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date: 05 July 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Debates in the abortion literature typically rely upon crude versions of ethical naturalism. Pro-choice advocates invoke the absence of psychological characteristics such as the capacity to reason to support the claim that fetuses do not have a right to life; pro-life advocates invoke biological characteristics such as the human genome to support the claim that the fetus does have that right. Yet such arguments notoriously transition from claims of fact to moral claims. In contrast, constructivism offers a novel and useful approach to the abortion debate. In this chapter, I provide a constructivist account of the ethics of abortion. On this account, the fetus’s right to life derives from parents taking on the obligation to care for and nourish their future child. This constructivist account of the right to life as a special personal obligation offers a dramatic challenge to natural rights theorists’ paradigmatic example.

Keywords: abortion, rights, moral obligation, pregnancy, fetus, neonate, right to life, ethical naturalism, constructivism, reciprocity

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