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“The Abortion” by Jane English and Don Marquis Term Paper

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Updated: Dec 16th, 2021

The two thinkers, Jane English and Don Marquis differ in opinion regarding the topic of abortion. According to English, abortion should take the pregnant woman’s perspective giving her the leeway to end the pregnancy to save her life. This is in line with the principle of moral psychology which states that the life of the mother is more important than that of the child. Her position is inclined towards the rights of a woman. However, Marquis argues that most abortions go against moral and ethical principles because they deny the fetus a chance to lead a normal life. According to Marquis, the future of the fetus is valuable and it is morally wrong to deny the fetus a chance to enjoy the future. He disagrees with those that claim that a fetus is not a person by claiming that the fetus resembles a human being and has a human genetic code (Marquis,1989).

The topic of abortion is an important ethical issue because the practice can either be ethical or unethical depending on the reason why it is being carried out. Carrying out abortion just because a woman feels that she has a right over her body and can therefore decide what should be within her and what should not is unethical and immoral. This is because the fetus inside the woman also has the right to live. However, abortion can be ethical if it is carried out to save the life of the mother (Chafee 2001). According to the utilitarian theory, a practice or behavior is ethical if it is for the benefit of the majority and saving the life of the mother would be more utilitarian than saving the life of the child. In this case, abortion is permissible and ethical.

Through the phrase coherence of attitudes, English assumes both the liberal and the conservative positions thus adopting a moderate position in the debate. She means that the personhood concept cannot be solely relied upon to create a solution to the controversy. She uses this position to advance her argument that in some cases, abortion is justifiable to protect the life of the mother and in some cases a fetus is not a person. She makes her conclusion by bringing together the five features theory and the self concept developed by Warren and Tooley and this is what brings about the coherence of attitudes.

English holds the position that abortion is morally wrong if it is carried out for other reasons and not for preservation of the life of the mother. Her reason is that abortion would be non utilitarian because it is not being carried out for any ethical benefit. She claims that the woman has a moral responsibility to carry the pregnancy to completion if it does not threaten her life because she willingly engaged in the sexual act that resulted into the pregnancy.

According to Marquis, personhood theories are not straightforward in their postulation that it is wrong to kill the infants and fetuses. He says so because the theories are not compatible with the perspective that it is wrong to murder humans (Marquis, 1989). He also says that the theories do not prohibit contraception and they do not have any religious foundation. I do not agree with Marquis because his position is what is termed as despotism of perfection that may not apply to al ethical positions. This means his argument is not justifiable because it does not appeal to al ethical senses.

The future like ours theory proposed by marquis does not claim that contraception is morally wrong. In this claim, Marquis is not justified because it defeats anti abortionist stand. It seems like he does not have a stand regarding the issue of life because if one is against abortion, they should be also against contraception because there is no big difference between the use of contraceptives and abortion. However it depends with which kind of contraception. Some contraception like vasectomy may not present any ethical dilemma, but the use pills may present an ethical debate.

In the light of the two opinions presented in this debate, the view held by English seems more plausible and appealing because it borders on moderation. English avoids extremist positions that may be morally unsound or tyrannically perfectionist. Her view is sober in that it minds the welfare of the woman that is carrying the pregnancy and gives room to the woman to make a moral choice that would safeguard her life. Ethically, her view is utilitarian because it works to save the life that would be more beneficial to many. I would not concur with the view presented by marquis because it tends to take a despotic viewpoint that would jeopardize the lives of most women who develop complications during pregnancy. Therapeutic abortion is not immoral neither is it unethical and it’s actually sanctioned by medicine. Anyone opposing therapeutic abortion is advancing tyranny of perfection and thinkers ought to take a moderate position like the one English takes.

References

Chaffee, J. (2001). The Philosopher’s Way. New Jersey: Chapman

Marquis, D. (1989). “Why Abortion is Immoral”. The Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 86, No. 4. pp. 183-202.

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