The Abortion Debate

Gideon Brown PHILL 111 Lisa McLeod 10/31/2011 The Abortion Debate The permissibility of abortion is a highly debated ethical dilemma. There have been many valid arguments for both sides. Don Marquis is an author who presented his view on the topic in his article titled “Why Abortion is immoral”. An equally convincing paper has also been written by author Judith Jarvis Thomson debating the other side of the argument. Her work is titled “A Defense of Abortion”. Both of these papers attempt to use logical arguments to persuade the reader that their view on the abortion issue is the most ethical.

Don Marquis’ paper is a good persuasive work because he is able to argue his strong anti-abortion view point without relying on whether the fetus is a baby or religion. Because he omits those two factors his paper is able to convince a larger proportion of people. Marquis’ conclusion is “Abortion is, except possibly in rare cases, seriously immoral…it is in the same moral category as killing an innocent adult human being. He believes that the issue of the abortion is “whether the fetus is a being whose life it is seriously wrong to end”.

He believes that the fetus is such a being and he argues in that favor. Marquis begins his article by showing how the pro-life argument is too broad. According to him pro-lifers base their argument on the fetus being a person. However what is the distinction between a newly fertilized ovum and a cell. He then states that if we follow the argument of a pro-lifer it would be unethical to kill a cancer cell. Next Marquis evaluates the pro-choice argument and deems it too narrow. He claims that under a pro-choicer point of view it doesn’t show that killing infants or a retarded person is wrong.

Marquis sees this as a never ending argument because both sides can continue to add their point. He therefore constructs his own argument based on a more general discussion. He examines what makes killing wrong in the first place and then applies that to the abortion debate. Marquis decides that killing is ultimately wrong because it deprives the victim of all possible future experiences. He reasons this because it explains why we regard killing as such a heinous crime; it deprives the victim of something more than virtually any crime.

He also explains that this deduction allows for other creatures to have a right to life, it straightforwardly deals with the case of infants and handicapped, and it does not disrupt the euthanasia debate because it allows that for some people death may not be as bad as continued life. Jean Jarvis Thomson uses her article to express her pro-choice view on abortion. She begins her article with a premise she doesn’t believe. She attempts to construct her argument so that she can still appeal to those people whose pro-life stance is based on the fetus being a human.

She therefore begins her argument with the widely accepted pro-life premise that the fetus is a full moral being with a right to live. Thomson does not believe this premise and shows why with an example of an extreme view, that abortion is impermissible even to save the mother’s life. Thomson says that if this is true then if the mother has to die then the fetus can be considered a murderer. Also it is not considered murder to take someone’s life in self-defense. Her main point of argument against this premise is that the mother’s body is the one who houses the fetus, “the house belongs to her” Thomson says.

She uses these premises to argue against the prolife view in extreme cases where the mother’s life is in danger, and finds that in these situations abortion is permissible. In situations where the mother’s life is not in danger require different premises to be set forth. Thomson uses three examples to set forth her argument in these situations. The involuntary violinist, the two children with a box of chocolate, and the touching of Mr. Fonda’s hand. All three examples are used to demonstrate one main point. Thomson believes that even though all humans have the right to life they do not have the right to continue using another person’s body.

Following these examples she states that “the rights to life consist not in the right not to be killed, but rather in the right not to be killed unjustly”. The next question that Thomson addresses is whether abortion is permissible in cases where there is voluntary intercourse knowing her chance of getting pregnant. Pro-life arguers believe that the mother’s partial responsibility in the existence of the fetus gives the fetus the right to use the mothers body. Thomson has a simple but good argument against that. She states that knowledge does not necessarily mean intention.

She says that as human beings we have no moral “special responsibility” for a person unless we assume that role. Thomson says “no one is compelled to be a Good Samaritan”. In other words it may be more ethical to allow the fetus to use the mother body in that situation, but no one can be compelled to ethically. These two arguments are both some of the best work presented for their perspective viewpoints. Both articles attempt to approach the argument from a different point of view that can be applied and understood to everyone. In my belief I find that the argument by Marquis is less convincing.

Marquis offers his explanation of why killing is wrong and I agree with that. But I only see this principle making murder immoral to human beings, excluding the fetus. I follow this view point because a problem arises when trying to determine the future of a fetus. I believe that some fetuses will be miscarried, and the future of other may not be worth saving. For example if the fetus were to become a serial killer. Also in some other cases his premise allows for other people to decide the value of someone else’s life, which I find unethical.

The argument set forward by Thomson is more convincing to me. She doesn’t attempt to assign value to the future of the fetus or allow for others to decide its value. She bases her argument on a premise that I strongly agree with. The fetus is using the body of the mother. A mother who is pregnant with a fetus regardless of the mode of conception is allowed to do whatever she wants with her body. In my opinion if the mother does not want to have the fetus hooked to her it should be permissible to abort.

I believe that if it is possible to keep the fetus alive whatever can be done needs to be done, but only with the mothers consent or outside of the body. Her argument ultimately convinces me because no matter what the situation, even to save a life, a person cannot be compelled to lose the right to making decisions about their own body. Both of these articles brought about a new way of thinking. Marquis’ argument was able to make me see why some find abortion impermissible. In the end Thomson’s argument appealed to my view point on the subject and ffered me a point which I find no plausible argument to. This has led me to develop an even stronger pro-choice view. Although my mind is made up right now, the argument will continue and new arguments will be laid forth. In order for me to find what I would consider to be the most ethical decision I will need to continue reading arguments and keep an open mind on this pressing issue. Works Cited Marquis, Don (1989). Why abortion is immoral. Journal of Philosophy 86 (4):183-202. Thomson, J. “A Defense of Abortion”. Philosophy and Public Affairs 1:1 (Autumn 1971): 47-66.

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