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Home arrow Health arrow Arguments about abortion : personhood, morality, and law
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Conclusion

Ultimately, prohibiting SSA or FAA as part of an effort to combat sex or disability inequality may impose unfair burdens on individual women, as Williams contends. Such prohibitions would in effect require some women to submit themselves to significant harm in order to help rectify social attitudes for which they are not responsible. Moreover, it is clear that those harms will often be of a magnitude which would ordinarily justify abortion in generally permissive regulatory regimes, were they not linked to particular fetal characteristics—that is, they will pose nonnegligible risks to the woman’s wellbeing. For this reason, even someone who is persuaded by concerns such as the expressivist objection might well reach the conclusion that prohibiting selective abortion is not an appropriate means with which to counter prejudice against disadvantaged classes of people. Those concerned about sex equality in particular might also reach the conclusion, as some have, that any incursion into women’s reproductive rights is not likely to enhance women’s freedom more than it will curtail it. Those adopting this view will be particularly alarmed by indications that sex selection abortion prohibitions are intended by their supporters to pave the way to more general abortion prohibitions—indeed, the precise direction of Kaczor’s own argument.

But the end determinations about both cases will be invariably context-sensitive. That is, they will necessarily depend on all of the relevant approximations about the domain in question: the likely uptake of selective abortion, the strength of the existing class disadvantage, the correlation between the two, the burdensomeness of the prohibition on women, and whether general reproductive rights are robust enough to withstand some incursions. These are just the main considerations.

Importantly, though, it is entirely possible in principle for defenders of legal abortion to support prohibitive policies on either SSA or FAA on the ground of wider societal harms without ensnaring themselves in incoherence about the moral status of the fetus. Whether those harms really do obtain, or whether their avoidance is worth the restriction of women’s reproductive freedoms, is a discussion that will no doubt be on-going. Furthermore, any such discussion must be attuned to the potential that arguments both in favour of and against prohibition

3« ibid.

might apply to SSA and FAA alike. Justifying their differential treatment is not as straightforward as it might seem. In particular, both opponents and supporters of abortion rights may not, with consistency, be able to direct special moral opprobrium at SSA without making the same statements about FAA. All the same, though, philosophical opponents of abortion are simply in error to claim that there is anything theoretically inconsistent about defending abortion rights generally whilst arguing that there are good reasons to support exceptional restrictions on selective abortion.

 
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