Victims of Abortion and “Victims” of Contraception

Journal of Philosophical Research 30:383-398 (2005)
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It has been argued that killing persons is wrong because it deprives them of future experiences. Some opponents of abortion argue that the same apples to potential persons—fetuses, zygotes, embryos, etc.—so that to destroy them is as wrong as killing a person. Phil Gosselin rejects this position, employing the reductio argument that if it were so, contraception would be equally wrong, since it destroys potential persons that are gamete pairs. I argue in this paper that Gosselin’s position on the ontological status of the “victim” of contraception, the gamete pair, is flawed in such a way that his conclusion that there is no morally relevant difference between what is destroyed by abortion and what is destroyed by contraception fails. A gamete pair is ontologically different from a fetus; “victims” of contraception and victims of abortion are not significantly analogous, and the reductio that depends upon their similarity for its force is unsuccessful.



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Patrick Tully
University of Scranton

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