2 Sep 2022


The Great Abortion Debate: Pros and Cons of Supporting or Against Abortion

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There are enduring questions between Judith Jarvis Thomson supporting abortion and Don Marquis against it. While supporting the abortion debate, Thomson disapproves the right to life for a fetus by use of another person’s body. Thus, by removing the unborn there is no violation to the right to live but merely deprives the fetus freedom to use the mother's body of which he holds no right to. In contrast, Marquis offers a conflicting opinion on the same case. Marquis argues that the only way a new soul could face its way into the world is through the process of conception. Therefore, the entire process should be followed to the end (LaFollette, 2014). He argues that if killing an individual is wrong since it divests them their future, then the same should be applied to depriving the fetus’ future. In this twofold analysis, the discussion will analyze Thomson’s fetus case from the perspective of the fetus right to live as well as the set of communal moral rights about humanity. In the same breath, a critique of Marquis’ argument will focus on the collective right of adult freedom against unborn and death not being sufficient to be a source of the right to live.


Thomson’s View on Abortion 

In her argument, Thomson makes it clear that abortion can be tolerable with most of his conclusions outlining the practices that would permit abortion. In her construction of the argument, she creates a scenario where a fetus becomes the primary objective of abortion to happen or not. She looks at the fetus as an innocent human being who has a right to life; but she debunks the definition ascribed to this right as “not to be killed.” On the contrary, Thomson redefines this right as “not to be killed unjustly” (Thomson, 1996). In Thompson’s opinion, because the mother did not approve the fetus to be in her body, it follows that in this case, abortion is not unjust killing. As such, abortion is justified and morally advisable despite the fact that the pregnancy is an outcome of the mother voluntarily and consciously engaging in sex.

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In her essential argument, she outlines that the right to life should always outweigh any other freedom with which it could conflict (LaFollette, 2014). She designs an experiment to show probable cases where abortion is tolerable, with scenarios outlining how the action could be taken to justify one own freedom although doing so infringe an innocent individual right to live. In the case of a violinist, Thomson tries to display that right to life means one is allowed the freedom to do whatever is they need to maintain individual’s life.

Thomson’s Conclusion 

Thomson in her argument tries not to support rights to unlimited abortion and explicitly discards the claim that it is right for pregnant women to get rid of their offspring’s. In her argument, she explains on freedom of the mother to terminate her pregnancy, even if it would result in the death of the fetus, but not on the right to create death of the unborn

Critique of Thomson’s Argument 

Thomson redefines the earlier definition of the right to life. In her opinion, the right to life is not just the right not to be killed but rather the right not to be killed unjustly (Thomson, 1996). In her definition, she claims that it runs the risk of circularity of which is not the case. It appears that Thompson is not as fair to pro-life advocates as she claims in her arguments. It is not permissible to kill any human being unjust. However, because the unborn is a human being, given that there is a strong ethical justification to kill a human being outside the womb, then, we also need the same strong ethical justification to kill a person inside the womb (Thomson, 1996). This argument is not circular in any way. Thompson is arguing for a right to abortion as per the same justification for permitting someone to die outside the womb. Here, the chief complaint is that Thompson is not as fair to pro-life advocates as she claims to be.

In her argument, Thompson claims that no woman should allow an unborn child the right to use her body. She states, “ It is not as if there are unborn persons drifting about the world, to whom a woman who wants a child says I invite you ion ” (Thomson, 1996). Thompson uses this statement to avoid the responsibility objection in situations other than rape. However, this is wrong. Just because a woman engaged in sexual intercourse, an act that is meant for procreation should tacitly consent to the presence of the unborn child in the womb. But, Thompson anticipated this objection and explained that if this was the case, then abortion would be nothing else but “ more like the boys taking away the chocolates, and less like your unplugging yourself from the violinist -- doing so would be depriving it of what it does have a right to, and thus would be doing it an injustice .”

