read the attached readings and answer the 5 questions below and write 200 words for each (total 1000 words)THOMSON’S JUSTIFICATION1. How is Judith Jarvis Thomson’s justification of abortion supposed to work? (Don’t “summarize” it; characterize it relative to its competitors.)PARENTAL DUTIESLee and George reject the idea that parental responsibilities or duties ought to be conceived as consensual or contractual. 2. Why do they reject that notion and what is the significance of their rejection? 3. Finally if parental responsibilities are not consensual or contractual, what might be the source of their moral force?HUMAN BEINGS/HUMAN PERSONS4. What is the relevance in the abortion debate of distinguishing human persons from human beings? 5. Might there be non-human persons or human beings that are not persons?* At least 2 paragraphs for each question.
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The Wrong of Abortion
Much of the public debate about abortion concerns the question whether
deliberate feticide ought to be unlawful, at least in most circumstances.
We will lay that question aside here in order to focus first on the
question: is the choice to have, to perform, or to help procure an abortion
morally wrong?
We shall argue that the choice of abortion is objectively immoral. By
“objectively” we indicate that we are discussing the choice itself, not the
(subjective) guilt or innocence of someone who carries out the choice:
someone may act from an erroneous conscience, and if he is not at fault
for his error, then he remains subjectively innocent, even if his choice is
objectively wrongful.
The first important question to consider is: what is killed in an abortion?
It is obvious that some living entity is killed in an abortion. And no one
doubts that the moral status of the entity killed is a central (though not
the only) question in the abortion debate. We shall approach the issue
step by step, first setting forth some (though not all) of the evidence that
demonstrates that what is killed in abortion—a human embryo—is
indeed a human being, then examining the ethical significance of that
point.
Human Embryos and Fetuses Are Complete
(though Immature) Human Beings
It will be useful to begin by considering some of the facts of sexual
reproduction. The standard embryology texts indicate that in the case of
ordinary sexual reproduction the life of an individual human being
begins with complete fertilization, which yields a genetically and
functionally distinct organism, possessing the resources and active
disposition for internally directed development toward human maturity.
In normal conception, a sex cell of the father, a sperm, unites with a sex
cell of the mother, an ovum. Within the chromosomes of these sex cells
are the DNA molecules which constitute the information that guides the
development of the new individual brought into being when the sperm
and ovum fuse. When fertilization occurs, the 23 chromosomes of the
sperm unite with the 23 chromosomes of the ovum. At the end of this
process there is produced an entirely new and distinct organism,
originally a single cell. This organism, the human embryo, begins to
grow by the normal process of cell division—it divides into 2 cells,
then 4, 8, 16, and so on (the divisions are not simultaneous, so there
is a 3-cell stage, and so on). This embryo gradually develops all of
the organs and organ systems necessary for the full functioning of a
mature human being. His or her development (sex is determined from
the beginning) is very rapid in the first few weeks. For example, as
early as eight or ten weeks of gestation, the fetus has a fully formed,
beating heart, a complete brain (although not all of its synaptic
connections are complete—nor will they be until sometime after the
child is born), a recognizably human form, and the fetus feels pain,
cries, and even sucks his or her thumb.
There are three important points we wish to make about this human
embryo. First, it is from the start distinct from any cell of the mother
or of the father. This is clear because it is growing in its own distinct
direction. Its growth is internally directed to its own survival and
maturation. Second, the embryo is human: it has the genetic makeup
characteristic of human beings. Third, and most importantly, the
embryo is a complete or whole organism, though immature. The
human embryo, from conception onward, is fully programmed
actively to develop himself or herself to the mature stage of a human
being, and, unless prevented by disease or violence, will actually do
so, despite possibly significant variation in environment (in the
mother’s womb). None of the changes that occur to the embryo after
fertilization, for as long as he or she survives, generates a new
direction of growth. Rather, all of the changes (for example, those
involving nutrition and environment) either facilitate or retard the
internally directed growth of this persisting individual.
