Thomson - Abortion Essay

In the article ‘A Defense of Abortion’ Judith Jarvis Thomson provides an argument that abortion in some cases is morally permissible, because all persons have a right to life. Thomson defends the case by the premise that life begins at the moment of conception; therefore a fetus has the right to life. At the same point Thomson argues that women with unplanned pregnancies that occur from acts of rape have the right to decide what happens to their body.

Yet Thomson suggests the unborn child’s right to life should outweigh the mother’s right to autonomy. As a result, the fetus may not be killed. According to Thomson an abortion should not be performed in any circumstance, unless the mother’s life is at risk. In that particular case Thomson grants the mother’s right to life to be greater than the fetus. Thomson argues for her conclusion by using the violinist scenario. According to the scenario you wake up in the morning to find yourself attached to a famous unconscious violinist.

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The violinist has a fatal kidney impairment and the Society of Music Lovers searched through all of the medical records to find out that you are the only person with the matching blood type that will save the violinist. The music lover society has kidnapped you and plugged the violinist’s circulatory system into your body, so your kidneys will filter the blood for the violinist in order to sustain his life. The hospital team proceeds to apologize for the inconvenience of the kidnapping and for plugging the violinist into your body without consent, but there are no other options for the violinist.

At this time you have the choice to unplug the violinist in order for you to leave the hospital to go on with your life in which if you unplug the violinist would die, or continue to allow the violinist to use your kidneys for the next nine months in order to sustain his life. When considering the two options keep in mind Thomson’s argument that all persons have the right to life. In that case, what would you do? Does the right to life outweigh your right to autonomy?

Thomson refers to the violinist example to be similar to an unwanted pregnancy related to a rape incident. Throughout Thomson’s argument it’s explained to be an unjust killing to unplug the violinist, and as a result an abortion violates the right to life too. Therefore abortion is considered to be an unjust killing. On the other hand, possibly by continuing the pregnancy it is likely to shorten the mother’s life. Considering these circumstances would that justify the abortion?

According to Thomson, the fact remains that the fetus still has a right to life, but the mother now has an equal right to life. The most recognizable argument in this case is that allowing the mother to die is considered to be more morally wrong than it is to kill the fetus. For the sake of the argument Thomson takes for granted that at the end of the day it’s the mother’s right to make the final decision in regards to having an abortion. The fetus does have the right to life, but the mother should have a greater right to life and the right to abort the pregnancy if desired.

In reality the mother will be carrying the fetus for nine months, giving birth to the fetus, and deciding what will become of the child’s life after birth. (E. g. , adoption or raising the child. ) For that reason, the mother should have the choice to decide if the pregnancy will be aborted or carried until term. In the end no one should decide what is best for the fetus except for the pregnant mother. The mother is the person that will be living with the decision not Thomson or anyone else that is against abortion.

A different aspect to consider that Thomson took for granted is the right to life does not allow the violinist or fetus rights to continuously make use of another person’s body in order to sustain their own life. If this was the truth, then the entire population would be attempting to use another person’s body in order for them to continue their own life. In order to adequately criticize Thomson’s view we must evaluate the Thomson’s main focus is on the person’s right to live. She does not focus on the person who has the greater right to live.

Thomson attempts to make you consider the two situations to be equal: the life of the violinist and the fetus belonging to a rape victim. In both circumstances it’s a consideration to be an unjust killing to unplug or abort the life of the other person. However, Thomson does not solely reflect on the person who has the greater right to life. In the case of violinist, Thomson does not refer to the fact that dying is a part of life’s cycle. Death is anticipated and a natural part of life.

Obviously in this case the violinist has lived, but the fetus has not lived outside of the womb. For that reason how do the circumstances equal one another, and why does it make it right for a person to give up nine months of their life in order to sustain another life? There is a moral difference between the deaths of a person that has lived a life compared to the death of an unborn fetus. As a result, Thomson’s argument is wrong for the reason that the circumstances are not equal and a person’s autonomy wins in the right to life.

In response to the criticism on Thomson’s behalf there would be no response, because the circumstances are not equal. None of the scenarios or examples is equivalent to an abortion. Thomson’s examples make sense, but they do not equal with reality. In the end, a person’s autonomy wins over the right to life. We have the right to make our own decisions regarding our body and life choices. No other person can decide for us, and legally we should not be forced to share our body unless we give consent. Therefore, Thomson’s argument is defeated.


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