Sewell - Thomson:Abortion,theResponsibilityObjectionandthe

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Thomson: Abortion, the Responsibility Objection and the Thomson: Abortion, the Responsibility  Objection and the Non-Existence Problem Tanner H. Sewell Virginia Military Institute Judith Jarvis Thomson’s 1971 essay, “A Defense of  Abortion,” 1   is  the   best   known   and   perhaps  the   most  influential   in   contemporary   philosophy. 2   In   it,  Thomsondefends   the   following   thesis:   the  impermissibility of abortion does not follow from the  premises that every fetus is a person1 and that every  person has a right to life.2  The crux of Thomson’s argument is the claim that  the fetus does not (at least in some cases) have a moral  right   to  the  use  of   the  woman’s  body.  From   here  it  follows   that   it   is   not   morally   incumbent   upon   the  pregnant woman to allow the fetus the continued use of  her body. According to Thomson, “no person is morally  required to make large sacrifices to sustain the life of  another who has no right to demand them.”3 Thus, in the  1 Judith Jarvis Thomson, “A Defense of Abortion,”  Philosophy  and Public Affairs  1 (1971): 47-66.  2 According   to   William   Parent,   the   editor   of   a   volume   of  Thomson’s collected papers, her defense of abortion is “the  most   widely   reprinted   essay   in   all   of   contemporary  philosophy.” See his introduction to her   Rights, Restitution,  and   Risk:   Essays   in   Moral   Theory   (Cambridge,   Mass.:  Harvard University Press, 1986), vii. Ephemeris 2010  154
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Thomson: Abortion, the Responsibility Objection and the case of pregnancy, “except in such cases as the unborn  person has a right to demand it” –- and she leaves open  the possibility that there may be such cases –- “nobody  is morally required  to make large sacrifices, of health, of  all other interests and concerns, of all other duties and  commitments . .. to keep another person alive.” 3  Thomson  concludes that “having a right to life does not guarantee  having either a right to be given the use of or a right to  be allowed continued use of another person’s body –-  even if one needs it for life itself.” 4   Simply put, the  unborn does not have a right to life so strong that it  overrides   the   pregnant   woman’s   right   to   personal  autonomy. 5 Central to Thomson’s argument is what I will refer  to as the Violinist Analogy. She uses a now famous  thought experiment to highlight the relevant principles of  her position:  The Violinist You wake up in the morning and find yourself  back   to   back   in   bed   with   an   unconscious 
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This note was uploaded on 03/28/2011 for the course ORG 300 taught by Professor Founder during the Spring '11 term at Grand Valley State University.

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Sewell - Thomson:Abortion,theResponsibilityObjectionandthe

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