A Kantian Defense of Abortion Rights with Respect for Intrauterine Life

Bertha Alvarez Manninen

About author

Bertha Alvarez Manninen, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
School of Humanities, Arts, and Cultural Studies

Arizona State University
New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences
P.O. Box 37100; Mail Code: 2151
Phoenix, AZ 85069-7100
USA

Email: bertha.manninen@asu.edu

Abstract


In this paper, I appeal to two aspects of Immanuel Kant’s philosophy – his metaphysics and ethics – in defense of abortion rights. Many Kantian pro-life philosophers argue that Kant’s second principle formulation of the categorical imperative, which proscribes treating persons as mere means, applies to human embryos and fetuses. Kant is clear, however, that he means his imperatives to apply to persons, individuals of a rational nature. It is important to determine, therefore, whether there is anything in Kant’s philosophy that permits regarding embryos and fetuses as persons, since they lack the capacity for sentience (at least until mid-gestation), let alone rational thought. In the first part of the paper, I will illustrate why there are difficulties maintaining, from a Kantian perspective, that conception marks the genesis of a new person. Even granting that embryos and fetuses are persons, however, this alone would not entail the moral impermissibility of abortion rights, mainly because prohibiting abortion, and compelling women to gestate, violates the formula of humanity against them. Developing this thesis encompasses the second part of my essay. Finally, although I argue that Kant’s philosophy lends strong support to abortion rights, this does not thereby entail that it allows for the complete dehumanization of the human fetus. By appealing to the writings of Kantian scholar Allen Wood, I will argue that a fetus’ status as a potential person does render it worthy of some degree of respect and moral value.

Full Text:

PDF


References


  1. S. Bordo, Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture, and the Body, University of California Press, Los Angeles 1993.
  2. L. Cannold. The Abortion Myth: Feminism, Morality, and the Hard Choices Women Make, Wesleyan University Press, Middletown 1998.
  3. M. Casper, The Making of the Unborn Patient: A Social Anatomy of Fetal Surgery, Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick 1998.
  4. S. Drakulic, A Novel about the Balkans, Penguin Putnam, New York 1999.
  5. R. Dworkin, Life’s Dominion: An Argument about Abortion, Euthanasia, and Individual Freedom, Random House Press, New York 1993.
  6. S. Feldman, From Occupied Bodies to Pregnant Persons: How Kantian Ethics Should Treat Pregnancy and Abortion, [in:] J. Kneller, S. Axinn (eds.), Autonomy and Community: Readings in Contemporary Kantian Social Philosophy, State University of New York Press 1998, pp. 265–282.
  7. G. Feldt, C. Jennings, Behind Every Choice is a Story, University of North Texas, Denton 2002.
  8. R. Hursthouse, Virtue Theory and Abortion, “Philosophy and Public Affairs” (20) 1991, pp. 223–246.
  9. P. Kain, Kant’s Defense of Human Moral Status, “Journal of the History of Philosophy” (47) 1995, pp. 59–101.
  10. I. Kant, The Critique of Pure Reason, trans. P. Guyer and A. Wood, Cambridge University Press, New York 1999.
  11. I. Kant, Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, trans. M. Gregor and J. Timmermann, Cambridge University Press, New York 2012.
  12. I. Kant, Religion within the Bounds of Mere Reason, trans. A. Wood and G. di Giovanni, Cambridge University Press, New York 1998.
  13. I. Kant, The Metaphysics of Morals, trans, M. Gregor, Cambridge University Press, New York 1996.
  14. I. Kant, Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and Sublime, trans. P. Ferguson and P. Guyer, Cambridge University Press, New York 2011.
  15. W. LaFleur, Contestation and Consensus: The Morality of Abortion in Japan, “Philosophy East and West” (40) 1990, pp. 529-542.
  16. W. LaFleur, Liquid Life: Abortion and Buddhism in Japan, Princeton University Press, Princeton 1992.
  17. M.O. Little, Abortion, Intimacy, and the Duty to Gestate, “Ethical Theory and Moral Practice” (2) 1999, pp. 295–312.
  18. M.O. Little, The Morality of Abortion, [in:] B. Steinbock, J. Arras, A.J. London (eds.), Ethical Issues in Modern Medicine, McGraw Hill, New York 2012, pp. 492–500.
  19. K. Myers, P. Williamson, Race Talk: The Perpetuation of Racism through Private Discourse, “Race and Society” (4) 2001, pp. 3–26.
  20. M. Novak, The Stem Cell Slide: Be Alert to the Beginnings of Evil, [in:] M. Ruse, C. Pynes (ed.), The Stem Cell Controversy: Debating the Issues, Prometheus Book, New York 2003, pp. 101–105.
  21. F.S. Oduncu, Stem Cell Research in Germany: Ethics of Healing vs. Human Dignity, “Medicine, Health Care, and Philosophy” (6) 2003, pp. 5–16.
  22. C. Overall, Human Reproduction: Principles, Practices, and Policies, Oxford University Press, New York 1993.
  23. S. Poppema, Why I am an Abortion Doctor, Prometheus Books, New York 1996.
  24. D. Regan, Rewriting Roe v. Wade, “Michigan Law Review” (77) 1979, pp. 1569–1646.
  25. M. Sagoff, Extracorporal Embryos and Three Conceptions of the Human, “American Journal of Bioethics” (5) 2005, pp. 52–54.
  26. B. Smith, Buddhism and Abortion in Contemporary Japan: Mizuko Kuyo and the Confrontation with Death, “Japanese Journal of Religious Studies” (15) 1988, pp. 21–42.
  27. E. Steuter, D. Wills, The Vermin Have Struck Again: Dehumanizing the Enemy in Post-9/11 Media Representations, “Media, War, and Conflict” (3) 2010, pp. 152–167.
  28. J. J. Thomson, A Defense of Abortion, “Philosophy and Public Affairs” (1) 1971, pp. 47–66.
  29. M. Underwood, Strategies of Survival: Women, Abortion, and Popular Religion in Contemporary Japan, “Journal of the American Academy of Religion” (67) 1999, pp. 739–768.
  30. M.A. Warren, On the Moral and Legal Status of Abortion, “The Monist” (57) 1973, pp. 43–61.
  31. J. Wilson, Mourning the Unborn Dead: A Buddhist Ritual Comes to America, Oxford University Press, New York 2009.
  32. A. Wood, Kant on Duties Regarding Nonrational Nature, “Supplemental Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society” (72) 1998, pp. 189–210.

DOI:

http://dx.doi.org/10.13153/diam.39.2014.565

Article links:

Default URL: http://www.diametros.iphils.uj.edu.pl/index.php/diametros/article/view/565
English abstract URL: http://www.diametros.iphils.uj.edu.pl/index.php/diametros/article/view/565/en

Share:






All works are licensed under a Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0) License.