Comparison of Thomson and Marquis on Abortion

Abortion is a highly debated and controversial topic, and two influential philosophers, Judith Jarvis Thomson and Don Marquis, have presented contrasting arguments regarding the morality of abortion. While Thomson argues for a woman’s right to choose, Marquis asserts that abortion is morally wrong.

Thomson’s argument, outlined in her essay “A Defense of Abortion,” is based on the concept of a woman’s right to bodily autonomy. She argues that even if we grant that the fetus is a person with a right to life, it does not automatically follow that the woman is morally obligated to provide the necessary means for its survival. Thomson uses various analogies, such as the famous violinist analogy, to illustrate her point that a person’s right to life does not entail a right to use another person’s body without consent. According to Thomson, a woman has the right to refuse to support the fetus’s life by terminating the pregnancy.

In contrast, Marquis presents a different perspective in his essay “Why Abortion is Immoral.” Marquis argues that the moral wrongness of abortion lies in the deprivation of valuable future experiences and the potential for a valuable future life. He claims that what makes killing immoral is not the actual killing itself but the loss of all the experiences, activities, and accomplishments that the person would have had if not killed. Marquis asserts that the fetus, as a potential human being, possesses the same value and right to life as any actual person.

While both Thomson and Marquis present strong arguments, their approaches and conclusions differ. Thomson’s argument centers around a woman’s right to control her own body and the moral permissibility of abortion as an exercise of that right. She emphasizes the importance of bodily autonomy and personal decision-making in reproductive choices. On the other hand, Marquis’s argument focuses on the intrinsic value of human life and the moral significance of the potential experiences and achievements that a future individual would have.

Additionally, Thomson’s argument primarily addresses cases of unwanted pregnancies, cases involving rape or risk to the woman’s health, where she asserts that the woman’s right to bodily autonomy outweighs the fetus’s right to life. Marquis’s argument, however, applies to all cases of abortion, regardless of the circumstances. He argues that the potential loss of a valuable future life is inherently morally wrong.

Despite their differences, both Thomson and Marquis contribute to the ongoing ethical discourse surrounding abortion. Their arguments offer distinct perspectives on the moral status of the fetus and the rights and choices of the pregnant woman.