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"Abortion and the Concept of a Person" by Jane English

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Jill Haram

on 21 November 2013

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Transcript of "Abortion and the Concept of a Person" by Jane English

"Abortion and the Concept of a Person" by Jane English
1. Overview of the article
2. Main argument presented
3. Conclusions
4. Main argument related to the philosophers and their moral theories. (Virtue Ethics, Deontology, and Utilitarianism)
5. Possible Solutions to the problem
6. Criticism to English's article
7. Some of our own thoughts on this controversial topic
8. Questions
Overview of the Article (Amy)
Article's main point: The controversial debate about abortion
“Our concept of a person is not sharp or decisive enough to bear the weight of a solution to the abortion controversy” page 768
Side one: Conservatives believe the concept of a person begins at conception
Side two: Liberals believe the concept of a person begins after birth
Both are confused about the concept of a person
Many theorists have their own idea as to what makes a person a person
Mary Anne Warren
Baruch Brody
Michael Tooley
Paul Ramsey
English is pro-choice
English states a person has a variety of these features
Overview of Article (Amy)
Throughout history, when a person comes into existence has varied
Overview of the Article (Jill)
What happens if a fetus is a person?
A Defense of Abortion by Thomson
Needs to be additional argumentation
If the fetus is an innocent person, killing isn't permissible
But, killing is sometimes permissible
It may pose a threat to the woman
Self Defense Model
”Self defense is for the purpose of avoiding harms rather than equalizing harms" Page 768
Characteristics of a person
Biological factors
Psychological factors
Rationality factors
Social factors
Legal factors
This list is incomplete
Those who lack rationality are not considered non-humans
Those who exhibit all aren't automatically considered humans
No necessity to be met to be considered a human
A fetus lies within a region where our concept of a person is complex
Thus, whether a fetus is a person is unattainable
14 days after conception
Medieval following Aristotle
40 days after conception for a male
80 days after conception for a female
Europeans in the Seventeenth Century
The first time a pregnant woman feels the fetus move on its own
Human develops gradually
No specific time frame to state where the concept of a person actually forms
Self Defense Model
From the woman's point of view
English makes it clear that the woman doesn't want the death of the child, she just wants to be removed from the obligation
If the woman is in a rough situation and the only way to free the woman is the death of the fetus.
Save someone who is of more value to society?
Position of the third party
Bodyguard to senior citizen
Doctor to pregnant woman
Analogy to violinist
If you were kidnapped and chained to a bed and could not get out until 9 months were up does it seem fair to stay there for 9 months?
Overview of the Article
Self Defense Model sees the different between abortion and infanticide
English does not justify infanticide
Some argue infanticide is permissible
Michael Tooley
Self defense can be justifiable without justifying infanticide
Abortion vs. Infanticide
Overview of the Article (Shea)
On the other hand suppose the fetus is not a person
Would abortion always be permissible?
"Non-persons do get some consideration in our moral code, though of course they do not have the same rights as persons have (and in general they do not have moral responsibilities)" page 770
We tend to have more sympathy towards things that are more similar to us, such as dogs rather than spiders
Overview of the Article
English states stages that are permissible and not permissible to abortion, which is why she is pro-choice
There are too many similarities between the baby and the fetus
In early stages of pregnancy: fetus hardly resembles person, thus abortion is permissible
Middle stages: fetus resembles person, abortion is only justifiable if there is a threat to the woman
Aligns with justice and the Supreme Court law
Later stages: abortion is wrong unless it's to save the woman's life
Main Argument Presented
The abortion debate
The conservative and liberal positions are both mistaken and confused about where the concept of a person actually begins
Applying The Problem to Course Studies
Virtue Ethics
People are taking each position to an extreme and aren't moderating their emotions. (Both for and against it)
Depending on the side taken, trusting relationships may or may not be forming
Both sides try to raise quality of their life
We must follow the moral laws we generate.
May not be helpful because everyone has their own conclusions
Need respect, autonomy, and universality.
If the child and mother do nothing but suffer, that's not good.
Pick the consequence that has the least number of people effected.
Look at the mother's perspective (Self-defense model), the family's perspective, and also the child.
Reduce suffering
More problems will be created if the woman is forced to have the child.
Conclusions English makes
The concept of a person is not sharp thus we don't know when a person actually comes into existence
Self-defense Model
Unwanted pregnancies lead to life-long consequences
Abortion is only "okay" if it's in the early stages (First or second month)
Psychological factors are of great importance
"Coherence of attitudes"
In early stages, abortion isn't considered murder due to the psychological factors that aren't present where as in later stages there are many psychological factors that are the same as when the baby is born
Moral obligations develop gradually
Recommendations to the Problem
Sex education is the number one solution. If people aren't being educated on how to prevent pregnancies or what kind of responsibilities a child brings on, then men and women won't understand the full ramifications of their actions.
Making birth control or other form of contraceptives available to all women
Recommendations continued...
The Pro-compromise Proposal
Abortion could be legal is all information is known, such as the women are aware of all the options
Counseling from both pro-life and pro-choice positions at least one hour each
Assessment of: assets, resources, payments for abortion or adoption, volunteers, government programs to help out
Once all the available information is given to the mother, she must wait a minimum of 48 hours before she can make her decision.
Criticism to English's argument
Our Thoughts on the Abortion Topic
Shea- Pro-Compromise solution
Jill- Pro-life
Amy- Pro-life
Religion is going to take a different stance, pro-life instead of pro-choice
Some religions don't believe in contraceptives
Take into account other people's perspective, like the father, and their parents and families.
Adoption as an option-talk more about it and give more information
What does a person do in a situation where she doesn't know she's pregnant until say five months?
What about twins? Down's syndrome?
After listening to this main argument, does this change your view on abortion? Why/why not?
What is one of the main arguments English states that seems to be unattainable?
Is abortion a topic of morality or is it more of a legality issue?
How do you think abortion gets legalized if different people have so many different opinions?
Why does America have a debate about abortion, yet we don't hear anything about it in different countries?
Why some positions are incorrect
Anti-abortion- the emphasize the fetus' resemblance to a baby
They focus on the development, but leave out the differences they have when compared to adults
Emphasize emotions, such as sympathy by saying, "Never to laugh...or feel the sunshine?"
Abortion- Ending a pregnancy prematurely vs. infanticide which is killing the baby outside of the womb; killing an infant
English believes if there are other options, they should be considered
An ethical theory of killing defined: “Our prohibition against killing people operates by means of certain moral sentiments including sympathy, compassion, moral rules and guilt.”
Conservative Position
Cannot say fetus will have features if it currently doesn't
This is the informal fallacy of affirming the consequent
We have some obligations to non-humans for instance, animals.
Full transcript