The Decision to Abort

International Journal of Applied Philosophy 21 (1):25-41 (2007)
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Abstract

Is a woman ever morally obligated to forgo an abortion for the sake of the man who has impregnated her? In “Fathers and Fetuses,” George Harris contends that in some situations women are so obligated. Harris argues that a woman who lies to her partner about her desire to have children, becomes pregnant, and then decides to abort, will, if she acts on this decision, violate her partner’s autonomy and harm him in so far as she will harm his fetus. To avoid these wrongs, a woman must therefore carry this fetus to term. I argue that this conclusion depends on a principle for which Harris offers no argument, namely that the conditions under which a fetus is to be considered a man’s are the same conditions under which a fetus is to be considered a woman’s. Evaluating this principle andconsidering related cases leads to important conclusions about a parent’s relationship with the fetus. Specifically, I challenge the notion that we should ever consider a fetus ‘his’ or even ‘hers.’

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Rebecca Hanrahan
Whitman College

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