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Recourse to a being’s moral status is the ‘nuclear option’ of moral theorising—it tells us not only what obligations we have and to what degree, but whether we have obligations to them in the first place and whether their moral concern trumps concern for other beings simply in virtue of the kind of being they are. As such, we should only explain obligations in terms of a being’s moral status if doing so is principled and necessary to defend that obligation. In ‘Pregnancy and Superior Moral Status: A Proposal for Two Thresholds of Personhood’, Robinson1 argues that pregnant women achieve a second and therefore superior threshold of moral status to ‘mere persons’. She insists that this is not a view about the woman and the fetus together but that ‘the pregnant woman herself is more than one individual’. This gives us strong reason to re-balance the imbalanced burdens experienced by women due to pregnancy. I will argue her proposal is neither principled nor necessary. We can explain special obligations to pregnant women without appealing to a distinct moral status, without reaching for the ‘nuclear option’.
First, consider Robinson’s1 claim that pregnant women ‘are performing a role which is of supreme importance: that of creating new human life, and maintaining the survival of the human species’. …
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Competing interests None declared.
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