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Abortion, the ethics of

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-L168-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 2021
Retrieved July 25, 2024, from

Article Summary

Is abortion – the ending of a pregnancy via the termination of foetal life – morally permissible? Philosophers, as well as non-philosophers, are torn. One pro-life argument is that taking any human life, including nascent human life, is morally wrong because all human life is sacred from its inception to its natural death. Some philosophers argue that fetuses are persons (see Persons), with the same moral and legal rights we, as persons, enjoy, because they are members of our kind – the species Homo sapiens. Some argue that it is morally relevant that fetuses have the potential to grow into humans with robust and morally significant cognitive traits, and that this potential grounds an interest in continued existence. Other philosophers argue that, regardless of where one stands on the issue of whether fetuses are persons, abortion is still morally wrong because it deprives the fetus of their valuable future.

Many pro-choice philosophers disagree. Some argue that fetuses are not persons, given their complete lack of cognition, and that their potential for personhood alone is not sufficient for bestowing upon them legal or moral rights. Yet even if we grant, for the sake of argument, that fetuses are persons with the same right to life as any other person, some philosophers argue that this alone is not sufficient for grounding a pro-life stance. This is because no person has a right to compel another to use their body for sustenance, even if their very lives depended on it. As such, fetuses, even if they are persons, have no right to use a woman’s body without her consent. All of these arguments will be explored in this entry.

Citing this article:
Manninen, Bertha Alvarez. Abortion, the ethics of, 2021, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-L168-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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