Sometimes it is objected that if we say human embryos are human
beings, on the grounds that they have the potential to become mature
humans, the same will have to be said of sperm and ova. This
objection is untenable. The human embryo is radically unlike the
sperm and ova, the sex cells. The sex cells are manifestly not whole
or complete organisms. They are not only genetically but also
functionally identifiable as parts of the male or female potential
parents. They clearly are destined either to combine with an ovum or
Lee and George: “The Wrong of Abortion” – 1of 6
sperm or die. Even when they succeed in causing fertilization, they do
not survive; rather, their genetic material enters into the composition of a
distinct, new organism.
Nor are human embryos comparable to somatic cells (such as skin cells
or muscle cells), though some have tried to argue that they are. Like sex
cells, a somatic cell is functionally only a part of a larger organism. The
human embryo, by contrast, possesses from the beginning the internal
resources and active disposition to develop himself or herself to full
maturity; all he or she needs is a suitable environment and nutrition. The
direction of his or her growth is not extrinsically determined, but the
embryo is internally directing his or her growth toward full maturity.
So, a human embryo (or fetus) is not something distinct from a human
being; he or she is not an individual of any non-human or intermediate
species. Rather, an embryo (and fetus) is a human being at a certain
(early) stage of development—the embryonic (or fetal) stage. In
abortion, what is killed is a human being, a whole living member of the
species homo sapiens, the same kind of entity as you or I, only at an
earlier stage of development. . . .
The Argument That Abortion Is Justified
as Non-Intentional Killing
Some “pro-choice” philosophers have attempted to justify abortion by
denying that all abortions are intentional killing. They have granted (at
least for the sake of argument) that an unborn human being has a right to
life but have then argued that this right does not entail that the child in
utero is morally entitled to the use of the mother’s body for life support.
In effect, their argument is that, at least in many cases, abortion is not a
case of intentionally killing the child, but a choice not to provide the
child with assistance, that is, a choice to expel (or “evict”) the child from
the womb, despite the likelihood or certainty that expulsion (or
“eviction”) will result in his or her death (Little, 1999; McDonagh, 1996;
Thomson, 1971).
Various analogies have been proposed by people making this argument.
The mother’s gestating a child has been compared to allowing someone
the use of one’s kidneys or even to donating an organ. We are not
required (morally or as a matter of law) to allow someone to use our
kidneys, or to donate organs to others, even when they would die
without this assistance (and we could survive in good health despite
rendering it). Analogously, the argument continues, a woman is not
morally required to allow the fetus the use of her body. We shall call
this “the bodily rights argument.”
It may be objected that a woman has a special responsibility to the
child she is carrying, whereas in the cases of withholding assistance
to which abortion is compared there is no such special responsibility.
Proponents of the bodily rights argument have replied, however, that
the mother has not voluntarily assumed responsibility for the child, or
a personal relationship with the child, and we have strong
responsibilities to others only if we have voluntarily assumed such
responsibilities (Thomson, 1971) or have consented to a personal
relationship which generates such responsibilities (Little, 1999).
True, the mother may have voluntarily performed an act which she
knew may result in a child’s conception, but that is distinct from
consenting to gestate the child if a child is conceived. And so
(according to this position) it is not until the woman consents to
pregnancy, or perhaps not until the parents consent to care for the
child by taking the baby home from the hospital or birthing center,
that the full duties of parenthood accrue to the mother (and perhaps
the father).
In reply to this argument we wish to make several points. We grant
that in some few cases abortion is not intentional killing, but a choice
to expel the child, the child’s death being an unintended, albeit
foreseen and (rightly at wrongly) accepted, side effect. However,
these constitute a small minority of abortions. In the vast majority of
cases, the death of the child in utero is precisely the object of the
abortion. In most cases the end sought is to avoid being a parent; but
abortion brings that about only by bringing it about that the child
dies. Indeed, the attempted abortion would be considered by the
woman requesting it and the abortionist performing it to have been
unsuccessful if the child survives. In most cases abortion is
intentional killing. Thus, even if the bodily rights argument
succeeded, it would justify only a small percentage of abortions.
