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Word Count: 1653
Abortion is an extremely complex and highly debated public issue that has consumed much of the American social and political arena in the late twentieth century. People on both sides of the debate present strong arguments that establish valid points. Society clearly states that child abuse and the murder of one’s child is illegal, but does allow abortion. Regardless of whether it is right or wrong, the fine line that exists between abortion and murder will be discussed and debated for decades to come.
In Judith Thomson’s article, "A Defense of Abortion," she argues that abortion can be morally justified in some instances, but not all cases. Clearly, in her article, Thomson argues, "…while I do argue that abortion is not impermissible, I do not argue that is always permissible" (163). Thomson feels that when a woman has been impregnated due to rape, and when a pregnancy threatens the life of a mother, abortion is morally justifiable. In order to help readers understand some of the moral dilemmas raised by abortion, Thomson creates numerous stories that possess many of the same problems.
Thomson begins her argument by questioning the validity of the argument proposed by anti-abortion activists. Thomson explains that "most opposition to abortion relies on the premise that the fetus is a human being….from the moment of conception" (153). Thomson thinks this is a premise that is strongly argued for, although she also feels it is argued for "not well" (153). According to Thomson, anti-abortion proponents argue that fetuses are persons, and since all persons have a right to life, fetuses also posses a right to life. Regardless, Thomson argues that one can grant that the fetus is a person from the moment of conception, with a right to life, and still prove that abortion can be morally justified. In order to prove this argument Thomson proposes the example of "the sick violinist."
According to this story, Thomson explains, imagine that one morning you wake up and find yourself in bed surgically attached to a famous unconscious violinist. The violinist has a fatal kidney ailment, and your blood type is the only kind that matches that of the violinist. You have been kidnapped by music lovers and surgically attached to the violinist. If you remove yourself from the violinist, he will die, but the good news is that he only requires nine months to recover. Obviously, Thomson is attempting to create a situation that parallels a woman who has unintentionally become pregnant from a situation such as rape. Thomson has created a situation in which in which an individuals rights have been violated against their will. Although not the two situations are not identical, a fetus and a medically-dependent violinist are similar situations for Thomson. In both cases, a person has unwillingly been made responsible for another life. The question Thomson raises for both situations is, "Is it morally incumbent on you to accede to this situation?" (154).
Most individuals would find the situation ludicrous and feel little, or no, obligation to the sick violinist. But, Thomson points out, one may use this example to illustrate how an individual’s right to life does not mean other individuals are morally responsible for that life. Remember, Thomson explains, anti-abortion activists argue that all persons have a right to life, and violinists are persons (154). Granted an individual has a right to decide what happens in and to their body, Thomson continues, but as anti-abortion activists argue, a person’s right to life outweighs your right to decide what happens in and out of your body (154). Therefore, you are obligated to care for the sick violinist. Yet, most people would find this obligation completely ridiculous, which proves to Thomson that there is something wrong with the logic of the anti-abortionists’ argument. Thus, Thomson concludes that an individual does have the right to decide what happens to their own body, especially when pregnancy has resulted against a person’s will (rape) and in a manner that violates her rights.
Another story that Thomson utilizes to address the abortion debate is the "people seeds" example. According to this story, one is to imagine that there are "people-seeds" flying around in the air like pollen. An individual desires to open their windows to allow fresh air into
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Abortion, A Defense of Abortion, Abortion debate, Judith Jarvis Thomson, Religion and abortion, Right to life, Philosophical aspects of the abortion debate, United States pro-choice movement
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