Maternal Autonomy and Prenatal Harm

Bioethics 37 (3):246-255 (2023)
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Inflicting harm is generally preferable to inflicting death. If you must choose between the two, you should generally choose to harm. But prenatal harm seems different. If a mother must choose between harming her fetus or aborting it, she may choose either, at least in many cases. So it seems that prenatal harm is particularly objectionable, sometimes on a par with death. This paper offers an explanation of why prenatal harm seems particularly objectionable by drawing an analogy to the all-or-nothing problem. It then argues that this analogy offers independent support for the ‘voluntarist’ view that at least some parental role obligations are grounded in the choice to be a parent.

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Nathan Robert Howard
University of Toronto, St. George Campus


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