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A Defense of Abortion: A Critique

In her essay titled "A Defense of Abortion," Judith Jarvis Thomson grants abortion opponents' argument that a fetus is a person from the moment of conception. She then supposes that abortion opponents' arrive at the conclusion that abortion is morally wrong because the fetus's right to life supercedes the mother's desire to decide what happens with her body (1971, p. 241). To test this premise - that the right to life supercedes the right to control one's body - Thomson offers the example of the dying violinist. A person wakes one day to find themselves hooked up to a dying violinist. The violinist's kidneys are failing and, without the 'donor's' express consent, the Society of Music Lovers has plugged the violhnist's kidneys into the donor's kidneys. The donor must remain hooked up to the violinist for at least nine months to save the violinist's life (Thomson, 1971, p. 241).

Thomson notes immediately that one problem with her dying violinist case is that the donor was hooked up without his or her consent. But she also notes that many abortion opponents oppose abortion even in cases of rape. Thus, she contends that her example does not fail due to the lack of the donor's consent. But is there a difference between becoming pregnant due to a rape and becoming pregnant by artificial insemination while in a coma? The latter situation seems closer to Thomson's example than a rape. Specifically, the donor in the violinist case is more like a woman who goes to sleep one night and wakes up in a hospital room the next morning to find out she's been artificially inseminated, without her knowledge and probably against her will.

Thomson's use of the dying violinist case suggests that she believes that abortion opponents would oppose an abortion in the artificial insemination case as well, even though the woman never consented to the act that made her pregnant. In fact, never even knew it was occurring. Abortion opponents would oppose the ab...

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A Defense of Abortion: A Critique. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 08:55, May 28, 2020, from