A Defense Of Abortion By Judith Jarvis Thomson

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Judith Jarvis Thomson argues in “A Defense of Abortion” that abortion in cases of rape is acceptable because of the element of coercion. She makes a preliminary assumption that the foetus has a right to life, but she argues that this right to life does not necessarily include the right not to be killed. She makes this argument in large part through a particularly vivid analogy of an unconscious violinist. Thomson claims that the analogy defends abortion in cases of rape by showing that if a woman’s autonomy is damaged she has a right to reclaim it; that right is not an unjust reason for denying a person the resources needed to live, which means that the violinist is not killed unjustly if he dies as a result of her exercising autonomy. That means that his right to life is not infringed upon by killing him if a woman is coerced into caring for him and then refuses to continue to do so, thereby killing him. I argue that in fact this logic extends beyond cases of rape because most pregnant women are subject to coercion and have a right to reassert their autonomy by denying foetus’ use of their bodies.
The violinist analogy goes like this: a famous violinist has a fatal kidney ailment. A group called the Society of Music Lovers has canvassed “all the available medical records” and found only one person that has the right blood type to help him. They kidnap this person and connect him or her to the violinist’s circulatory system so that the kidnap victim’s kidneys can filter the
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