Adventures in Moral Consistency: How to Develop an Abortion Ethic through an Animal Rights Framework

Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 18 (1):145-164 (2015)
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In recent discussions, it has been argued that a theory of animal rights is at odds with a liberal abortion policy. In response, Francione (1995) argues that the principles used in the animal rights discourse do not have implications for the abortion debate. I challenge Francione’s conclusion by illustrating that his own framework of animal rights, supplemented by a relational account of moral obligation, can address the moral issue of abortion. I first demonstrate that Francione’s animal rights position, which grounds moral consideration in sentience, is committed to the claim that a sentient fetus has a right to life. I then illustrate that a fully developed account of animal rights that recognizes the special obligations humans have to assist animals when we cause them to be dependent and vulnerable through our voluntary actions or omissions is committed to the following: a woman also has a special obligation to assist a sentient fetus when she causes it to be dependent and vulnerable through her voluntary actions or omissions. From these considerations, it will become evident that a fully developed and consistent animal rights ethic does in fact have implications for the abortion discussion.
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