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J Med Ethics 28:133-135 doi:10.1136/jme.28.3.133
  • Abortion

Abortion, embryo destruction and the future of value argument

  1. J Savulescu
  1. Editor. Murdoch Children's Research Institute & Centre for the Study of Health & Society, University of Melbourne, Australia; savulesj@cryptic-rch.unimelb.ed.au

      Abortion and embryo destruction prevent a future of value, but that does not make them wrong.

      Abortion involves the killing of a fetus. One bad thing about killing a fetus is that the fetus is deprived of a future of value. Think of all the things which make your life good and worth living: understanding the world, seeing your children grow into independent, intelligent, and happy people, watching a sunset over the hills, enjoying good times with friends. By killing the fetus, we are depriving it of a future life likely to contain these things. And more. The fetus would likely grow to be a person who would have contributed to the world in many ways—bringing joy to its parents, happiness, and friendship to many. That person would have laboured for society and perhaps even discovered a cure for cancer or developed the first bionic eye.

      The loss of these possible futures is bad. It makes the killing of a fetus wrong. This is Don Marquis's argument against abortion.1 It is one of the best arguments against abortion which does not rest on theological premises.

      Another way of putting this is to say that we have a good reason not to kill a fetus. A (normative) reason for acting is a fact or circumstance forming a sufficient justification for an action. Or in this case, not to perform an action. We have all sorts of reasons for action. Our reasons often conflict. I may have a good reason to visit my mother and a good reason to take my children to the park. What we have most reason to do (after weighing all the conflicting reasons) is what it is right to do. It is what we should do. If we have most reason not to perform an act, …