A Defense on Abortion: Ethical Issues

Abortion is considered the intended action to expel a fetus from the womb of a woman. The expulsion of a fetus leads to death, but scientists and societies argue that the intentional expulsion of a fetus is murder. Morally, abortion is illegal and not permitted by law in several states too. However, there are certain individuals that argue that not all abortions are killings and that some abortions are worth.

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Although there are several individuals that support some abortions, Judith Jarvis Thomson is considered one of the greatest defenders of abortion in the globe. This is due to her article on ‘a defense of abortion.’ The article is one of the most famous in philosophy because it has been reprinted severally after its first publication in 1971 (Boonin, 2003).

Considering the arguments outlined by Thomson in her essay, it is true to conclude that she successfully argued her reason for the permissibility of certain abortion cases. This paper discusses how successful Thomson has argued her case for the permissibility of certain cases of abortion (Boonin, 2003).

Overview of Thomson essay


According to the essay presented by Thomson, she argues and grants the fetus’ right to life. However, she proceeds to defend abortion’s permissibility through thought experiment appeal. According to the thought experiment, Thomson explains of a violinist who uses the body of another woman and should be extracted after months successfully, but before that, his extraction can lead to death.

Thomson argues that the choice to unplug or support the Violinist is of a person’s choice. She further asserts that you can willingly or permissibly unplug from the violinist, and let him die. Thomson asserts that although there is a right to life, it does not entail the mandatory use of the body of another person (Boonin, 2003).

Therefore, according to Thomson, unplugging the violinist cannot amount to killing the violinist or violation of his right to life, but deprived of the right to life. Unplugging the violinist is depriving him to use your body according to Thomson, but allowing him to be kind because he has no right to use your life. Thomson applies this argument to abortion and argues that abortion does not deprive the fetus right to life but the use of the body of the pregnant woman, which the fetus has no right over (Parks, 2006).

Expanding child

Thomson uses the third party scenario to argue that deducing the right to abortion after a doctor acceptance or denying a woman right to abort after a doctor’s refusal affects a woman’s personhood. Thomson uses the example of a child trapped in a small house with a person, but the child grows rapidly and can crush the person to death, but the child will simply walk away safely after that. She argues that a third party should not decide whom to kill between the rapidly growing child and the person (Parks, 2006).

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Thomson asserts that it is the right of the woman to intervene and decide what to do because it is her life which is threatened by the child. According to Thomson, since the woman is the owner of the house, she can decide to do away with the child threatening her life. Moreover, Thomson argues that the decision of the woman should be respected. Therefore, in case a mother feels that a fetus threatens her life, the mother has the right to seek an abortion and should be granted because the body is hers (Boonin, 2003).

People seeds

Thomson uses the situation of people seeds to explain the pregnancy that results from voluntary sexual intercourse. Thomson supposes that people seed may be drifting like a pollen grain and can easily root in any house that it finds open. However, an individual can fix the windows because she doesn’t need children, but a defective screen may allow a people seed to root (Boonin, 2003).

Thomson uses the people seed to represent conception and screen to represent contraception. According to Thomson, the woman should not be denied the opportunity to get rid of the “intruder” despite opening her window willingly because she tried all she can to get rid of it, the fetus, using contraceptives. Thomson argues that at times the fetus may have right over the body of the mother, but not always. Therefore, this has raised questions about whether all abortions are unjust (Parks, 2006).


The arguments of Thomson have led to the global debate on the permissibility of abortion. There are certain people that support the arguments of Thomson, while others reject them. Although they may be useful and realistic according to her, there are certain weaknesses of the arguments she posed. Considering then arguments and examples illustrated by Thomson, I attend to agree that the arguments can only permit abortion in case of rape.

The argument and example that can permit abortion is the violinist illustration because, in this scenario, the woman was kidnapped hence this can be considered as rape because it was without her consent (Boonin, 2003). On the other hand, people seed and expanding child illustrations cannot be appropriate illustrations to make abortion permissible.

These illustrations can be overruled using responsibility and tacit consent. Generally, these illustrations show that the woman voluntarily allowed intercourse, which permitted the fetus to use her body. Moreover, it is through the willingness of the woman that the fetus entered her body.

Therefore, it is her duty to protect the fetus because she allowed it to enter her body. The question that can be used to dispute the illustration of people seed and expanding child is, how can you voluntarily allow a fetus to enter your body and later claim that it has no right over your body although it has right to life? It is through the voluntary intercourse that a woman gives a fetus right to life, which she should respect (Parks, 2006).

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Strengths of the arguments

Thomson has adequately and effectively developed illustrations and arguments that have triggered a global discussion on the permissibility of abortion. To a certain extent, the illustrations and arguments are strong enough to permit certain abortions. Considering the argument and illustration on extending child, abortion is permissible in case the fetus poses a health risk to the mother.

Although the fetus has the right to life, it has no right to take the life of the mother. Secondly, Thomson’s arguments on the violinist are strong enough to permit abortion in case of rape. Rape can lead to conception, but without the consent of the mother (Parks, 2006).

Therefore, the mother has an option of doing away with the fetus because the child may remind her of the ordeal for life. Finally, the arguments on people seed are also realistic. In case an individual is not ready to have children and tries all means to avoid it, but unlucky she gets one, she has the option of doing away with the fetus instead of giving the fetus right to life, while the child will suffer after birth (Boonin, 2003).


Boonin, D. (2003). A Defense of Abortion. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Parks, B. D. (2006). Abortion: Ethical issues. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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