Lee and George: “The Wrong of Abortion” – 2of 6
Still, in some few cases abortion is chosen as a means precisely toward
ending the condition of pregnancy, and the woman requesting the
termination of her pregnancy would not object if somehow the child
survived. A pregnant woman may have less or more serious reasons for
seeking the termination of this condition, but if that is her objective, then
the child’s death resulting from his or her expulsion will be a side effect,
rather than the means chosen. For example, an actress may wish not to be
pregnant because the pregnancy will change her figure during a time in
which she is filming scenes in which having a slender appearance is
important; or a woman may dread the discomforts, pains, and difficulties
involved in pregnancy. (Of course, in many abortions there may be
mixed motives: the parties making the choice may intend both ending the
condition of pregnancy and the death of the child.)
Nevertheless, while it is true that in some cases abortion is not
intentional killing, it remains misleading to describe it simply as
choosing not to provide bodily life support. Rather, it is actively
expelling the human embryo or fetus from the womb. There is a
significant moral difference between not doing something that would
assist someone, and doing something that causes someone harm, even if
that harm is an unintended (but foreseen) side effect. It is more difficult
morally to justify the latter than it is the former. Abortion is the act of
extracting the unborn human being from the womb—an extraction that
usually rips him or her to pieces or does him or her violence in some
other way.
It is true that in some cases causing death as a side effect is morally
permissible. For example, in some cases it is morally right to use force to
stop a potentially lethal attack on one’s family or country, even if one
foresees that the force used will also result in the assailant’s death.
Similarly, there are instances in which it is permissible to perform an act
that one knows or believes will, as a side effect, cause the death of a
child in utero. For example, if a pregnant woman is discovered to have a
cancerous uterus, and this is a proximate danger to the mother’s life, it
can be morally right to remove the cancerous uterus with the baby in it,
even if the child will die as a result. A similar situation can occur in
ectopic pregnancies. But in such cases, not only is the child’s death a side
effect, but the mother’s life is in proximate danger. It is worth noting also
that in these cases what is done (the means) is the correction of a
pathology (such as a cancerous uterus, or a ruptured uterine tube).
Thus, in such cases, not only the child’s death, but also the ending of
the pregnancy, are side effects. So, such acts are what traditional
casuistry referred to as indirect or non-intentional, abortions.
But it is also clear that not every case of causing death as a side effect
is morally right. For example, if a man’s daughter has a serious
respiratory disease and the father is told that his continued smoking
in her presence will cause her death, it would obviously be immoral
for him to continue the smoking Similarly, if a man works for a steel
company in a city with significant levels of air pollution, and his
child has a serious respiratory problem making the air pollution a
danger to her life, certainly he should move to another city. He
should move, we would say, even if that meant he had to resign a
prestigious position or make a significant career change.
In both examples, (a) the parent has a special responsibility to his
child, but (b) the act that would cause the child’s death would avoid a
harm to the parent but cause a significantly worse harm to his child.
And so, although the harm done would be a side effect, in both cases
the act that caused the death would be an unjust act, and morally
wrongful as such. The special responsibility of parents to their
children requires that they at least refrain from performing acts that
cause terrible harms to their children in order to avoid significantly
lesser harms to themselves.
But (a) and (b) also obtain in intentional abortions (that is, those in
which the removal of the child is directly sought, rather than the
correction of a life-threatening pathology) even though they are not,
strictly speaking, intentional killing. First, the mother has a special
responsibility to her child, in virtue of being her biological mother (as
does the father in virtue of his paternal relationship). The parental
relationship itself—not just the voluntary acceptance of that
relationship—gives rise to a special responsibility to a child.
Proponents of the bodily rights argument deny this point. Many claim
that one has full parental responsibilities only if one has voluntarily
assumed them. And so the child, on this view, has a right to care from
his or her mother (including gestation) only if the mother has
Lee and George: “The Wrong of Abortion” – 3of 6
accepted her pregnancy, or perhaps only if the mother (and/or the
father?) has in some way voluntarily begun a deep personal relationship
with the child (Little, 1999).
to the relationships in which I participate. Thus, the life we constitute
by our free choices should be in large part a life of mutual reciprocity
with others.
But suppose a mother takes her baby home after giving birth, but the
only reason she did not get an abortion was that she could not afford one.
