Abortion and Organ Donation: Christian Reflections on Bodily Life Support

Journal of Religious Ethics 16 (2):273 - 305 (1988)
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In this essay I argue that childbearing and various kinds of organ donation are morally analogous activities. I argue, further, that the ethos of giftgiving ought to inform our analyses of both of these forms of bodily life support. This reframing of the abortion and organ donation debates yields new insights into two relatively neglected subtopics. First, though frequently asserted, few have demonstrated why bodily life support--especially in the form of childbearing--cannot be morally required. This comparison yields insights into the reasons for such an axiom. Second, while the giving of bodily life support is sometimes exhorted and almost always respected and admired, its intelligibility and political meaningfulness as a moral choice is rarely explored. This analogical wager reveals why one ought to give another bodily life support. In summary, the analogy yields insights crucial to the development of cogent arguments regarding both the grounds for and limits of the responsibility to give bodily life support. Further, the analogy displays the disparity between what has been demanded traditionally of those who are pregnant and of those men (and women) who by virtue of tissue or blood type can offer other forms of bodily life support. The analogy enables reflection on abortion (and organ donation) to develop in a context free of sexist biases. Finally, efforts are made to assess this giftgiving ethos in light of the feminist "hermeneutics of suspicion" regarding arguments which have and can sacralize victimization.
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