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The Abortion Debate

The abortion debate is a continuing controversial topic that is always surrounded by the legal and moral issues of inducing abortion. There are two sides of people debating on the topic who define themselves to be the pro choice movement, who believe in having the right of the women whether to terminate the pregnancy or not; and the pro life movement who indicates the right of the fetus of being born (Katz, Jennifer and Vanessa). The article of Don Marquis ‘Why Abortion Is Immoral’ has been widespread quite quickly and in this article he has successfully argued why abortion is wrong. It is quite simple that Marquis has followed the pro life movement and made a detailed argument against the abortion in his article. However, it is also necessary to evaluate whether his argument is successful or not. In this essay I will argue that the theory does not accomplish anything and his argument has ignored several practical issues that could be related with the issue of terminating pregnancy.

The argument of Marquis forms as an interference to the explanation, where even before laying the base of his argument, he had surveyed the setting of the philosophical debate over the morality of terminating a pregnancy. He had begun his argument with the assumption that killing is morally wrong, be it any normal human being or animal in the normal situation. Then he had proposed the explanation of why terminating pregnancy is morally wrong. He has also criticized the other alternative explanations by explaining that why the other alternatives disagree with his or anyone’s moral beliefs (Marquis). While concluding his paper Marquis proposes that his theory is the best explanation of the moral wrongdoing such as killing and the theory supports the fundamental moral principle of any human being. What marquis proposes in his paper is that it is morally incorrect to kill an adult human except any extreme situation as “the loss to the victim of the value of its future” (Marquis). As abortion causes the embryo to lose its valuable future, therefore terminating pregnancy would be morally wrong without any extreme situation.

After the publication of Marquis’s argument, few criticisms were also published however they all failed to counter the primary argument. In the first one, the critic Ann Cudd had accused Marquis of assuming the rights and obligations to be obsolete. However, his argument was not made because of the obligations and rights and it was clearly defined in his paper that extreme situations do justify abortion. He rather claimed that someone would need a strong reason and strength in order to justify the abortion or killing the fetus just as someone needs a strong justification before killing a normal human being. However he did not mention how extreme exactly the ‘circumstances’ can be to justify the killing of a human being and a fetus. Another critic Peter MacInerney claimed that the fetus lacks the mental states which several philosophers agree to be the most important to have the personal identity. Therefore the fetus cannot possess the future because it cannot be the same person in future what it is right now. However, in his argument, Marquis did not emphasize on the concept of the person, rather avoids it. As a result to that Marquis says that fetus has the same organism as the body it is into, which would develop in future even if it is not a same person. Marquis’s argument primarily based on the future of that organism not the future of the person.

Marquis’s Argument Against Abortion

After discussing the counter arguments on Marquis’s paper, anyone can say that Marquis has logic in his argument and he is right as all the counter arguments can be justified by his own argument. However I feel that Marquis fails to have a clear argument in his paper and through his entire paper he has argued in an ambiguous manner. While applying his explanation against terminating pregnancy, he said few basic things such as abortion being morally wrong without any extreme situation because it causes a huge loss of a future; the fetus loses its valuable future so it would be morally wrong to terminate the pregnancy. However he did not explain or justify ‘losing’. Losing the future is not like losing a pen or losing some money. Marquis made no effort in justifying the loss of valuable future of the fetus. However, if we take a moment to understand losing on the basis of this argument, it can be said that if someone loses, another person wins. There is always a flip side of the coin and if a person is winning, another one is losing. Let’s assume that there is a race and person A wins and gets a trophy and person B loses.  Therefore it can be said that A’s win did not let B to win the trophy and for A, B had lost a valuable trophy. If we take Marquis’s logic, then A had prevented B from winning the trophy. However, winning of A does not enhance any moral loss to B. It is nothing but a neutral loss. Moral loss would only cause if the other person has no moral right to do so. To be more specific in this point, it can be said, the way Marquis portrays the moral loss of the valuable future of the fetus that indicates that abortion only causes a huge loss to the future of the fetus and the term loss deeply emphasizes the moral loss. However, it is still not identified whether the fetus has any moral right. Until it is determined that whether the fetus is capable of having any moral right, it cannot be claimed that it is morally wrong to have an abortion. Thus marquis has presented an ambiguous argument.

