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Two Tragedies Argument: Two Mistakes


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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