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Thomson's View of Abortion

Essay by   •  November 5, 2010  •  Essay  •  1,080 Words (5 Pages)  •  2,116 Views

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Thomson's View of Abortion

In the article "A Defense of Abortion" Judith Jarvis Thomson argues that abortion is morally permissible even if the fetus is considered a person. In this paper I will give a fairly detailed description of Thomson main arguments for abortion. In particular I will take a close look at her famous "violinist" argument. Following will be objections to the argumentative story focused on the reasoning that one person's right to life outweighs another person's right to autonomy. Then appropriate responses to these objections. Concluding the paper I will argue that Thomson's "violinist" argument supporting the idea of a mother's right to autonomy outweighing a fetus' right to life does not make abortion permissible.

In her article Thomson starts off by giving antiabortionists the benefit of the doubt that fetuses are human persons. She adds that all persons have the right to life and that it is wrong to kill any person. Also she states that someone's right to life is stronger than another person's autonomy and that the only conflict with a fetuses right to life is a mother's right to autonomy. Thus the premises make abortion impermissible. Then Thomson precedes to attacks the premise that one's right to autonomy can be more important to another's right to life in certain situations. She uses quite an imaginative story to display her point of view. Basically there is a hypothetical situation in which a very famous violinist is dying. Apparently the only way for the violinist to survive is to be "plugged" into a particular woman, in which he could use her kidneys to continue living. The catch is that the Society of Music Lovers kidnapped this woman in the middle of the night in order to obtain the use of her kidneys. She then woke up and found herself connected to an unconscious violinist. This obviously very closely resembles an unwanted pregnancy. It is assumed that the woman unplugging herself is permissible even though it would kill the violinist. Leading to her point of person's right to life is not always stronger than another person's right to have control over their own body. She then reconstructs the initial argument to state that it is morally impermissible to abort a fetus if it has the right to life and has the right to the mother's body. The fetus has the right to life but only has the right to a mother's body if the mother voluntarily gives that right to the fetus. Therefore it is only in the case of voluntary pregnancy is abortion impermissible.

In disagreement many people say that one person's right to life always outweighs another person's right to autonomy. However Thomson's argument makes a very interesting unwanted pregnancies resulting in permissible abortions. To counteract her claims I'm going to use a hypothetical situation as she did. Let's say a mother gives birth to a set of conjoined twins. The twins grow up having a somewhat troublesome life considering the fact that neither one has the opportunity to achieve autonomy. Once they get older, lets say age 18, twin A obtains the information that twin B's survival depends on the use of twin A's vital organ's. However twin A would survive if twin B was too be separated from him thus granting twin A his right to autonomy. It seems that it is obvious that it not permissible for twin A to kill twin B. The following argument shows a more concrete view of the situation. It is morally impermissible for twin A to kill twin B if he has the right to life and the right to twin A's body. Twin B does have a right to life. Twin B prima facie has the right to twin A's body. Therefore

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