Abstract: Confucian resources for moral discourse and public policy concerning abortion have potential to broaden the prevailing forms of debate in Western societies. However, what form a Confucian contribution might take is itself debatable. This essay provides a critique of Philip J. Ivanhoe’s recent proposal for a Confucian account of abortion. I contend that Ivanhoe’s approach is neither particularly Confucian, nor viable as effective and humane public policy. Affirmatively, I argue that a Confucian approach to abortion will assiduously root moral consideration and public policy in evidence-based strategies that recognize the complexity of the phenomena of unplanned pregnancy and abortion. What most distinguishes a Confucian approach, I argue, is a refusal to treat abortion as a moral dilemma that stands free of the myriad social conditions and societal inequities in which empirical evidence shows it situates.
Comment: This paper could be usefully coupled with the Ivanhoe paper it criticizes, but it does a good job of summarizing that view and so can also stand on its own. It's an especially useful example of how to apply Confucian principles to a vexed contemporary moral issue. It also provides a good model of a Confucian-inspired philosopher criticizing another on grounds internal to that tradition, which can be used to dispel the thought that Confucian particularism leads to an "anything goes" approach to moral problems.