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Abortion
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Some Background

   1st Mo. 2nd Mo. 3rd Mo. 4th Mo.   5th Mo. 6th Mo. 7th Mo. 8th Mo. 9th Mo.
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Some Background

 What is an abortion?

 Why might someone seek an abortion?

 What ethical positions might one take on
  abortion?
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Mary Anne Warren: “On the Moral and Legal Status
of Abortion”
Warren’s Project
 • Thesis: It is never immoral to secure an abortion.

 • Warren’s argument responds to views that the fetus, as a
   human, has the same right to life as other humans.
 • Warren’s central argument depends on what we mean by
   something’s being a moral human being (i.e. a “person”):
    (P1) All and only persons have full moral rights (including
         the right to life).
    (P2) A fetus is not a person.
    (C1) Therefore, a fetus does not have full moral rights.
    (C2) Therefore, it is not wrong to abort a fetus.
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John T. Noonan’s “Genetic Code” Argument
Noonan argues:
 • At conception, the new being receives its genetic code from
   its human parents.
 • It is this genetic information which determines its
   characteristics, and which is the biological carrier of the
   possibility of human wisdom.
 • With no such genetic code, one cannot be human; with the
   genetic code, one is.
 And so:
  (P1) It is wrong to kill innocent human beings.
  (P2) Fetuses are innocent human beings.
  (C) Therefore, it is wrong to kill fetuses.

 (Warren does not exactly match Noonan’s argument, but it’s
 certainly Noonan-ish.)
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Warren’s Challenge to Noonan’s Argument
 The term “human beings” in the argument refers either to
 genetically human beings or to humans in the moral sense:
  • If the term’s meaning changes in the course of the
    argument, then Noonan is committing equivocation.
  • If “human beings” refers to genetically human beings,
    then Noonan has not established P1 (that it is wrong to
    kill human beings).
  • If “human beings” refers to persons (humans in the moral
    sense), then Noonan has not established P2 (that fetuses
    are innocent human beings).
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Persons vs. Non-Persons
 Central Traits of Personhood:
  i. Consciousness
  ii. Reasoning Ability
  iii. Self-Motivating Activity
  iv. Capacity to Communicate
  v. Presence of Self-Concepts & Self-Awareness

 • Sufficient, but not necessary: An entity need not fulfill all of
   these criteria to be a person, nor is it the case that any of
   them (with the possible exception of (i) and (ii)) are
   necessary for an entity to be a person.
 • If a being fulfills none of (i)-(v), then the being is not a
   person.
 • Being genetically human seems neither necessary nor
   sufficient to being a person.
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Persons vs. Non-Persons (cont’d)
 Warren’s personhood argument:
  • All and only persons have full moral rights (including the
    right to life).
  • A fetus is not a person.
  • Therefore, a fetus does not have full moral rights.
  • (Therefore, it is not wrong to abort a fetus.)
   • Warren admits a fetus might have some rights (maybe
     some right to life, at some point in fetal development):
       “…a woman’s right to protect her health,
       happiness, freedom, and even her life, by
       terminating an unwanted pregnancy, will always
       override whatever right to life it may be appropriate
       to ascribe to a fetus, even a fully developed one.”
   • But if a fetus has a right to life it is a rather weak right to
     life, and will always be trumped by the mother’s rights.
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Fetal Development and the Right to Life
 How far along in development does a fetus have to be before it
 acquires some right to life (something person-like)?
  • The average fish or mammal is as ‘person-like’ at birth as
    any newborn baby.
  • It may, to some degree, acquire a right to life, but it’s a
    weak right to life compared with the right of the mother
    carrying it.

 What is meant by a woman’s “freedom”?
  • It’s not immoral for a woman to terminate a pregnancy in
    the 7th month if the woman doesn’t want to postpone a
    trip to Europe.
  • Weak right to life: it would be wrong to kill a fetus
    gratuitously.
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Potential Personhood and the Right to Life
 Does potential personhood give a fetus some of the same
 rights as personhood?
 Space Explorer Thought Experiment
  • Warren: The potential person doesn’t have a right to life.
  • It’s morally permissible to prevent oneself from being
    broken up into 100,000 pieces to create 100,000 persons.
    In the same way: It’s morally permissible to say it’s not
    worth dying to bring about a potential child into actuality.
  • It’s morally permissible to prevent oneself from having to
    give up one year (or even one day) of one’s life so that
    100,000 persons can be created.
  • It’s morally permissible to simply prevent oneself from
    being replicated (analogous to elective abortion).
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Infanticide Objection
   • A newborn infant isn’t significantly more personlike than a
     fetus, simply for having been born.
   • So: It follows that infanticide isn’t murder.
   • But it does not follow that infanticide is permissible for the
     following reasons:
      i. There are people who would want the baby to live – if
          not its parents, then someone else. A great deal of
          pleasure may be prevented by destroying the child. (So
          killing a child is like destroying a work of art.)
      ii. Most people value infants and would prefer they be
          preserved, and as long as this is the case, it is wrong
          ceteris paribus, to destroy it.
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Infanticide Objection (cont’d)
   • Why is an infant, in this case, different from a newborn?
     - So long as the fetus remains unborn, its preservation,
       contrary to the wishes of her mother, violates the
       mother’s rights to freedom, etc. “…while the moment of
       birth does not mark any sharp discontinuity in the degree
       to which an infant possesses the right to life, it does mark
       the end of its mother’s right to determine its fate.”
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Discussion

 Warren doesn’t present any argument for her traits of
  personhood. Do they seem reasonable?

 What do you make of Warren’s claim that it is not wrong for
  a woman in her 7th month of pregnancy to have an
  abortion so she can go on vacation?

 Is Warren’s claim about why it is wrong to commit
  infanticide convincing?

				
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posted:9/24/2012
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