Abortion and Infanticide
Tooley (Michael)
Source: Philosophy and Public Affairs, Vol. 2, No. 1, Autumn, 1972, pp. 37-65
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Philosophers Index Abstract

    This paper focuses upon the question of what properties an organism must possess in order to have a serious right to life. The answer proposed is that an organism cannot have a serious right to life unless it is capable of regarding itself as a continuing subject of experiences and other mental states. This answer is defended by an analysis of rights in which it is contended that there is a conceptual connection between the possession of a given right and the capacity for having the corresponding desire. It is then suggested that human fetuses1 and newborn infants do not, as a matter of empirical fact, satisfy this condition, and hence do not possess a serious right to life. Both abortion2 and infanticide are thus morally acceptable practices. The paper also contains a critical survey of alternative positions on abortion3 and infanticide. Liberal positions are criticized as choosing cutoff points that do not rest upon any morally significant property. The extreme conservative position is shown to presuppose what is referred to as the potentiality principle, and an argument is advanced to show that this principle is unacceptable.

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