that abortion is sometimes permissible. She begins the essay by pointing out on whether or not the fetus is a person. If fetuses are persons then abortions must be impermissible, and that if fetuses are not persons then abortions must be permissible.
Thomson, begins by conceding the issue of personhood to her opponent; she assumes, for purposes of argumentation, that the fetus is a person from the moment of conception, even though she personally does not agree with that assumption (Thomson, 1971, p. 48). She attempts to show that even if this concern is made, abortion is morally permissible in many cases. Here are her three main arguments:
1) Every person has a right to life.
2) The fetus is a person.
3) So, the fetus has a right to life.
A fetus is a person and has a right to life, which outweighs a mother’s autonomy over her body, “the fetus may not be killed; an abortion may not be performed” (Thomson, 1971, p. 48). Thompson proclaims that abortion is morally permissible in certain cases, such as rape, endangering the life of the mother, or unsuccessful contraception permissible to save mom only if abortion performed by mother herself only and not third party (Thompson, 1971).
Thompson gives several analogies to relate to her argument on the moral permissibility of abortion. Her analogy of a famous violinist, with you as the kidnapped donor, and without your consent...
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...at even in instances of rape a woman should not abort because it is the fetus you are punishing instead of the rapist. My response to that is, why should the mother be punished for being physically violated resulting in an unwanted pregnancy? If she chooses to have an abortion, which would be in the first trimester, the fetus cannot survive outside of her body; therefore, should not be considered a separate entity.
Harry. (2010). Thomson’s violinist: what is the point of thought experiments in moral
philosophy? Retrieved from: http://crookedtimber.org/2010/01/23/thomsons-violinist-what-is-the-point-of-thought-experiments-in-moral-philosophy/
Sayball, M. (2016). Thompson video lecture 5 parts.
Thompson, J. J. (1971). A Defense of Abortion. Philosophy & Public Affairs Vol. 1, No.1 pp. 47-66. Retrieved from: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2265091
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