Encyclopedia of Reproductive Technologies

By Annette Burfoot | Go to book overview

twenty-two
Adoption and
Restrictions on
Abortion--Ethics

DAVID N. JAMES

Many have been struck by an apparent paradox: Abortion is freely available in most industrialized nations, but at the same time millions of infertile couples are seeking to adopt newborns. Some respond that coercive antiabortion laws should be enacted so that more infants become available for adoption. Such a proposal, however, falls short of satisfying norms of justice, utility, and liberty. George Schedler, a philosopher and lawyer, has argued that even if we set aside all appeals to their personhood or intrinsic value, fetuses still have instrumental value as precious "natural resources." Apart from their present value for embryo research, fetuses will eventually develop into infants who would be valued by infertile couples seeking to adopt. Society is justified in imposing coercive restraints on individual freedom to protect endangered species, forests, and other natural resources, so why not in this case also?

Schedler begins with a point made by Mary Anne Warren, a philosopher who wrote a classic defense of abortion in the 1970s. In a later postscript to this article, Warren ( 1988) investigated why late abortion is morally permissible, whereas infanticide is impermissible. According to Warren, the moral difference between killing late-term fetuses and killing newborns is that killing the latter, when there are couples eager to adopt, is like squandering a precious natural resource. But, Schedler says, Warren overlooks

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