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Mary Anne Warren's On the Moral and Legal Status of Abortion Essay

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Mary Anne Warren’s “On the Moral and Legal Status of Abortion” describes her justification that abortion is not a fundamentally wrong action for a mother to undertake. By forming a distinction between being genetically human and being a fully developed “person” and member of the “moral community” that encompasses humanity, Warren argues that it must be proven that fetuses are human beings in the morally relevant sense in order for their termination to be considered morally wrong. Warren’s rationale of defining moral personhood as showcasing a combination of five qualities such as “consciousness, reasoning, self-motivated activity, capacity of communication, and self-awareness” forms the basis of her argument that a fetus displays none of these elements that would justify its classification as a person and member of the morally relevant community (Timmons 386).
Warren begins her argument by explicitly defining a human person as someone who is a “full-fledged member of the moral community” (Timmons 385). Warren believes that this community consists of all and only people that possess the ability to express the five qualities that were previously mentioned as opposed to all human beings that possess the genetic code of humanity. Being a member of this community entitles a person to have full moral rights, including the rights of life and happiness, which must be respected. Warren justifies that the five qualities are sufficient criteria of determining the apparent “personhood” of a being by stating that such principles of humanity would be used when attempting to study alien life forms on distant planets. Despite discernable differences in physiological and (potentially) cultural development, these alien beings may demonstrate enoug...


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... in terms of living or dying. By this logic, people in vegetative states should also have rights analogous to that of an infant at least. Many people practice or research medicine for the altruistic reasons and derive pleasure and a purpose in life by restoring the injured and sick to proper health. If a potential treatment can be developed by doctors and researchers to restore people in vegetative states to normal cognitive levels, it would be considered wrong to allow such a person to die because, like an infant, there exists the chance for them to develop an ability to function as long as research is continued to find a way to reverse such a condition.



Works Cited

Mill, John S. The Basic Writings of John Stuart Mill. New York, New York: Modern Library, 2002. Print.
Timmons, Mark. Disputed Moral Issues. New York, New York: Oxford University Press, 2011. Print.



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