Thomson on Abortion

In one of the more frequently discussed articles of contemporary philosophy, Judith Thomson addresses a woman’s moral rights to abort a pregnancy Instead of giving birth to an undesired child. She applies this dilemma to many different circumstances, including those of rape, as well as a life-endangering pregnancy. Most debates against abortion argue the premise that a fetus has the same moral status as a full grown adult with the right to live, which implies that abortion is equivalent to first-degree murder.

Thomson argues that even If this argument were true, a woman loud still be within her moral rights to abort a pregnancy regardless of if it Is life- threatening or not. Through a sequence of colorful scenarios, Thomson affirms that a right to live does not entitle one to the right to use another’s body, or the right to be kept alive. Abortion is not an unjust killing and therefore not a violation of one’s rights.

Even when assuming the hypothetical premise that a fetus is in fact a person, Thomson still argues, “nobody is morally required to make large sacrifices, of health, of all other Interests and concerns, of all other duties and commitments, for nine ears, or even for nine months In order to keep another person alive” (Thomson, 96). Branch Broody responds to this by suggesting that although Thomson argument establishes the right to not have to save another life, it does not nullify the duty to not take another life.

However, he still allows for situations where a woman would still be within her moral rights to secure an abortion. Thomson believes the argument of whether an unborn fetus Is a person or not Is only half of the argument for the morality of abortion. For the sake of this argument he begins under the assumption that fetus are people from conception (although if this truly were the case then an acorn could also be considered an oak tree). Her first example is that of the famous violinist.

The first scenario described by Thomson involves waking up in bed with an unconscious famous violinist who has a fatal kidney ailment. A Society of Music Lovers kidnapped you and connected the violinist’ circulatory system to your kidneys. You are the only thing keeping him alive for nine months until he Is healed, and If you leave he will die. Thomson then changes a detail so that this connection would be permanent, In which case It Is obviously morally permissible to allow the violinist to die and move on with your own life.

In the case of rape and life threatening pregnancies they are more obvious (although not exceptions) because the mother herself is also a person with a right to life equal to that of the fetus. Arguing that It “cannot seriously be thought to be murder if the mother performs an abortion on herself to save her life” (Thomson, 91). Women who become pregnant are housing a child and Thomson argues that she does not have to tan by and do nothing while the child develops. She suggests this by saying “There are only two people involved, one whose life is threatened, and one who threatens it.

Both are innocent: the one who is threatened is not threatened because of any fault; the one who threatens does not threaten because of any fault. For this reason we may feel that we bystanders cannot intervene. But the person threatened can” (Thomson, 91 This Is also used to support her self-defense argument of hesitate getting involved, but she defends their rights by saying, “l have not been arguing that nay given third party must accede to the mother’s request that he perform an abortion to save her life, only that he may’ (Thomson, 92).

Third parties are entitled to refuse consenting to an innocent woman having to lose so much, there is no injustice doing so. Thomson does not agree that a fetus’ right to live supersedes a woman’s right to exert control over her own body. Referring to the violinist example again, Thomson claims that “the fact that for continued life that violinist needs the continued use of your kidneys does not establish that he has a right to be given the continued use of our kidneys…

For nobody has any right to use your kidneys unless you give him such a right… If you do allow him to go on using your kidneys, this is a kindness on your part, and not something he can claim from you his due” (Thomson, 93). Although she believes all humans have a right to life she also strongly argues that “having a right to life does not guarantee having either a right to be given the use of or a right to be allowed continued use of another person’s body – even if one needs it for itself” (Thomson, 93).

Although one might argue that a woman has a special susceptibility to invest in the survival of the offspring, Thomson argues that we “do not have any such ‘special responsibility for a person unless we have assumed it, explicitly or implicitly’ (Thomson 97). She would go as far to say that even refusing to use your body to keep another human alive for an hour is within your right – even if it indecent it is not unjust. This right is Justly established and whether the sex that led to conception was voluntary or not is somewhat irrelevant to this argument.

To depict this Thomson uses the example of opening the window of a stuffy room, which leads o burglars breaking in. To this example she says, “it would be absurd to say, ‘ah no he can stay, she’s given him a right to the use of her house – for she is partially responsible for his presence there, having voluntarily done what enabled him to get in” (Thomson, 94). Although this scenario is in no way related, the circumstances are quite similar in that the person who is somewhat responsible is still not to blame.

This person has no obligation to surrender their rights to their property, home, and body. Even when the pregnancy is an accident Thomson compares it to seed-people elongating: seeds unintentionally get through the screen of a window into someone’s home, but that does not give them any claim to it. A reference to the Good and Minimally Decent Samaritan is made, stating that they go out of their way to help those who are in need, but there is no legal requirement for them to do so. We may feel compelled to act but we are within our rights not to.

Thomson makes a distinction between abortion and killing a child after assuming this special responsibility and carrying to full term. Once the child is born no one has the right to e guaranteed of his or her death. She points out at the end “while I do argue that abortion is not impermissible, I do not argue that it is always permissible” (Thomson, 98). In response to Thomson article, Branch Broody expresses his beliefs that abortion is unjustified taking of a life that no one has the right to take.

If the unborn does not posses a threat then there is not any reason to threaten its existence, he specifically refers to Thomson self-defense argument. He argues “in a normal case of self-defense, the following three factors seem to be involved: (a) the continued aging of YK’s life; (b) Y is unjustly attempting to take Ax’s life; (c) Y is responsible for his attempt to take Ax’s life” (Broody, 99). Broody does not agree that these conditions are met in most cases of abortion.

He produces another scenario, “X and Y are adrift in a lifeboat. Y has a disease which he can survive but which will kill X if he contracts it, and the only way X can avoid that is by killing Y and pushing him overboard” (Broody, 100) even in this case, Broody believes X does not have the right to kill Y. This means there must be another reason for which mothers feel Justified in getting this reoccurred done. Broody also believes that Thomson failed to distinguish between the duty to save Ax’s life and the duty to not take Yes life.

He elaborates saying “once one attends to that distinction, it would seem that if (1) is true, it is wrong to perform an abortion even to save the life of a woman” (Broody, 101). However despite his position, Broody still gives examples of situations in which a woman would Justly have the right to secure an abortion. He closes the article giving one example where “if were the abortion not performed, both the woman and fetus would die soon” (Broody, 101) it loud be acceptable to save the woman’s life.

However, this is usually not the case and in Broody opinion many of these abortions being performed are a violation of justice towards the unborn. Despite these objections, Thomson argument defending a woman’s rights to refuse using her body to keep another living being alive is more convincing on the basis that a woman has the right to refuse this. Although the scenarios presented by Thomson seem abstract, they are morally relevant to the different circumstances of unexpected pregnancies.

Broody main objection emphasizes the duty to not take a life superseding the right to refuse keeping a developing fetus inside you, he may not agree but Thomson violinist scenario is in fact very similar without the genetic relationship a mother would have to her fetus (to address this Thomson brings up special responsibilities needing to be assumed). Thomson strongly believes that unborn children do not have a right to their mother’s bodies, and if the mother refuses to share with them it may make them self-centered, callous, and indecent but not unjust nor outside the boundaries of their rights.

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