Or suppose she lives in a society where abortion is not available (perhaps
very few physicians are willing to do the grisly deed). She and her
husband take the child home only because they had no alternative.
Moreover, suppose that in their society people are not waiting in line to
adopt a newborn baby. And so the baby is several days old before
anything can be done. If they abandon the baby and the baby is found,
she will simply be returned to them. In such a case the parents have not
voluntarily assumed responsibility; nor have they consented to a personal
relationship with the child. But it would surely be wrong for these
parents to abandon their baby in the woods (perhaps the only feasible
way of ensuring she is not returned), even though the baby’s death would
be only a side effect. Clearly, we recognize that parents do have a
responsibility to make sacrifices for their children, even if they have not
voluntarily assumed such responsibilities, or given their consent to the
personal relationship with the child.
For example, I may wish to cultivate my talent to write and so I may
want to spend hours each day reading and writing. Or I may wish to
develop my athletic abilities and so I may want to spend hours every
day on the baseball field. But if I am a father of minor children, and
have an adequate paying job working (say) in a coal mine, then my
clear duty is to keep that job. Similarly, if one’s girlfriend finds she is
pregnant and one is the father, then one might also be morally
required to continue one’s work in the mine (or mill, factory,
warehouse, etc.).
The bodily rights argument implicitly supposes that we have a primordial
right to construct a life simply as we please, and that others have claims
on us only very minimally or through our (at least tacit) consent to a
certain sort of relationship with them. On the contrary, we are by nature
members of communities. Our moral goodness or character consists to a
large extent (though not solely) in contributing to the communities of
which we are members. We ought to act for our genuine good or
flourishing (we take that as a basic ethical principle), but our flourishing
involves being in communion with others. And communion with others
of itself—even if we find ourselves united with others because of a
physical or social relationship which precedes our consent—entails
duties or responsibilities. Moreover, the contribution we are morally
required to make to others will likely bring each of us some discomfort
and pain. This is not to say that we should simply ignore our own good,
for the sake of others. Rather, since what (and who) I am is in part
constituted by various relationships with others, not all of which are
initiated by my will, my genuine good includes the contributions I make
In other words, I have a duty to do something with my life that
contributes to the good of the human community, but that general
duty becomes specified by my particular situation. It becomes
specified by the connection or closeness to me of those who are in
need. We acquire special responsibilities toward people, not only by
consenting to contracts or relationships with them, but also by having
various types of union with them. So, we have special responsibilities
to those people with whom we are closely united. For example, we
have special responsibilities to our parents, and brothers and sisters,
even though we did not choose them.
The physical unity or continuity of children to their parents is unique.
The child is brought into being out of the bodily unity and bodies of
the mother and the father. The mother and the father are in a certain
sense prolonged or continued in their offspring. So, there is a natural
unity of the mother with her child, and a natural unity of the father
with his child. Since we have special responsibilities to those with
whom we are closely united, it follows that we in fact do have a
special responsibility to our children anterior to our having
voluntarily assumed such responsibility or consented to the
relationship.
The second point is this: in the types of case we are considering, the
harm caused (death) is much worse than the harms avoided (the
difficulties in pregnancy). Pregnancy can involve severe impositions,
Lee and George: “The Wrong of Abortion” – 4of 6
but it is not nearly as bad as death—which is total and irreversible. One
needn’t make light of the burdens of pregnancy to acknowledge that the
harm that is death is in a different category altogether.
The burdens of pregnancy include physical difficulties and the pain of
labor, and can include significant financial costs, psychological burdens,
and interference with autonomy and the pursuit of other important goals
(McDonagh, 1996: ch. 5). These costs are not inconsiderable. Partly for
that reason, we owe our mothers gratitude for carrying and giving birth
to us. However, where pregnancy does not place a woman’s life in
jeopardy or threaten grave and lasting damage to her physical health, the
harm done to other goods is not total. Moreover, most of the harms
involved in pregnancy are not irreversible: pregnancy is a nine-month
task—if the woman and man are not in a good position to raise the child,
adoption is a possibi …
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