My body, not my choice: against legalised abortion

Journal of Medical Ethics 48 (7):456-460 (2022)
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Abstract
It is often assumed that if the fetus is a person, then abortion should be illegal. Thomson1 laid the groundwork to challenge this assumption, and Boonin2 has recently argued that it is false: he argues that abortion should be legal even if the fetus is a person. In this article, I explain both Thomson’s and Boonin’s reason for thinking that abortion should be legal even if the fetus is a person. After this, I show that Thomson’s and Boonin’s argument for legalised abortion fail; they have not given us good reason for thinking abortion should be legal.1 Finally, I argue that—if we play Boonin’s game—abortion should be illegal. When discussing the ethics and politics of abortion, whether the fetus is a person is usually central.3 4.2 However, Thomson1 long ago challenged this view. She argued that abortion is permissible even if the fetus is a person. To do so, she asks us to consider a case in which you are non-consensually taken to a hospital and hooked up to a famous violinist. The violinist, if he is to survive, needs to filter his blood through your body. After 9 months, he will be fine and you can unplug yourself and go on your way. If you unplug yourself prior to this, however, he will die. Is it permissible to unplug yourself? Thomson thinks the answer is ‘yes’. And this, she thinks, shows that abortion is permissible even if the fetus is a person. While the majority of her article focuses on the ethics of abortion, it is clear that she also aims to show that abortion should be legal if the fetus is a person; she would no doubt reject the view that the state is right to coerce you into …
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