In “A Defense of Abortion” Judith Jarvis Thompson weaves an argument built on the assumption that a fetus is a person to build her arguments to defend abortion. She uses a quantitative approach to the rights of the mother, fetus, and that of the right to life to create linear steps in the logic that lead to a morally sound rationalization of abortion for the mother, fetus, and third parties. However there are a few sticking points but generally it holds up enough to justify the conclusion. I aim to analyze the argument, validate the premises and expose the holes as to balance my thoughts on abortion.
To defend abortion Thompson quantifies the right to life and right to do what one wants to their body then stacks the rights to create a balance that shifts towards the mother for ownership of the body being used. Thompson argues “…What we have to keep in mind is that the mother and the child are not unlike two tenants in a small house which has, by an unfortunate mistake, been rented to both; the mother owns the house”. By no means does Thompson attempt to delegitimize the right to life of the fetus instead she draws the lines of what is an unfortunate situation, and the rationalization for the means to remedy it. Throughout the essay there lies a subtle quantification of the rights of the fetus and mother which creates a very black and white view of the subject of abortion clearing away what appears to be extraneous details in order to reach the heart of the matter; however this utilitarian view does not leave room for the added weight that foreknowledge of a possible pregnancy carries with it.
... go to extremes to save the life of just one baby. Mother Teresa acknowledges the alternatives to abortion in her article, and she ... Child," the author defends the notion that before birth the fetus has no independent existence, but is a developing mass of ... is created in the special image and likeness of God (51). The third main topic in Mother Teresas article, "Adoption, Not Abortion," concludes ...
Thompson uses logical examples aimed at illustrating the permissibility of abortion for the mother that when held up to the doctrine of double effect proves morally fallible, and create a conundrum that gives little leeway for the argument for and against when the mother’s life is threatened abortion. Thompson writes with the presumption that the mother will die if the fetus is carried to term: “We are told that performing the abortion would be directly killing the child, whereas doing nothing would not be killing the mother but only letting her die”. Thompson uses this example to demonstrate the absurdity of the view that abortions should not occur at all in any situation. Using Thompson’s example while reversing the roles is an abortion serves to illustrate a hole in the argument. Whether looking at the view that abortions are fully permissible or the situation when the mother’s life is in danger and an abortion is necessary to save her the doctrine of double effect pokes large holes in the moral fallibility of either view. Both create situations where the death of another is a known byproduct of the goal, be it birth or an abortion. When a consequence is a known part of the process, albeit not the goal, it is morally wrong. Only if the unintended consequence is completely unforeseen is the action morally sound.
Thompson draws out the perspective that the fetus is an intruder that can be repelled, allowing the mothers right to remove an intruder from her body to supersede that of the fetus’s right to life. Later Thompson states, “If I had bars installed outside my windows, precisely to prevent burglars from getting in and a burglar only got in because of a defect in the bars.” Taking the logical step further of the right to evict the burglar Thompson analogously compares the scenario to abortion; building this into an argument of a woman’s right to have control over her own body, in which I completely agree. While the fetus is maybe much more of a passive intruder than a burglar the fetus can still remain an intruder. A constant theme in life that is protected above all is the control over one’s body and the right to protect it; the argument for abortion here is simply a reiteration of these rights in the highly charged situation.
... “A Defense of Abortion,” Thompson begins by stating the traditional argument against abortion used by Conservatives, which states that the fetus is a person and ... likening the house to the mother’s body during pregnancy, Thompson also brings up the idea that the mother is the “owner” of ... society. Thus, while the baby is still using the mother’s body and its resources, it is not nearly as restricting ...
Thompson later defines an argument supporting abortion from the idea of one’s right to life is in effect the right not to be killed unjustly. “…The right to life consists not in the right not to be killed but rather not in the right to be killed unjustly”. Thompson separates murder into a dichotomous category of not unjust, and an unjust murder, building to an argument that the fetus has no right to invade the mother who does have the right to remove the fetus from her body as an invader. Further crafting the argument that abortion is self-defense from a fetus who may be a passive threat, but a threat nonetheless by introducing the logical step that if abortion is not unjust that it is still bad in other ways. She leads this addition by positing that while not unjust the act of abortion can still be callous, selfish, and greedy. Frankly, I find all of the conclusions very sound with this argument as the underlying premise that a woman has unalienable rights to protect her body as the first priority ringing true to the ideas that Kant and so many others have of self worth.
Thompson creates many arguments that does not directly delegitimize the fetus, or abortions, but merely analyzes the inherent rights of the mother and fetus; once the rights are explicitly clear Thompson use morally sound situations analogous to abortion to lead to the logical conclusion of the permissibility of abortion because of the permissibility of the other actions analogous to abortion. There remains a central hole in application of these arguments when applied to all abortions which Thompson touches upon; the hole being the manner in which the mother became pregnant equating to the level of responsibility the mother has for the creation of the fetus. If the mother engaged in intercourse without some manner of birth control one could argue the mother took responsibility at that moment for the possible fetus that may result hereby rendering her arguments for the mothers self discretionary rights over her body negligible, this is debatable though. Only if the mother truly became pregnant through no irresponsibility of her own do the arguments Thompson crafts hold.
... fetus is already a small baby, some extreme anti-abortionists would maintain that abortion is impermissible even to save the mothers ... formed. On the other hand, the fetus is within her body and she produced it, she should ... is terminated? However, if this was the argument, it could be claimed that small babies have ... does to remove any other part of her body. My final response to the above statement ...
Thompson’s argument of the permissibility of abortion because it is not unjust, but a selfish and callous act parallels my views on abortion very closely and would be a central argument in my defense of abortion. A mother has the right to repel an intruder, or fetus which has no right to use and feed on her body, as would any human. Sufficient justification for abortion is given by this right to repel by the basic idea that there is no greater undisputed ownership of a sanctum than one’s own body, and by default, what occurs in the body. Killing a fetus through abortion is by no means good, welcome, or positive in any way, but it is certainly justified. While the central points of the debate do not lie in the status of the fetus as a person, I do believe that a fetus is not a person. No one is a person until they gain individuality as a person is through experiences which do not occur until birth. The dignity and value placed on us as persons occurs because we are singularly unique as persons, not as a whole, or as a species. The inherent rights to control one’s body in a just manner and my understanding of what it takes to acquire personhood beyond humanity, and the rights carried with it only reaffirm my view of abortion as not unjust.