Essay on Judith Jarvis Thomson: a Defense of Abortion

1946 Words Dec 13th, 2011 8 Pages
Judith Jarvis Thomson: A Defense of Abortion – CRITICAL EXPOSITION

The goal of Judith Jarvis Thomson in her defense of abortion is to sway the ideas of those who are against abortion by challenging the arguments they give for thinking so. She begins by stating a premise. “For the sake of the argument” a human embryo is a person. This premise is one of the arguments most opponents of abortion use, but as she points out, isn’t much of an argument at all. These people spend a lot of their time dwelling on the fact that the fetus is a person and hardly any time explaining how the fetus being a person has anything to with abortion being impermissible. In the same breath, she states that those who agree with abortion spend a lot of their time
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She believes that, just a like a woman having the right to choose to save her life, a third party should be able to choose if he/she want to assist. The next issue is, in Thomson’s opinion, the most important question in the abortion debate; that is, what exactly does a right to life bring about? The premise that “everyone has a right to life, so the unborn person has a right to life” suggests that the right to life is “unproblematic,” or straight-forward. We know that isn’t true. Thomson gives an analogy involving Henry Fonda. You are sick and dying and the touch of Henry Fonda’s hand will heal you. Even if his touch with save your life, you have no right to be “given the touch of Henry Fonda’s cool hand.” A stricter view sees the right to life as more of a right to not be killed by anybody. Here too troubles arise. In the case of the violinist, if we are to “refrain from killing the violinist,” then we must basically allow him to kill you. This contradicts the stricter view. The conclusion Thomson draws from this analogy is “that having a right to life does not guarantee having either a right to be given the use of or a right to be allowed continued use of another person’s body—even if one needs it for life itself.” This argument again proves the basic argument wrong. The right to life isn’t as clear of an argument as I’m sure opponents of abortion would like it to be or believe it is. Similarly, the following analogy
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