A Defense of Abortion: Most Opposition to Abortion Relies on the Premise That the Fetus Is a Human Being

9492 Words Jul 3rd, 2011 38 Pages
A Defense of Abortion Author(s): Judith Jarvis Thomson Source: Philosophy and Public Affairs, Vol. 1, No. 1 (Autumn, 1971), pp. 47-66 Published by: Blackwell Publishing Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2265091 Accessed: 10/01/2010 00:54
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Many of those who defend abortion rely on the premise that the fetus is not a person, but only a bit of tissue that will become a person at birth; and why pay out more arguments than you have to? Whatever the explanation, I suggest that the step they take is neither easy nor obvious, that it calls for closer examination than it is commonly given, and that when we do give it this closer examination we shall feel inclined to reject it. I propose, then, that we grant that the fetus is a person. from the moment of conception. How does the argument go from here? Something like this, I take it. Every person has a right to life. So the fetus has a right to life. No doubt the mother has a right to decide what shall happen in and to her body; everyone would grant that. But surely a person's right to life is stronger and more stringent than the mother's right to decide what happens in and to her body, and so outweighs it. So the fetus may not be killed; an abortion may not be performed. It sounds plausible. But now let me ask you to imagine this. You wake up in the morning and find yourself back to back in bed with an unconscious violinist. A famous unconscious violinist. He has been found to have a fatal kidney ailment, and the Society of Music Lovers
2. Daniel Callahan, Abortion: Law, Choice and Morality (New York, 1970), p. 373. This book gives a fascinating survey of the available information on abortion. The Jewish

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