Creation and Abortion: A Study in Moral and Legal Philosophy

Creation and Abortion: A Study in Moral and Legal Philosophy

Creation and Abortion: A Study in Moral and Legal Philosophy

Creation and Abortion: A Study in Moral and Legal Philosophy


Presenting a new argument, this book attacks the view that if a fetus has the moral standing of a person it has a right to life and abortion is impermissable. Most discussion of abortion has assumed that this premise is correct, and so has focused on the question of the personhood of the fetus. Kamm, however, argues that abortion can be moral even if the fetus is indeed a person. Kamm begins by examining the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision, and considers whether the potential to become a person should protect the fetus from abortion. After presenting the case for killing persons in non-abortion contexts, she goes on to apply this argument to the case of abortion, and offers a detailed consideration of the differences between the two cases, focusing in particular on the significance of pregnancy as a natural phenomenon that occurs to only one of the two sexes. Kamm develops here own argument defending the morality of abortion, which emerges as part of a broader theory of creating new people responsibly. In a concluding chapter, she explores the implications of her argument for informed consent to abortion; responsibilities in pregnancy that is not aborted, and the significance of extra-uterine gestation devices for the permissibility of abortion.


This is a philosophical examination of certain issues of applied ethics, based on my more theoretical work Morality, Mortality. Here I deal primarily with the moral issue of abortion, as well as self-defense, euthanasia, and pregnancy. This book began as a relatively short section of Morality, Mortality, but when that book grew beyond a reasonable size, the short section was cut and became this book. Derek Parfit, the editor of the series in which Morality, Mortality is to appear, kindly permitted me to publish the material separately.

This book was prompted by my attempt to understand and modify Judith Thomson's most important discussion of abortion, A Defense of Abortion. Her discussion is irreplaceable and unique. It was kind of her to encourage my project.

I have benefited from the helpful suggestions regarding recent versions of this book given to me by Derek Parfit, Thomas Scanlon, Judith Thomson, Shelly Kagan, Dennis Thompson, Bruce Ackerman, Jonathen Bennett, Tony Kronman, Michael Stocker, Owen Fiss, Richard Fallon, Seana Shiffrin, and those others who are credited in footnotes. Kagan made especially detailed remarks on organization. I thank Ronald Dworkin and Lawrence Sager for insightful discussions. Many years ago I wrote a paper on abortion for a class of Robert Nozick's, whose help I then greatly appreciated.

I am indebted to Thomas Nagel for his continuing support and encouragement and the intellectual standards he sets.

I also would like to thank Drs. Kenneth Ryan and Rapin Osathanondh, as well as the staff and patients, for making possible my observation of abortions at Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital.

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.