It has been nearly four decades since the U.S. Supreme Court held that there is a right to abortion protected by the U.S. Constitution. Yet, the question ofabortion’s moral and legal permissibility, and all the attendant issues about the nature of law, human persons, and morality, continue to be seriously (and sometimes not so seriously) engaged in the public square. Given the metaphysical, ethical, and political issues on which abortion’s moral and legal status seems to hinge, philosophers have had a special interest in offering their own assessments of the subject.
In this book, three philosophical perspectives on abortion are offered for our consideration. The first, defended by Michael Tooley, is a liberal perspective on abortion. For Tooley, abortion is morally and legally permissible because the fetus, the unborn human being that dies as a consequence of an abortion, is not a person, and only persons can have a right to continued existence. Celia Wolf-Devine and Philip E. Devine are the authors of the second chapter, a communitarian prolife perspective. They offer arguments to support their belief that the unborn human being is a full-fledged member of the human community from the moment it comes into existence, and thus it is no different in its intrinsic dignity than you or me. For this reason, abortion, except for in the case of endangerment to the mother’s life, is unjustified homicide, and thus ought to be forbidden by our laws. Allison M. Jaggar asks us to consider a third perspective in a chapter entitled “Abortion Rights and Gender Justice: An Essay on Political Philosophy.” Jaggar maintains that the right to abortion is essential to women’s equality, because child bearing and child rearing are burdens peculiar to women, and because prolifers have not met their philosophical burden to demonstrate the unborn’s personhood. These three presentations are followed by three separate rebuttals. In each of these chapters each author rebuts the arguments of the initial chapters of the other two.
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