Marquis has also not spent much time in developing his basic argument and most of his argument had pointed out the hypothesis of why killing someone is wrong. However whether the fetus has the moral right to be ‘someone’ or not it is not at all defined in his argument. In answer to Marquis’s argument, one may also say the fetus may have the moral right as the mother gives the right to it, if she has been voluntarily engaged with the whole procedure that led her to pregnancy. However, this also gives rise to the complex question of responsibility. If it is presumed that the mother voluntarily agreed to have the child, there are several issues that are overlooked, rape being the major one. However, Marquis did not address any such issue in his argument and stated why abortion is morally wrong. He did not shed light on the moral right of the mother or whether she wants to have the child or not, but not addressing the responsibility issue would be wrong as the fetus will only get a valuable future only if it has a responsible parent in future. Most of the philosophers agree to the point that everyone should take the responsibility of their own previous action. Therefore if a woman has been voluntarily involved in the act that brings a person into existence, she should take the responsibility and the abortion would be morally wrong. However, I feel the mother should have the moral right to choose whether they want to take the responsibility or not. She definitely should have the right to make the choice. If the fetus has the moral right to come to the world, before even being a moral person or a human being, the mother should also have the right to choose whether she wants this in her future life or not. It seems from Marquis’s argument that he has put more importance on the fetus than the normal, adult human being. Although in his argument Marquis insisted that contraception does not harm anything, which is surely right. However, this point again makes his argument ambiguous since if someone adheres solely to his ideas, contraception cannot be right as it also stops the actualization of a precious future. On a superficial level, his argument seems to be quite persuasive but he has not been able to put his argument in an unambiguous way. Personally I cannot support his argument as he did not involve several complex issues and entirely ignored the idea of the mother having choice whether she wants the child or not.

Critiques of Marquis’s Argument

In conclusion it can be said that, Marquis has allegedly said that the contraception debate might create several difficult situation in the conventional anti abortion movements, but this is also creating a methodological sum of the fetus being a potential person. According to the fetus being a future person like any other human being argument, abortion and contraceptive debate may have the same effect but this is denied by several other critics and defenders of the philosopher. However, even agreeing to the point that a person should take the responsibility of his or her own deed, the mother should have a choice of deciding whether she wants the child in the future or not. I also feel that if Marquis had argued against abortion because that might kill a future human being, his argument for contraception loses its ground too, as that also does not let a future person to come in this world. However, his argument also fails to show the immoral grounds of abortion, rather it has just stated the conclusion. While doing that he has avoided several practical complex responsibilities which made his theory merely just a hypothesis and it could not implemented in each practical situation of life. Therefore I will not consider marquis’s argument to have accomplished anything, rather the loopholes of the argument seems more reasonable.

Reference List

Abbate, Cheryl E. "Adventures in Moral Consistency: How to Develop an Abortion Ethic through an Animal Rights Framework." Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 18.1 (2015): 145.

Jensen, David. "Birth, meaningful viability and abortion." Journal of medical ethics (2014): medethics-2013.

Katz, Jennifer, and Vanessa Tirone. "From the agency line to the picket line: Neoliberal ideals, sexual realities, and arguments about abortion in the US." Sex Roles 73.7-8 (2015): 311-318.

Lloyd, Henry Martyn. "The Marquis de Sade’s philosophical ‘System’in its enlightenment context." (2015).

Marquis, Don. "The Deliberately Induced Abortion of a Human Pregnancy Is Not EthicallyJustiflable." (2013)

Marquis, Don. "Why abortion is immoral." The Journal of Philosophy 86.4 (1989): 183-202.

Minerva, Francesca, and Anders Sandberg. "Cryopreservation of Embryos and Fetuses as a Future Option for Family Planning Purposes." Journal of Evolution and Technology 25 (2015): 17-30.

Reiman, Jq‘Frey. "Reply to Marquis." (2013).

Rhodes, Rosamond. "Constructing the Abortion Argument." The Oxford Handbook of Reproductive Ethics. Oxford University Press, 2016. 78.

Saad, Toni. "We are not Gametes: Distinguishing between Abortion and Contraception." The New Bioethics 22.3 (2016): 202-211.

Simkulet, William. "Abortion, Property, and Liberty." The Journal of Ethics 20.4 (2016): 373-383.

Vogelstein, Eric. "Metaphysics and the Future-Like-Ours Argument Against Abortion." The Journal of Ethics 20.4 (2016): 419-434.

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