Judith Thompson’s opinion on Abortion Essay

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Every individual is entitled to basic inalienable rights to life, liberty and property. In particular, one’s basic right to life is manifested not simply on one’s ability to subsist but to live a meaningful life. This is by being able to develop oneself to the fullest, to enhance one’s skills and talents, and to nurture oneself with comfort, security and enjoyment in every aspect of living as much as possible. Because of the said basic right to life, it is a generally accepted principle that abortion is impermissible to many society and thus, it is viewed to be an immoral act.

Abortion pertains to the willful killing of a human fetus through its removal from the maternal womb before its actual birth (“Abortion” 26). It is generally viewed that the fetus has a right to life even from the moment of conception since it should already be considered not merely a potential human person but indeed a person already worthy of protection and care like any other individual. To cause a fetus’ death through abortion is morally wrong since it violates one of the basic rights of an already considered person, that is, the right to life of the fetus.

In Judith Jarvis Thompson’s “A Defense of Abortion,” a different view of abortion is presented (47). She contends that even if it is to be perceived that a fetus is a person worthy of the basic right to life, still, it does not follow that abortion must be condemned just for that reason of the latter’s right to life. She asserted that abortion involves another individual, and another life for that matter. This means that the mother –her right to life and to her body- must also be considered.

The right to abort or not to abort is anchored on the decision of the mother as the bearer of another life, that is, the fetus. It is in her whom the right to nurture or not to nurture a fetus belongs. It is her choice whether to continually be “plugged” or to “unplugged” herself from the fetus in her womb (Thompson 48). Moreover, she argues that the right of the fetus to make use of its mother’s body is not its right in itself. It is, however, a vested right from the mother out of her charity.

This means that the mother assumes her responsibility for the fetus if and only if she consents for its use of her body. Apart from that, she holds no responsibility at all (Wilcox 463). The mother has the right to decide if she will expell the fetus upon her contemplation that she lacks an obligation to keep the fetus and upon her realization of the inconvenience and furthermore, the problem that the fetus may cause to her life and to her body, in particular. The mother of a fetus is a rational individual who is in control of her body.

With the use of her ability to think and reflect, she can decide on whether or not she would continue her pregnancy or in the process have the fetus removed from her womb. She has a right to life and at the same time, she has the obligation to preserve and protect her body in the process. Taking the view of Thompson, one cannot help but agree on her view that indeed the mother has a right to her life and specifically she has a right to her body. This extends to her right to make use of her body and to protect it in ever way possible.

She is given the capability to deliberate on what advantages or disadvantages it would yield if she continues or not continue her pregnancy. However, such right of the mother must be taken not as an absolute one but merely a basic right that may be regulated as well. Considering the mother’s basic right to life, there must be a justification or justifications on why she would opt to abort the fetus. Is her life or health be endangered by the pregnancy? Is she considering an abortion because her pregnancy was not planned and she aims to prevent unwanted birth of the fetus?

There is the preference of the actual personhood of the mother over the provisional personhood of the fetus. The mother’s actual personhood is manifested from the fact that she is already fully equipped with self-consciousness and realization that she is a social being and a member of a community, for that matter. This is over and above the provisional personhood of the fetus since it is still developing in every aspect of its life and thus, has not yet attain the consciousness nor the rationality to think of himself or for himself or even of the idea of existing in a social community.

Moreover, considering the basic right to life and to her body, the actions of the mother may be regulated in as much as the State would like to also protect her especially in cases wherein undergoing an abortion may bring about more risks than benefits to the mother. The presence and effectivity of laws are there to safeguard the citizens from the harm that may be brought by the actions of the other people against each other, and also, by the actions that citizens may do to themselves which may also put them in risks like that of undergoing an abortion.

It is undeniable that the mother can do what she desires to her body but such desires has limitations especially when the infliction of harm into the body is done. The mother being in control of her body implies her autonomy. Autonomy which includes her right to reflect and consider the positive and negative circumstances that may result from abortion. She has to deliberate of the advantages and disadvantages of her pregnancy. She is not merely a bearer of a life of the fetus but she is a protector of her own life for her self-preservation and survival.

Thus, if she has arrived at the conclusion that it would be more of a disadvantage to her and to the fetus to continue the pregnancy, then, her option to abort the latter should be considered given that her reasons are justifiable, meaning it is physically and legally possible and permissible. Abortion in justifiable cases must not be taken against the mother but should be considered as a defense mechanism for her own protection, safety and benefit. Every person is a steward of life.

Life which pertains that of all the living organisms of the world, of the other human beings and that of his or her own. However, there is primacy of protecting one’s life over and above any other life. Every person has undeniably right to his or her own life and also, an undisputed obligation to protect it in every possible means. Since one is primarily responsible of his or her own life, he or she is to take care of it to the best that he or she may be able to. This means that any destruction, threats or discomforts to it must be avoided.

Therefore, if a pregnancy is itself to be considered a destruction, threat or discomfort to a mother, she must assert her right and obligation to life and to live a meaningful life and be entitled to an abortion. Thompson also asserts that if a mother would keep the fetus, it is to be taken as a gesture of charity which one cannot help but to also agree. Charity springs out of kindness and concern whether or not she, the mother, would benefit or not. It is a conscious decision to take responsibility even when not obligated at all.

However, in addition to this view of Thompson, it can also be argued that even if the mother decides to abort the fetus, the act of charity can also be present. This is possible upon the plausible justification on why the mother would decide to abort the fetus in her womb. For example, if the mother decides to abort a fetus because she anticipates her inability to nurture and give a meaningful life to the fetus upon the latter’s birth then her charity can be appreciated.

There is an evident consideration of the potential suffering of the fetus primarily upon its birth or even during the course of pregnancy itself. Abortion is permissible on the point of view of Thompson since there is a greater consideration placed on the right of the mother over her life and her body. It is to be held in the affirmative that abortion is considered for a mother to assert her her right not merely to subsist as a person but to live a meaningful life.

If she ascertains that keeping the fetus would impede her ability to develop oneself to the fullest or would cause as a hindrance for her to nurture herself with comfort, security and enjoyment in every aspect of living as much as possible then she has a right to abort it. Nonetheless, she must also weigh the consequences of her actions. Her justification of aborting the fetus must also be anchored not on mere inconvenience that would result because of the fetus but on substantial consideration and justification of the problem that may arise out of the pregnancy and including the birth of the child.

After all, the fetus is not just a mere mass of body or merely a thing, but is an extension of her life. The fetus is a by product of an act that the mother did out of her own consciousness and deliberation. To consider it as an inconvenience and an interruption to her right to her body and to live a meaningful life is for her to decide. However, every decision she is to arrive at would also go back to the basic premise that it would never be absolute and that her justifications of her actions must outweight the risks and danger she may place her own life and body as well.

Works Cited

“Abortion. ” The Columbian Encyclopedia. 6th ed. Columbian University Press, 2004. Abortion. Available: http://www2. sunysuffolk. edu. 16 April 16, 2007. Thompson, Judith Jarvis. “A Defense of Abortion. ” Journal of Philosophy and Public Affairs. 1. Fall (1971): 47-66. Wilcox, John T (1993). Nature as Demonic in Thomson’s Defense of Abortion. In R. Baird & Stuart E. Rosenbaum (Eds. ), The Ethics of Abortion: Pro-Life vs. Pro-Choice (p. 212). New York: Prometheus Books.

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