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1. Judith Jarvis Thompson in her article, A Defense of Abortion, makes her case as for why she believes abortion is permissible, at least for some reasons. As part of her argument she gives a well-recognized analogy known as the “unplugging the violinist” analogy. She uses this analogy throughout her article to make case. Her argument was well thought out and explained very well. However, her “unplugging the violinist” analogy does not work to support abortion.
In the case of the violinist, the two principles in conflict are respect for autonomy and beneficence. In the case of abortions, the two principles at odds are respect for autonomy and nonmaleficence. As discussed by Foreman, personhood begins the moment conception occurs. At that point the zygote is a “completely separate individual with its own genetic code” (Foreman, 1999, p. 87). Therefore, abortion involves actively and intentionally taking the life of another human being, which makes it murder (except in the case in Mother’s life is in danger too). Hence, nonmaleficence is at odds in the ethical dilemma involving abortions. In the case of the violinist, the principle of beneficence, “the moral obligation to act for the benefit of others” (Foreman, 1999, p. 49) is at war. If the person attached to the violinist was to remove herself, then passively, as a result the violinist would die. However, it would be because she did not act for his benefit, rather than taking intentional action to kill him. Murder is never acceptable or morally justifiable, while there are times not acting for the benefit of someone else is justifiable, such as when it involves significant suffering of self.
2. Thompson, in section 4 of her article, uses her “burglar” and “people seed” analogies to make her argument as to why she believes it is justifiable for a woman to have an abortion if she becomes pregnant against her desire after willingly engaging in sexual intercourse. Her argument does not succeed. Thomson fails to provide a sufficient explanation as to what will happen to the burglar if she does not give “him a right to the use of her house” (Thompson, 1971). The burglar might go to prison, but live. The growing “person-plant,” could be transplanted somewhere else, but still survive. However, that is not the case with the unborn and abortions. Therefore, theses attempted comparisons are dis-analogous to abortions.
3. Thompson makes the claim that the special relationship between a mother and fetus as well as parents’ obligation to care for their children begins when they “wish to assume responsibility for it” (Thompson, 1971). Thompson also argues that “if assuming responsibility for it would require large sacrifices, then they may refuse” (Thompson, 1971). Thompson does not argue this claim well. If this was the case, then it could also be argued that at any time parents desire, they could as well withdraw their responsibility for their children. Such as if during the toddler years or teenage years it became too burdensome for the parents. It would be morally wrong for a parent to do so because “parents have a filial obligation to care for their children” (Foreman, 1999, p. 214). However, there is also a significant difference between the obligations of parents and abortions during pregnancy. There are different ethical issues at conflict in each of these.
4. Thompson makes the claim that abortions are not justifiable “in cases in which carrying the child to term requires only Minimally Decent Samaritanism of the mother” (Thompson, 1971). She uses the example that it would be okay for a terrified 14-year-old girl who became pregnant from being a victim of rape to have an abortion. While, it would be considered indecent for a woman to request an abortion simply due the inconvenience of having to post-pone a trip. Thompson tries to make the claim that abortions are not justifiable in cases where the inconvenience to the is minimal. There are a couple of things that make this claim plausible. First, Thompson is not being consistent with the point she tried to make in her “people-seeds” analogy. If the standard is based on it only requiring Minimally Decent Samaritanism, then it could be argued that the “person-plant” that develops from the seed should be allowed to stay if it only causes a little inconvenience. Additionally, this claim doesn’t hold because it is impossible to draw a line as when Minimally Decent Samaritanism begins and ends as it is subjective from person to person. In Christianity & Bioethics: Confronting Clinical Issues, it is stated that “comparisons of relative worth among persons… raise moral and methodological issues that make any argument that relies on such comparisons extremely vulnerable” (Foreman, 1999, p.223).
Foreman, M.W. (1999). Christianity & Bioethics: Confronting Clinical Issues. Eugene, OR:Wipf and Stock Publishers.
Thompson, J.J. (1971). A Defense of Abortion. Retrieved from https://spot.colorado.edu /~heathwoo/Phil160,Fall02/thomson.htm.
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