Comment from: Chris Graves [Visitor]
Chris GravesWhile I agree that non-therapeutic abortions that amount to nothing more than after-the-fact birth control cannot be morally justified, I disagree that abortions in the cases of rape & incest are unjustified. Philosopher Judith Jarvis Thompson presented the following thought experiment to justify abortion even granting that the unborn child has the right to life:

"You wake up in the morning and find yourself back to back in bed with an unconscious violinist. A famous unconscious violinist. He has been found to have a fatal kidney ailment, and the Society of Music Lovers has canvassed all the available medical records and found that you alone have the right blood type to help. They have therefore kidnapped you, and last night the violinist's circulatory system was plugged into yours, so that your kidneys can be used to extract poisons from his blood as well as your own. [If he is unplugged from you now, he will die; but] in nine months he will have recovered from his ailment, and can safely be unplugged from you."

I agree with Ms. Thompson's intuition that it is up the person whose body is being used to sustain the incapacitated violinist whether to continue the treatment or to unplug him. If the person whose kidneys are being appropriated without his permission decides to leave the violinist plugged into his body, then that generous decision is supererogatory, i.e. the decision is above and beyond the call of duty. Ms. Thompson sees this hypothetical case as analogous to the case of abortion. While I disagree with her that her parable demonstrates the moral permissibility of abortion for any reason, I do see the parallel with abortion in the case of rape or incest since the woman did not consent to sex and did not assume the risk of conceiving a child and carrying the child to term.

Abortion in the case of rape or incest appeals to the principle of "double effect." Here the woman and the doctor are not primarily killing the child as much as they are protecting the woman. The same principle applies in the case of abortion for therapeutic reasons.
06/21/11 @ 23:55

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