There are many philosophical issues connected with abortion, all of
which form a conceptual network with logical links. Because of the logical
links, the positions we take on one set of issues have implications for
the positions we take on others.
- One set of issues concerns the concept of a person. (What is
a person? Must a person be a human being? Is an embryo a
person? An infant? When does a person begin to exist? Can we
- Another set concerns the concept of a right. (What sorts of
beings can have rights? Only persons? Can a fetus have rights?
A severely retarded child? A whale? An intelligent being from
Mars? Which of these can have a right to life? What would such
a right include?)
- Another set concerns our right to control our bodies. How
extensive a right does a woman (or a man) have to control her
body and her capacity to reproduce? If an unborn child/fetus
has rights, how do they connect with those of its mother?
- Another set of issues concerns obligations. How do we
acquire obligations to anyone? How does a parent acquire
obligations to an infant? Can a mother acquire obligations to
an embryo or a fetus? Can it acquire obligations to her?
- Still another set concerns our government. Should it remain
neutral in moral disputes? Should it support the mother's
freedom if experts disagree about the moral status of the
fetus? Do laws against abortion violate the ban on
establishing a religion? Is there a constitutional right of
privacy? If so, does it include the right to abort a
How do we approach and answer questions like these? Are there rational
methods or simply brute assertions? What should we do if we cannot find a
method or an answer? The thread starts with questions about persons.