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Little, Margaret Olivia. The Moral Permissibility of Abortion
2014, In Andrew I. Cohen & Christopher Wellman (eds.), Contemporary Debates in Applied Ethics. Chichester: Wiley & Sons.. pp. 51-62.
Added by: Clotilde Torregrossa, Contributed by: Simon Fokt
Abstract: When a woman or girl finds herself pregnant, is it morally permissible for her to end that pregnancy? One dominant tradition says 'no'; its close cousin says 'rarely' - exceptions may be made where the burdens on the individual girl or woman are exceptionally dire, or, for some, when the pregnancy results from rape. On both views, though, there is an enormous presumption against aborting, for abortion involves the destruction of something we have no right to destroy. Those who reject this claim, it is said, do so by denying the dignity of early human life - and imperiling their own. I think these views are deeply flawed. They are, I believe, based on a problematic conception of how we should value early human life; more than that, they are based on a profoundly misleading view of gestation and a deontically crude picture of morality. I believe that early abortion is fully permissible, widely decent, and, indeed, can be honorable. This is not, though, because I regard burgeoning human life as 'mere tissue': on the contrary, I think it has a value worthy of special respect. It is, rather, because I believe that the right way to value early human life, and the right way to value what is involved in and at stake with its development, lead to a view that regards abortion as both morally sober and morally permissible. Abortion at later stages of pregnancy becomes, for reasons I shall outline, multiply more complicated; but it is early abortions - say, abortions in the first half of pregnancy - that are most at stake for women.


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