The Problem of Spontaneous Abortion: Is the Pro-Life Position Morally Monstrous?

The New Bioethics 25 (2):103-120 (2019)
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A substantial proportion of human embryos spontaneously abort soon after conception, and ethicists have argued this is problematic for the pro-life view that a human embryo has the same moral status as an adult from conception. Firstly, if human embryos are our moral equals, this entails spontaneous abortion is one of humanity’s most important problems, and it is claimed this is absurd, and a reductio of the moral status claim. Secondly, it is claimed that pro-life advocates do not act as if spontaneous abortion is important, implying they are failing to fulfill their moral obligations. We report that the primary cause of spontaneous abortion is chromosomal defects, which are currently unpreventable, and show that as the other major cause of prenatal death is induced abortion, pro-life advocates can legitimately continue efforts to oppose it. We also defend the relevance of the killing and letting die distinction, which provides further justification for pro-life priorities.

Author Profiles

Bruce P. Blackshaw
University of Birmingham
Daniel Rodger
London South Bank University


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