Thompson’s arguments are incredibly weak. First, if a mother is responsible for bringing a fetus into existence, then she has the right to kill it to save her own life. At first, this seems powerful. However, we must remember that simply bringing an entity into life does not imply that a mother does not have the right to protect herself from it. We have seen cases in the media in which children have killed their parents. Therefore, if a child can turn against his/her parents, even as an innocent aggressor then, they have the right to protect themselves.

Marquis’s View on Abortion 

Don Marquis is completely on the other hand of the abortion controversy. His argument is based on the nature of the unborn right to the mother's body, which is a special obligation and an apparent entity of the unborn meant to be voluntarily accepted. The entity, however, can be argued to be exceptional when the life of the mother is in a threat. Unlike Thompson who advocates for the permissibility of abortion in all situations, Marquis contends, with rare exceptions like life-threatening conditions, abortion should not be allowed and is equal to killing an innocent human being (LaFollette, 2014). The most interesting thing about Marquis’s argument is that he handles the issue from an extremely different perspective with utter disregard to the antiabortionist classical argument. Therefore, to explain why killing is wrong, Marquis changes the debate from, whether the fetus is a human being or not, to the wrongfulness of murdering. Marquis’s logic follows that the fetus is attached to another person to save its life; this makes it naturally dependent on a specific human being. Therefore, the unborn through a natural stage of development is dependent on her mother.

Forwarding an argument against abortion that is non-religious, Marquis claims it is morally equal to killing a human being and terminating the unborn (LaFollette, 2014). In his argument, he summarises that an unborn future consists of everything that an adult future entails given that the fetus would develop into an adult. In his conclusion, termination of a fetus removes valuable future, as it is the case with an adult who is killed. The removal of future of value as Marquis put it is a great wrong which should be categorized in the same moral category as termination of adult human being who is innocent.

Marquis’s conclusion 

Marquis argues and tries to prove abortion as morally wrong and should only be allowed in the strictly exceptional cases. He refers to Thomson view on the right to life and thinks that the freedom of life overrides the freedom of individual body control. Thus, having an abortion is wrong. He argues that the moral of abortion hides the truth on the question of the fetus having the right to life.

Critique of Don Marquis view 

In the debate over abortion, Marquis has pointed out that, partisan sides have based the notion of personhood making his contest to result in a standoff (Marquis, n.d). He has been able to defend his argument against various objections, pointing out the facts that the unborn may not be as an adult individual but there is an identical relationship between the fetus and an individual.

Marquis argument seems to emphasize more on the future, ignoring the present. In my understanding, an adult’s future does not become permanently dependent on the immediate current fetus due to their unique entity. In this, one can assert that the fetus cannot be treated as a living individual. Therefore, it is not identical to an adult. In a real sense, adults have mental lives that make them individuals while the fetuses lack the same. It can be biological organisms but the objective in question concern specific properties.


In conclusion, the paper has argued in contrast to Thomson support of abortion. An individual possesses the responsibility for making presence the fetus, through voluntary engagement in intercourse and having full knowledge of the results. It is their moral responsibility toward the pregnancy, although she tries to show underlying accountability as a result would not bear on an individual having moral engagements. Regarding Marquis’ view, the discussion has argued on his failure to deliver what he proposes in the account of the essence of the immorality of killing. The debate has also outlined marquis response on personhood as being not persuasive.


LaFollette, H. (2014). Ethics in Practice . Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Blackwell.

Marquis, D. (n.d.). An Argument that abortion is wrong . Retrieved from http://web.csulb.edu/~cwallis/382/readings/160/marquis.html .

Thomson, J. J. (1996). A defense of abortion. In R. Munson. (Ed). Intervention and Reflection: Basic issues in medical ethics (pp 69-80). Belmont: Wadsworth.

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StudyBounty. (2023, September 17). The Great Abortion Debate: Pros and Cons of Supporting or Against Abortion.


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