Research Seminar - Does the Abortion Debate Rest on a Mistake?

Rufus Duits will be presenting for approximately half an hour, which will be followed by an informal discussion. All are welcome and there is no need to book.

I argue that the two traditional approaches to the abortion debate - via the question of the start of human life, and via the question of whose rights/interests outweigh whose - are wrongheaded and irrelevant to the task of analysing the ethics of abortion. I suggest instead that the key question is rather: under what conditions does the fetus have the right to use the mother’s body for its sustenance and shelter? This will give us the conditions under which a woman has an enforceable obligation not to have a termination. Several candidate conditions are interrogated - naturalness, location, innocence, motherhood, woman’s irresponsibility, all these jointly - but none found to be sufficient. I conclude that using another’s body for one’s sustenance is always a privilege, and never a right, and, correspondingly, there is never an enforceable obligation on the part of the woman to continue with pregnancy. I finish by spelling out some of the implications of such a position.