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Cudd, Ann E., and . Enforced Pregnancy, Rape, and the Image of Woman

1990, Philosophical Studies, 60 (1-2): 47-59.

Summary: In this essay, Cudd argues that enforced pregnancy constitutes a group harm against women, harming even women who are not forced to carry a fetus to term against their will. In this essay, she develops a theoy of group harm, arguing that forced pregnancy constitutes a similar sort of group harm as rape. Ultimately, she claims that both rape and enforced pregnancy constitute a group harm via degredation of a class (women) and an individual harm via the individual negative effects caused by enforced pregnancy.

Comment: This text serves as a good introduction to the idea of a group harm. Further, it would fit well in a class that covers the ethics of sex, sexual violence, pregnancy, or abortion. If you plan to utilize this reading in the context of a biomedical ethics course covering abortion, it would be helpful to have first covered other classical readings on the topic (Marquis and Thomson, at least).

Foot, Philippa, and . The Problem of Abortion and the Doctrine of the Double Effect

1967, Oxford Review 5:5-15, reprinted in Virtues and vices. Oxford: Blackwell.

Comment: The text introduces some crucial distinctions, discussing the difference between 'doing' and 'allowing to happen' and the related negative and positive duties. Foot argues that what matters in the Doctrine is not the directness of the actor's intention, but whether they intend to follow a negative or positive duty. This paper is most useful in teaching on the ethics of abortion and euthanasia, as well as the doctrine of double effect in general.

Hursthouse, Rosalind, and . Beginning lives

1987, Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

Back matter: In this text book Rosalind Hursthouse examines the complex questions surrounding the morality of abortion. Beginning by discussing the moral status of the foetus, she outlines and criticizes the main philosophical liberal positions on abortion, discussing alsl their bearing on the related issues of ifanticide, foetal research, surrogacy, murder and our treatment of animals. In place of the currently prevailing positions, the author offers a novel approach to these issues based on the recently revived theory of neo–Aristotelianism which emphasizes moral virtues and vices.

A central element of Beginning Lives is its emphasis on the special nature of abortion: its unique relation to the facts of women′s pregnancies and hence to our attitudes to childbearing, motherhood, maturity and sexual relations.

Comment: The first chapters provide an excellent overview of the main topics in the abortion debate. Chapter 3 is particularly useful in teaching, as it offers a response to personhood accounts - it can be used in conjunction with Tooley's 'Abortion and Infanticide' (1972). Chapter 5 presents an in-depth discussion of women's rights and is useful in teaching on ethical issues related to abortion, but can also provide excellent support for teaching about feminism or human rights in general.

Hursthouse, Rosalind, and . Virtue, Theory and Abortion

1991, Philosophy & public affairs 20(3): 223-246.

Abstract: The sort of ethical theory derived from Aristotle, variously described as virtue ethics, virtue-based ethics, or neo-Aristotelianism, is becoming better known, and is now quite widely recognized as at least a possible rival to deontological and utilitarian theories. With recognition has come criticism, of varying quality. In this article I shall discuss nine separate criticisms that I have frequently encountered, most of which seem to me to betray an inadequate grasp either of the structure of virtue theory or of what would be involved in thinking about a real moral issue in its terms. In the first half I aim particularly to secure an understanding that will reveal that many of these criticisms are simply misplaced, and to articulate what I take to be the major criticism of virtue theory. I reject this criticism, but do not claim that it is necessarily misplaced. In the second half I aim to deepen that understanding and highlight the issues raised by the criticisms by illustrating what the theory looks like when it is applied to a particular issue, in this case, abortion.

Comment: Most useful as further reading in two contexts: (1) the ethics of abortion and the use of virtue ethics in determining its moral status; (2) virtue ethics, its relations with deontology and utilitarianism, and objections against it, with a discussion of the problem of abortion supporting the value of the neo-Aristotelian theory.

Jackson, Jennifer, and . Ethics in medicine: Virtue, Vice and Medicine

2006, Cambridge: Polity.

Publisher: How, in a secular world, should we resolve ethically controversial and troubling issues relating to health care? Should we, as some argue, make a clean sweep, getting rid of the Hippocratic ethic, such vestiges of it as remain? Jennifer Jackson seeks to answer these significant questions, establishing new foundations for a traditional and secular ethic which would not require a radical and problematic overhaul of the old.
These new foundations rest on familiar observations of human nature and human needs. Jackson presents morality as a loose anatomy of constituent virtues that are related in different ways to how we fare in life, and suggests that in order to address problems in medical ethics, a virtues–based approach is needed. Throughout, attention is paid to the role of philosophy in medical ethics, and how it can be used to clarify key notions and distinctions that underlie current debates and controversial issues. By reinstating such concepts as justice, cardinal virtue, and moral duty, Jackson lays the groundwork for an ethics of health care that makes headway toward resolving seeming dilemmas in medical ethics today.
This penetrating and accessible book will be invaluable to students of sociology and health care, as well as those who are interested in the ethical uncertainties faced by the medical world.

Comment: Particularly useful in teaching is Chapter 10 which discusses abortion, reviewing arguments made by J.J. Thompson and M. Tooley, and enquiring into what makes killing wrong. Chapter 9 looks at distributive justice in medicine, reviewing some problematic cases and distinguishing between bad luck and injustice. Chapter 5 treats on conscientious objection and issues related to toleration and imposition of values.

