Every Woman Should Have The Right To Do What She W

Essay by EssaySwap ContributorCollege, Undergraduate February 2008

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The question focuses on the issue of whether a woman's decision should be allowed to predominate when deciding whether to have an abortion. This takes into account the rights of certainly the mother, but also the foetus, the state, the father, the medical profession and the church, who may all make a claim to be involved in the decision. Firstly we must consider whether a foetus has a right to life, and secondly whether the rights of the mother override the foetus' right, or whether the rights of another party should prevail.

A right to life draws on the concept of moral personhood. A being is a morally significant person when it is a rights holder, and we are under moral obligation to that being. The question, however, is how can we decide whether a foetus has a right to life or not? Some religious philosophers suggest that we are morally significant persons from the moment of conception.

Pope Pius 1X in 1869 made such a claim, citing as evidence the presence of all necessary genetic material at conception, and the continuous development from conception to a born human being. Thus, he said, to kill a foetus is to murder a human person, as the foetus has a right to life. Others highlight the great difference between a fertilised egg and a person, and argue that without personhood a foetus does not have a right to life. Peter Singer points to the example that an acorn eventually develops into a tree, but an acorn is not actually a tree. Jonathan Glover argued that to call a foetus a person at conception stretches the term "person" beyond natural boundaries. Mary Anne Warren suggests that the "birth, rather than some earlier point, marks the beginning of the moral status". Warren's criteria for...