Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Murder, abortion, contraception, greenhouse gas emissions and the deprivation of non-discernible and non-existent people: a reply to Marquis and Christensen
  1. Hugh V McLachlan
  1. Correspondence to Prof. Hugh V McLachlan, Glasgow Caledonian University, Glasgow G4 0BA, UK; h.mclachlan{at}


Marquis’s account of the ethics of abortion is unsatisfactory but not as Christensen implies baseless. It requires to be amended rather than abandoned. It is true, as Marquis asserts that murder and abortion both might deprive people of something of value to them, in particular, the life of a sort that might have been to them worth living. However, it is mistaken to conclude, as Marquis does, that murder and abortion are thereby morally equivalent. Not all deprivation is wrongful. Not all that is wrongful is wrongful because it deprives someone of something. Contrary to what Christensen asserts, and Marquis seems to accept, it is not solely those discernible people who currently exist who might be deprived by our current actions. It is not only towards and concerning such living discernible people that we can have moral duties. It is not only such living discernible people who can be the beneficiaries of our generosity. Hence, contraception and the emission of greenhouse gases are, like abortion, issues that raise significant moral questions; however, they might each be properly answered. Nonetheless, it does not follow that is morally equivalent to each other far less than they are all morally equivalent to murder. If and when they are morally wrong, they can be different wrongs.

  • abortion
  • ethics
  • philosophical ethics

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.


  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

Other content recommended for you