Sunday, June 26, 2022

Early and Later Abortions: Ethics and Law

Early and Later Abortions: Ethics and Law

Early Abortions Are Not Wrong, Late Abortions Could Be Wrong,
but probably All Abortions Should Be Legal

In Bob Fischer, ed., Ethics, Left and Right: The Moral Issues That Divide Us (Oxford University Press, 2019). For a reply to the "opposing side" essay, see my (9/26/18) "Reply to Christopher Tollefsen on Abortion"

Note: this chapter led to this short book: Thinking Critically About Abortion at

Nathan Nobis; Philosophy, Morehouse College;

Draft 7/31/18 ; Google docAlso available at and Dropbox


Most abortions occur early in pregnancy. I argue that these abortions, and so most abortions, are not morally wrong and that the best arguments given to think that these abortions are wrong are weak. I also argue that these abortions, and probably all abortions, should be legal.

I begin by observing that people sometimes respond to the issue by describing the circumstances of abortion, not offering reasons for their views about those circumstances; I then dismiss “question-begging” arguments about abortion that merely assume the conclusions they are given to support; most importantly, I evaluate many arguments: both common, often-heard arguments and arguments developed by philosophers.

My defense of abortion is based on facts about early fetuses’ not yet possessing consciousness or any mental life, awareness or feeling, as well as concerns about rights to one’s own body.