A Defense of Abortion

Essay by xThricexUniversity, Bachelor'sA-, April 2006

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Abortion is a very controversial issue in Western society. Not only is it a strong legal issue, but an ethical/moral issue. When is abortion okay and is it really "murder?" When is a fetus operationally defined as a human by the law? Judith Jarvis Thomson points out many key issues on the abortion debate and discusses them in detail in her A Defense of Abortion report. Thomson's first - the "extreme view" - and last - "conditional abortion" - arguments raise many valid points on the abortion debate.

Thomson's argument is based on the premise that the fetus is defined as a person from the moment of conception, rather than defined by a certain point in the development stage. As she states: "it comes as a surprise when one first learns how early in [the fetus'] life it begins to acquire human characteristics." Following this, it is agreed upon that every person has a right to life and because the fetus is operationally defined as a person from the moment of conception (for the sake of this argument anyways) the fetus is guaranteed its right to life.

On the other hand however, the mother has the right to decide what shall happen to her body and what happens in her body. But as Thomson says, surely the fetus' right to life outweighs the mother's right to decide what happens in her body and therefore the fetus may not be killed; an abortion is impermissible.

Are there circumstances where an abortion would be seen as permissible by even anti-abortionist critics? Take for example the "extreme view." The extreme view is the idea that even to save the mother's life an abortion would still be seen as unethical. But both the mother and the fetus are guaranteed their right to life and...