Judith Jarvis Thomson’s argument for limited abortion rights

Judith Jarvis Thomson’s essay titled A Defense of Abortion serves as a polemic against some of the common objections made by pro-lifers.  The first of her objections to the pro-life standpoint is regarding the status assigned to a human fetus.  The pro-lifers argue that right from the moment of conception the fetus has to be assigned the same rights and respect that is granted to born individuals.  Thomson takes issue with this assessment, arguing that a fetus cannot be equated with a born individual since the moment of conception, although she concedes that it is very difficult to exactly ascertain when a developing fetus deserves recognition as a human being.

The other point she makes is that on what grounds would pro-lifers oppose abortion when the pregnancy was the result of a rape.  Judith Thomson is essentially trying to differentiate between cases of pregnancies that result due to negligence or indifference of either of the partners, and those which arise due to crime.  It is on such grounds that the author expects special rights be granted for pregnant women to choose.  She also thinks that it is unfair for anti-abortionists to expect a woman to invest so much of her physical and mental resources on a child that she does not want in the first place.  The pregnant woman also carries the risk of complications during childbirth, which in some cases could even cost her life.  She argues that those who talk about rights of unborn babies should also consider the risk of life to the woman who is carrying the baby. Here too, Thomson asks for special concessions to be made for pregnant woman who fall under high-risk category, namely those who have a history of complications, those who are physically weak or anemic, those who are too poor to take care of themselves, etc.  Hence, the author is not in support of indiscriminate practice of abortion, but rather implores the readers to consider the vast gray areas in the issue and seeks a moderate approach from the lawmakers and the society at large.

Judith Thomson’s viewpoint on the issue of abortion is not fully compatible with the unique cultural values of our nation’s culture.  In its 240 year history, the majority of American people have been religious.  The foremost among religions practiced in the country is Christianity, the doctrine of which considers it a sin to abort a fetus at any stage of pregnancy.  The argument against abortion is not so much a scientific one as it is based on moral values.  Adherence to Christian practices is an important aspect of our cultural heritage and breaking away from it would jeopardize the foundation upon which the country thrives.  This is a strong reason why abortion should not be encouraged.  As for the legal angle, most states in America do not consider abortion as a crime.  But some legislative changes are called for when we consider the fact that the existing liberal laws have encouraged indiscrete behavior among the country’s youth and have propagated such unsavory tendencies as promiscuous pre-marital sex.

Hence, I am quite convinced that abortion should be discouraged in our country for the reasons stated above.  There a strong case against the practice from a moral and religious standpoint.  Even on the legal front, granting legitimacy to the act of abortion would promote decadent tendencies in our society.  This includes promiscuity, premarital sex, sexually transmitted diseases, lack of respect for the sanctity of life, etc.  The act of abortion, moreover, puts the pregnant woman’s wellbeing in danger.  I believe that there is only one reasonable condition under which a developing fetus could be aborted, namely when it puts the mother’s life in jeopardy.  These rare cases of abortion should be carried out only after obtaining permission from authorized Obstetricians and Gynecologists.  Apart from that, Judith Thomson’s liberal views on abortion do not appeal to me, for such concessions will undermine the cultural traditions of this country and also encourage irresponsible behavior in society.  Hence the best approach to solving this issue would be to enact stringent laws against abortion, without many attached clauses of exceptions that could potentially be exploited.