Abortion and Virtue Ethics

Posted on May 22, 2012 by

32


According to Rosalind Hursthouse, an action is right (from a Virtue Ethical perspective)  if and only if it is what the virtuous agent would do in the same circumstances.

Now, let us consider the case of pregnancy. When considering if one should abort or keep their child, and, under the guise of the above mentioned framework, when would abortion be the “right action” when compared to alternative actions? If one thinks that the fetus is not deserving of moral consideration or does not have any moral worth that’s one thing and a very different sort of debate, but, if we make the assumption that Judith Jarvis Thompson does in her seminal work “A Defense of Abortion” and assume the fetus is a  person, or that the fetus ought to be morally considered (for the sake of argument) then when can the Virtue Ethicist claim that aborting the fetus is the right action when other options like adoption or parenting the child yourself are available? What Virtues would be adhered to in order to claim that abortion is the right choose when compared to competing alternatives?

I don’t think the Virtue Ethicist will have the option to abort (at least in most cases), and, even if we argue that the Hursthouse definition of right action as stated above (I’ve argued elsewhere that we should) is faulty, I do not see how the Virtue Ethicist could claim that abortion is the right action (only when starting with the assumption that the fetus has moral value, or is a person). Thoughts?

–Justin