Does a Normal Foetus Really Have a Future of Value? A Reply to Marquis

Bioethics 19 (2):131–45 (2005)
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The traditional approach to the abortion debate revolves around numerous issues, such as whether the fetus is a person, whether the fetus has rights, and more. Don Marquis suggests that this traditional approach leads to a standoff and that the abortion debate “requires a different strategy.” Hence his “future of value” strategy, which is summarized as follows: (1) A normal fetus has a future of value. (2) Depriving a normal fetus of a future of value imposes a misfortune on it. (3) Imposing a misfortune on a normal fetus is prima facie wrong. (4) Therefore, depriving a normal fetus of a future of value is prima facie wrong. (5) Killing a normal fetus deprives it of a future of value. (6) Therefore, killing a normal fetus is prima facie wrong. In this paper, I argue that Marquis’s strategy is not different since it involves the concept of person—a concept deeply rooted in the traditional approach. Specifically, I argue that futures are valuable insofar as they are not only dominated by goods of consciousness, but are experienced by psychologically continuous persons. Moreover, I argue that his strategy is not sound since premise (1) is false. Specifically, I argue that a normal fetus, at least during the first trimester, is not a person. Thus, during that stage of development it is not capable of experiencing its future as a psychologically continuous person and, hence, it does not have a future of value.
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