Lesson #6

What About Those Who Bite the Bullet?

Thesis: Bodily autonomy arguments fail to establish a right to an abortion. Though they look persuasive at first glance, they are counterintuitive, distort the nature of consent, and allow us to shuck responsibility for those who depend on us.


  • Analyze arguments that concede (or appear to concede) the humanity of the unborn, but justify abortion anyway.
  • Respond to bodily autonomy arguments from Thomson, McDonaugh, Boonin, and Furedi

Big idea: Thus far, the philosophical debate has turned on what makes humans valuable in the first place. Does each and every human being have an equal right to life or do only some have it? The endowment view grounds human value (and equality) in our common human nature. The performance view grounds it in our immediately exercisable functions. We now turn to those who argue for abortion even if the unborn are human beings with a right to life. What matters, so their argument goes, is not the status of the unborn, but the bodily autonomy of the mother. Defenders of this view include Judith Jarvis Thomson, Eileen McDonaugh, David Boonin, and Anne Furedi.