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Morality And Abortion Essay

1796 words - 8 pages

In this paper I will explain and examine Judith Jarvis Thomson’s view on abortion as outlined in her essay “A Defense of Abortion”. I will summarize her perspective on the issue, and will then criticize and support her arguments and the analogies she includes.
First, I will address Thomson’s decision to assume that a fetus is a person from the time of conception. I think she makes a wise choice in labeling a fetus as a person throughout pregnancy because this decision eliminates one controversy surrounding the morality of abortion. Were Thomson not to concede the issue regarding personhood, skeptics could focus on their issue with that single point and this disagreement could ...view middle of the document...

The question is, “Is it morally permissible for you to disconnect yourself from the violinist and allow him to die?” This case is meant to seem ridiculous. The answer that most readers will agree upon is that it is completely morally permissible for you to disconnect from the strange man. You owe him nothing, you were kidnapped, and now your body is being used against your will. Thomson’s argument as to why it is morally permissible for you to disconnect from the violinist and allow him to die is similar to the following. The violinist has a right to life. You also have a right to life. However, what you have that changes the situation is a right to autonomy over your own body that is being infringed upon by this violinist. Because you did not willingly give up your autonomy rights by allowing him to be connected to you for nine months, Thomson would argue that the violinist is violating one of your rights and it is therefore morally permissible for you to disconnect from him and allow him to die. This analogy is meant to parallel abortion only in some cases; specifically, cases of rape. Similar to an individual being kidnapped and her body being used against her will in the violinist scenario, a woman’s body is taken without her permission and used against her will by a rapist and the fetus of that rapist. Therefore, a woman’s right to autonomy is violated by a fetus when it is the product of rape. Thomson argues that if we can determine that it is morally permissible for you to disconnect yourself from the violinist then we can also determine that it is morally permissible for you to disconnect yourself from the fetus in cases of rape. However, there are several flaws in this argument. First of all, in the violinist scenario, the woman is performing the action of unplugging herself whereas in the case of abortion after rape, a third party must be involved to perform the action. This calls into question what actions a third party can morally perform. I think Thomson’s analogy about a woman and a rapidly growing baby trapped in a house together addresses this concern very effectively though. In this scenario, a passerby comes upon a house in which a child is growing so rapidly that it will soon crush and kill the woman also trapped in the house. When the woman asks the third party to kill the child and save her, the third party faces a moral dilemma; whose right to life is superior in this case? However, when it is clarified that the woman owns this house and the baby is an intruder, it becomes less of a moral obstacle. At no point is it obvious that a fetus has a right to life that is superior to the mother’s right to autonomy. On the contrary, the woman’s right to life as well as her right to autonomy, according to Thomson, are superior to the child’s right to life. Therefore, it is morally permissible for a third party to choose to act in accordance with the woman’s wishes. This case of the growing baby may only be...

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