Liberty, Equality, and Abortion

Laurie Shrage

in Abortion and Social Responsibility

Published in print February 2003 | ISBN: 9780195153095
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199870615 | DOI:

Series: Studies in Feminist Philosophy

 Liberty, Equality, and Abortion

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The standard civil liberty defenses of a woman's right to abort involve principles that justify a right somewhat narrower than the right defined by Roe v. Wade. In particular, freedom from social coercion, involuntary servitude, or nonconsensual bodily use do not require six months of unrestricted access to abortion, when women have access to a full range of effective contraceptives, including backup early abortion. Because public opinion on abortion varies in accordance with the gestational stage at which abortions are performed, decreasing the time span for unrestricted abortion, while simultaneously removing restrictions that block women's access to effective birth control and therapeutically necessary abortions, would help to make abortion more widely acceptable. Winning broad public support for legal abortion will not be accomplished by clarifying its constitutional justifications – e.g., the right to privacy, to deny help, or to self‐defense – but rather by promoting women's greater access to reproductive healthcare while simultaneously adopting a moderate regulatory scheme restricting abortions that most offend public sensibilities – especially second‐trimester nontherapeutic abortions.

Keywords: abortion; birth control; civil liberty; involuntary servitude; nonconsensual bodily use; privacy; reproductive healthcare; Roe v. Wade; self‐defense; social coercion

Chapter.  14826 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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