Kantymir, Lori, and Carolyn McLeod. Justification for Conscience Exemptions in Health Care

2013, Bioethics 28 (1): 16-23.

Abstract: Some bioethicists argue that conscientious objectors in health care should have to justify themselves, just as objectors in the military do. They should have to provide reasons that explain why they should be exempt from offering the services that they find offensive. There are two versions of this view in the literature, each giving different standards of justification. We show these views are each either too permissive (i.e. would result in problematic exemptions based on conscience) or too restrictive (i.e. would produce problematic denials of exemption). We then develop a middle ground position that we believe better combines respect for the conscience of healthcare professionals with concern for the duties that they owe to patients. Our claim, in short, is that insofar as objectors should have to justify themselves, they should have to do it according to the standard that we defend rather than according to the standards that others have developed.

Comment: This text responds to two proposals for justifying concientious objection in the provision of health care services: genuineness and reasonableness. It would fit well within a course on medical ethics or bioethics. It also would fit well within a more general course on professional ethics, as it concerns the question of when a professional is able to justify the omission of an action that they are bound by professional duty to complete.

Kornegay, R. Jo, and . Hursthouse’s Virtue Ethics and Abortion: Abortion Ethics without Metaphysics

2011, Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 14(1): 51-71.

Abstract: This essay explicates and evaluates the roles that fetal metaphysics and moral status play in Rosalind Hursthouse’s abortion ethics. It is motivated by Hursthouse’s puzzling claim in her widely anthologized paper Virtue Ethics and Abortion that fetal moral status and (by implication) its underlying metaphysics are in a way, fundamentally irrelevant to her position. The essay clarifies the roles that fetal ontology and moral status do in fact play in her abortion ethics. To this end, it presents and then develops her fetal metaphysics of the potential and actual human being, which she merely adumbrates in her more extensive treatment of abortion ethics in her book Beginning Lives. The essay then evaluates her fetal ontology in light of relevant research on fetal neural and psychological development. It concludes that her implied view that the late-stage fetus is an actual human being is defensible. The essay then turns to the analysis of late-stage abortions in her paper and argues that it is importantly incomplete.

Comment: This paper provides a detailed analysis and critique of Rosalind Hursthouse's argument in 'Virtue Ethics and Abortion'. As Hursthouse's paper is frequently taught, this article would provide a good counterpoint to it. This dialogue could form part of an examination of the practical application of virtue ethics, or as part of an examination of the applied ethics of abortion from alternative ethical perspectives. This paper is suitable for undergraduate or graduate teaching.

Lambert-Beatty, Claire, and . Twelve Miles: Boundaries of the New Art/Activism

2008, Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 33(2): 309-327.

Summary: Lambert-Beatty explores the limits of art activism through a detailed account of Rebecca Gomperts’ Women on Waves project. Starting in 2001, Gomperts – a physician with a background in art – sailed a customized maritime gynecological clinic with a crew from the Netherlands to the coastal areas of countries where abortion had been outlawed. The clinic would dock far enough from the shore (twelve miles being the limit of states’ naval jurisdictions) to offer healthcare to local women undisturbed. Lambert-Beatty notes that for all of its political import, the project retains a radical imagination of the poetic kind. Considering its enthusiastic reception by the international artworld, and inclusion in major art exhibitions, it is also clear that Gomperts intended the work at least partially as art. And, yet, Women on Waves challenges notions of the aesthetic as the “retreat from the real” that it is so often seen as. Lambert-Beatty sees the pragmatic aspect of the work as an integral part of its beauty, and vice versa. This symbiotic balance seems to resolve the tension Ranciere finds “between the logic of art that becomes life at the price of abolishing itself as art, and the logic of art that does politics on the explicit condition of not doing it at all.”

Comment: This text is best used in discussions of the relationship between art and political activism. It can also be used as a case study in applied ethics classes on abortion.

Oshana, Mariana, and . Autonomy and the Partial-Birth Abortion Act

2011, Journal of Social Philosophy, 42 (1): 46-60.

Summary: In this paper, Oshana argues that the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to affirm the Partial-Birth Abortion Act was mistaken. She claims that the Partial-Birth Abortion Act cannot withstand the test of strict scrutiny, that the Act fails to respect the privacy rights of individuals, and that there are compelling reasons (based in autonomy) to allow partial-birth abortion up until the point of fetal viability. As such, she claims, the Act violates the integrity of law.

Comment: This text would be excellent to use in a course focused on abortion, any course that covers the suite of U.S. Supreme Court cases involving the right to privacy, or a course that wishes to discuss and apply the doctrine of strict scrutiny. While it requires a significant amount of background knowledge (concerning the legislative history on abortion in the United States), it provides an excellent example of applying both the principle of autonomy and the principle of strict scrutiny.

Purdy, Laura, and . Are Pregnant Women Fetal Containers?

1990, Bioethics 4(4): 273–291.

Content: Purdy offers a strong argument against overriding the decisions of pregnant women and tries to reconcile the significance of the dependence of the fetus on the mother with the mother’s right to control her own body.

Comment: Very useful as introductory or further reading on reproductive rights and/or abortion.