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Two Tragedies Argument: Two Mistakes
  1. William Simkulet
  1. Philosophy, Park University, Parkville, Missouri, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr William Simkulet, Andover, Kansas, USA; Simkuletwm{at}


Most opposition to abortion turns on the claim that human fetuses are full moral agents from conception (or soon afterwards). Critics argue that antiabortion theorists act hypocritically when they neglect spontaneous abortions—valuing some fetal lives and not others. Many philosophers draw a distinction between killing and letting die, with the former being morally impermissible and latter acceptable. Henrick Friberg-Fernros appeals to this distinction with his Two Tragedies Argument, contending that anti-abortion theorists are justified in prioritising preventing induced abortions over spontaneous ones, as the former involves two tragedies—a death and a killing. However, induced abortion can involve either killing or letting die, and thus this view is incompatible with the traditional anti-abortion view. Furthermore, Friberg-Fernros appears to value preventing killing attempts more than preventing actual deaths.

  • abortion
  • killing

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  • Contributors I am the sole contributor to this document.

  • Competing interests None declared.

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

  • Correction notice This article has been corrected since it was first published online. A number of errors were noted in the text by the author and have been amended.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

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