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Strengthening the impairment argument against abortion
  1. Bruce Philip Blackshaw1,
  2. Perry Hendricks2
  1. 1 Philosophy, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK
  2. 2 Purdue University Department of Philosophy, West Lafayette, Indiana, USA
  1. Correspondence to Bruce Philip Blackshaw, Philosophy, University of Birmingham, Birmingham B15 2TT, UK; bblackshaw{at}


Perry Hendricks’ impairment argument for the immorality of abortion is based on two premises: first, impairing a fetus with fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is immoral, and second, if impairing an organism to some degree is immoral, then ceteris paribus, impairing it to a higher degree is also immoral. He calls this the impairment principle (TIP). Since abortion impairs a fetus to a higher degree than FAS, it follows from these two premises that abortion is immoral. Critics have focussed on the ceteris paribus clause of TIP, which requires that the relevant details surrounding each impairment be sufficiently similar. In this article, we show that the ceteris paribus clause is superfluous, and by replacing it with a more restrictive condition, the impairment argument is considerably strengthened.

  • abortion
  • ethics
  • moral status
  • embryos and fetuses

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  • Contributors The idea for this paper was conceived by Bruce Blackshaw. Perry Hendricks contributed valuable criticism and wrote the section on objections.

  • 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; externally peer reviewed.

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