The Problem of Abortion: Essentially Contested Concepts and Moral Autonomy
Bioethics 2004 June; 18(3): 221-233
When one thinks about the ethics of abortion, one inevitably thinks about rights, since it is in terms of the concept of rights that much of the debate has been conducted. This is true of overtly feminist as well as non-feminist accounts. Indeed, some early feminist writers--Judith Jarvis Thomson and Mary Ann Warren, for example--employ a model of rights that is indistinguishable, or virtually indistinguishable, from that of their non-feminist counterparts. However, more recent feminist writers have developed a different understanding of 'a woman's right to choose.' In this paper, I will begin by outlining the non-feminist debate over the moral permissibility of abortion. I will suggest that this debate is irresolvable, since at its heart is an 'essentially contested concept', that of personhood. I will then consider the way in which some feminist writers have attempted to reconceive the terms of the abortion debate and suggest an expanded account of women's right to abortion, drawing on the work of Susan Sherwin. Finally, I will argue that there is a further element to a 'woman's right to choose' that expands on and provides a conceptual link between feminist and non-feminist understanding of abortion.
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McKnight, C. (2003-08)W B Gallie's notion of essentially contested concepts remains of philosophical interest. I argue that medicine is one such concept and look at the consequences of this as regards the inappropriateness of looking for ...