Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants


A Neglected Argument Concerning Morality and Abortion


Philosophy Department


College of Liberal Arts and Sciences


Social and Behavioral Sciences


Most of the debate concerning abortion in the past 30 or 40 years has dealt primarily with the rightness or wrongness of an individuals action in having an abortion. Occasionally there has been some mention of a public responsibility to vote for candidates opposed to or in favor of abortion rights. Beyond these occasional (and often opportunistic) pleas, very little is said about a public duty concerning abortion. However, I will argue that this debate has neglected an important public duty. Pregnant women often face what they perceive to be a stark choice of whether to continue a pregnancy or have an abortion, each alternative leading to serious consequences. In recognizing the stark nature of this choice and the consequences associated with it, societies acquire a duty to reduce the occasions on which women find themselves presented with such a choice and to mitigate the consequences of the choice. This duty is not wholly dependent upon finding abortion permissible or impermissible. Therefore, even if one thinks it is wrong to have an abortion, he should still recognize the societal duty to alleviate the perceived need for one or the consequences of not having one. I will also suggest that attempts to understand this public duty and its limits require societies to answer difficult questions about sex, violence, family, and community, revealing the complex nature of an issue that has, for too many, appeared all too simple.

Conference Name

Society for Applied Philosophy Annual Conference 2014

Conference Location

St. Anne's College, Oxford, England (UK)

This document is currently not available here.