The question of abortion appropriateness continues to bother millions of people across the globe. Many arguments support and oppose this idea, and the discussion offered by Judith Jarvis Thomson at the beginning of the 1970s deserves recognition. On the one hand, Thomson does not deny that a fetus is a person or “a human being from the moment of conception” (336). Such a position underlines the necessity of a better understanding of the right to life and a standard argument against abortion. On the other hand, Thompson introduces a revised argument that makes some abortions “morally permissible” (225). Still, much attention should be paid to the conditions under which women can accept abortion as the only available solution. In her essay, Thompson develops several thought experiments to analyze standard and revised arguments and strengthen her decision to defend abortion as a moral right of any woman.
In the chosen reading, several critical arguments are used to explain why it is possible to define abortion as a morally permissible action. According to Thomson, people who defend or oppose abortion take “neither easy nor obvious” steps (326). She admits that most arguments are “slippery slope” and demonstrates her attitude toward the fact that the fetus is a person “for whom the woman has a special kind of responsibility” (Thomson 326, 335).
The author divides the essay into eight logical sections and creates simulations, including the story with a violinist, third-party involvement, and the relationships between brothers. This approach proves that it is normal to choose abortion in certain situations. A woman has multiple rights as a person, and the body is one of the ultimate rights. At the same time, Thomson does not reject the correctness of thinking of the fetus as a human being, which strengthens the progress of her standard and revised arguments.
One of the essential aspects of Thomson’s writing is the identification of the standard argument against abortion. Her decision not to neglect such thoughts as the fetus is a person or an innocent human being who has a right to life and cannot be killed shows her readiness to argue and develop new explanations. The standards of abortion discussions vary: some people are ready to accept such possibilities, while others do not believe in the correctness of killing fetuses. Thus, Thomson mentions “Minimally Decent Samaritanism of the mother” as an ambiguous value (335). This merit determines many people’s understandings of abortion and situations when abortion is inevitable or can be avoided.
Regarding her desire to prove the inappropriateness of the standard argument, Thomson is eager to introduce another position, which is the revised argument. Although she believes that a fetus is a person with certain human rights since conception, abortions may be morally permissible under specific conditions. A woman is also a person, and her human rights cannot be misunderstood or neglected at the expense of an unborn child. Therefore, Thomson underlines that abortion opponents are usually obsessed with protecting the fetus’s rights that they completely forget about the independence and rights of another, already born and formed person – the mother (331).
The revised argument is based on the necessity to focus on the rights of the mother and her readiness and desire to have a child and borrow her body for the growth of a new person. Addressing such an obligation to a woman, it is important to accept the “permissibility of abortion in some cases,” according to Thomson (335). The issue of human rights is never simple, and people need to respect each other on equal grounds.
To prove her position and explain why she believes that abortion can be supported, Thomson discusses several thought experiments. The example of a violinist describes one of the most provocative situations. A violinist is compared to a child to whom a woman is connected back to back with an excuse of saving his life from a fatal kidney ailment (Thomson 327). Even if the woman does not want to participate in this experiment or remains poorly informed about the consequences, she has the right to reject such help. Besides, there is no justice for the third party to use the woman’s body, regardless of the length of her participation, as well as no injustice to refuse to help (Thomson 334). Another experiment is related to the box of chocolates divided between the brothers and the intention to share the gift. Thomson believes the older boy has the right to take the box and refuse to share (331). In the same way, the woman has the right to use her body for her purposes and reject sharing it with another person.
All the examples and explanations mentioned in Thomson’s essay allow for making several final conclusions about women’s right to abortion. Despite a variety of contradictions about supporting women or promoting the fetus’s rights, Thomson sticks to the same position – sometimes, abortion is morally permissible. She admits that an early abortion is not the killing of a human being because it is a kind of pretense to believe that a fetus is a person since the moment of conception (Thomson 336). People need to understand that women deserve the right to decide whether to carry a child or not, and there are many more conditions and situations under which a final thought should be formulated.
Several clear arguments provoke additional judgments concerning Thomson’s idea of supporting abortion. Even in her discussion, she underlines that people, including the author, define the fetus as a person (Thomson 327). Believing that “every person has a right to life,” it is correct to admit that the fetus also has this right (Thomson 327). However, through the prism of rights and choices, one should remember that a woman also has many rights and is responsible for choosing what might happen to her body. A person’s right to life is strong and usually prevails over the right to independent decisions. The nature of this right remains complex, which explains the inability to create one specific opinion about abortion.
In addition to the severity and unpredictability of abortion rights and issues, there are several insignificant problems associated with Thomson’s arguments and her final claim. The author has written extensively about the fetus’s rights and given many examples and comparisons. Still, at the end of her discussion, she mentions that people are just pretending the fetus is a human being, and there is no deal with anything described here (Thomson 336). This statement can be one of the main problems for the reader because it is hard to understand the worthiness of the entire work if most statements are not true.
In conclusion, the line between the fetus’s and the woman’s rights should be drawn. People who intend to support or oppose abortion get lost in arguments and situations. They cannot affect someone’s decisions and must adapt to established rules and laws. Thomson offers her vision of abortion and the connection between the mother, the child, and society. The fetus is not a child or a personality with rights and requirements for just attitudes compared to an experienced woman, and as soon as this idea is accepted, no further debates will emerge.
Thomson, Judith Jarvis. “A Defense of Abortion.” Bioethics: Principles, Issues, and Cases, edited by Lewis Vaughn, 3rd ed., Oxford University Press, pp. 326-336.