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Ernesto Rodriguez

Philosophy 12: Ethics

Summer 2004


Final Question 6


How does Singer view abortion? Describe his reasoning process. More importantly, do you agree? Justify philosophically.


Singer is rather meticulous in constructing his position on abortion, and rightly so. He is careful to take into consideration all of the different circumstances for abortion and makes an argument that applies to each. Before making his own argument, Singer examines and illustrates the flaws in several arguments for and against abortion. Singer dissects the pro-life argument, basically that it is unethical to kill a human being, and since a fetus is a human being, it is unethical to kill a fetus. He then looks at the pro-choice argument, and dismisses their different ideas surrounding fetal development and the quest to find some point that distinguishes when the fetus can be considered a human being. Singer points out that the first premise of the pro-life argument, that it is unethical to kill a human being, lends “special status” to human life. Singer’s moral theory contends that a human life is no more special than any other animal, thus he dismisses the first premise. He also dispatches the different liberal approaches to the issue of abortion.


Singer does not take one single, absolute position on abortion. He draws a distinction between considering the fetus a human being, a person, or a potential person. One criterion that Singer has it that abortion should not be done in a way that inflicts pain on the fetus. If the fetus is to be considered human being, Singer argues that it has no more right to live than an animal does, (By this logic, anyone who is adamantly opposed to abortion should also be a stout Vegan.) but just as with animals, we should not cause the fetus to suffer. Singer holds that the ethics of abortion in this case would be contingent on a method that does not cause suffering.  If the fetus is to be considered a person, Singer argues that is not possible since the fetus is neither rational nor self-conscious.


I agree with Singer on the grounds that any method of abortion that causes the fetus to suffer should be banned. I do not agree with his philosophical views justifying abortion. His statement, that “a woman’s serious interests would normally override the rudimentary interests even of a conscious fetus” and that “until that capacity [to feel pain] exists, an abortion terminates an existence that is of no intrinsic value” bother me to a great extent. But I do agree with the liberal argument about the consequences of outlawing abortion, even though it is philosophically irrelevant. I strongly agree with Singer’s statement that “It is a mistake to assume that the law should always enforce morality” and based on this I agree that abortion should be legal” (Singer, 144).