Abortion and Human Rights

Mary Anne Warren

in Moral Status

Published in print March 2000 | ISBN: 9780198250401
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191681295 | DOI:

Series: Issues in Biomedical Ethics

Abortion and Human Rights

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This chapter discusses the ethics of abortion. It identifies two weaknesses inherent in approaches to the ethics of abortion that focus exclusively upon the nature of the foetus, and the moral status this is thought to imply. In the first place, the moral status of embryos and foetuses cannot be determined solely through a consideration of their intrinsic properties, as most of the unicriterial approaches require. Their unique relational properties are also relevant; in particular, their location within and complete physiological dependence upon the body of a human being who is (usually) both sentient and a moral agent. These relational properties have to be considered in determining the moral status that may reasonably be ascribed to foetuses. The second, and closely related, problem with the exclusively foetus-centred approaches to the ethics of abortion is that the moral status of foetuses is not all that is relevant to the moral permissibility of abortion. The moral status of women is also at stake, as is the ability of the human species to maintain population levels that can be sustained, and that will not deprive posterity of the resources necessary for good lives.

Keywords: mortal status; abortion; moral rights; human rights; women's rights

Chapter.  9097 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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