What makes abortion morally impermissible? A Dworkinian perspective on abortion rights and the intrinsic value of life.

Authors: Neeva Desai Published date: 15-01-2019 Status: Under Review

Ronald Dworkin’s Life’s Dominion has set the tone of jurisprudential discourse on the ethics of abortion. Dworkin, addresses the basis of the debate over the morality of abortion. However, he does so from an uncommon lens. He is not concerned with whether abortion should be morally permissible or not. Instead Dworkin asks, ‘Why does a large section of society vehemently oppose abortion?’. Dworkin claims that abortion is opposed because it violates the intrinsic value or ‘sacredness’ bestowed in any living being, fetus or adult. This is significant because our understanding of the moral-ethical basis of the abortion debate greatly influences abortion laws all over the world which allow or prohibit it. In this context, I deconstruct Dworkin’s theory. Dworkin’s account of what makes things sacred fails to explain why human life is special. He fails to distinguish the sacredness of human life as something more than the life of a tree or caterpillar. Specifically, I propose that a better way of understanding opposition to abortion is to acknowledge the potential personhood of the fetus which illicit strong protective sentiments in individuals, who then go on to oppose abortion.

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Corresponding author. Neeva Desai: n.desai.16@ucl.ac.uk

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COPYRIGHT: © The UK Law and Society Association, 2019