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Home arrow Health arrow Arguments about abortion : personhood, morality, and law


The last two chapters have covered a lot of ground, and it may be useful to take stock. In the previous chapter, I argued that all abortion, including by extraction methods, is better understood as an act which kills the fetus rather than fails to save it. In the course of this chapter, I considered a couple of routes to the proposition that if the fetus is a person and if abortion is killing, then most abortions are instances of justified homicide. I argued that with very limited exceptions, the attempt to subsume abortion under one or more categories of justified homicide cannot be reconciled with the moral and legal constraints on killing that are otherwise generally accepted. If normal abortion is an instance of justified homicide, then it is an entirely anomalous one that explodes the conventional boundaries of permissible killing. Consequently, accounts of the abortion problem that treat it as an example of justified homicide fail to dislodge the centrality of prenatal personhood for the moral and legal status of abortion. If all of this is correct, then neither the GST nor the JHT can be relied upon to show that the moral status of the fetus—that is, whether or not the fetus ought to be regarded as a person—is extraneous to the moral and legal permissibility of abortion.

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