On the Moral and Legal Status of Abortion

We will be concerned with both the moral status of abortion, which for our purposes we may define as the act that a woman performs in voluntarily terminating, or allowing another person to terminate, her pregnancy, and the legal status that is appropriate for this act. I will argue that, while it is not possible to produce a satisfactory defense of a woman’s right to obtain an abortion without showing that a fetus is not a human being, in the morally relevant sense of that term, we ought not to conclude that the difficulties involved in determining whether or not a fetus is human make it impossible to produce any satisfactory solution to the problem of the moral status of abortion. For it is possible to show that, on the basis of intuitions which we may expect even the opponents of abortion to share, a fetus is not a person, hence not the sort of entity to which it is proper to ascribe full moral rights.

Marry Warren
Subject Area: 
Published in: The Monist
1973 Vol. 57, No. 4


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