Evaluate Judith Jarvis Thomsons' Defense Of Abortion

2968 words - 12 pages

Evaluate Thomson's defence of abortionAbortion is not a new topic by any means and is yet still one of the most controversial subjects of our time, with Judith Jarvis Thomson's 1971 article entitled "A defence of Abortion" being one of, if not the most discussed articles with regards abortion in the last 50 years.In this essay I will attempt to evaluate the arguments put forward by Thomson by examining them and considering whether they are sound in their presumptions. I will also, in my evaluation, be considering the ideas and opinions of others in relation to abortion but in particular in relation to Thomson's article itself.From the very beginning of the article Thomson stresses to make it clear that in order to give the matter closer examination than is commonly given, she is going to start her argument from the point that she will grant that the foetus is a person from the moment of conception. A point that she feels is relied on heavily by those who oppose abortion and that "when we do give it this closer examination we shall feel inclined to reject it" (Thomson 1971:38). The foetus's right to life (since it is a person and all people have a right to life) is a major point in her argument. She suggests that the foetus's right to life is far more important than the mother's right to decide what shall happen in and to her body and that therefore the abortion may not be performed. It is at this point that she introduces the Violinist example, an example that she runs with throughout the entire article.Basically, the Violinist example goes like this: you are kidnapped and wake-up to find yourself hooked up a famous Violinist, who will die without the use of your kidneys. You will have to spend 9 months in bed with the Violinist. The question Thomson puts forward here is "do you have to accede to it?" (Thomson 1971: 39). Since a persons right to decide what happens in and to their body is outweighed by a person's right to life then no, you cannot be unplugged from him. According to Thomson we would find this option completely outrageous, which she thinks, suggests that there is something really wrong with the Violinist argument. She feels that the argument above is analogous to that of a woman who has been raped and wishes to have an abortion. Does the fact that the foetus is a product of rape give it less of a right to life than one not conceived in a rape situation? This she says is a point, which those who oppose abortion refuse to make a distinction and therefore do not make an exception for rape.There are also those who possess what she terms "the extreme view". The extreme view is that which believes that an abortion is impermissible even to save the mothers life. "Suppose a woman has become pregnant, and now learns that she has a cardiac condition such that she will die if she carries the baby to term" (Thomson 1971:40). May she have an abortion in this situation even though both mother and foetus have an equal right to life? Does her...

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