John Harris and Søren Holm

in The Oxford Handbook of Practical Ethics

Published in print September 2005 | ISBN: 9780199284238
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy



Abortion is one of those classic problems that has been discussed in all of the major ‘fertile periods’ of practical philosophy, from the flourishing of Greek thought, through the medieval period, in the Renaissance and from the start of modern applied ethics in the 1960s. This article begins with a brief historical overview of the discussion of the ethics of abortion, and then proceeds to a range of questions that have been prominent in the philosophical discussion about abortion since the 1960s. The two main areas of controversy have been how to understand the moral status of the fetus, and whether a right to abortion can be based in the mother's right to autonomy.

Keywords: abortion; fertile period; practical philosophy; applied ethics; moral status; mother's rights

Article.  10905 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Moral Philosophy

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