Don Marquis s Innovative Approach to Abortion

By John Peters

Word Count: 1592

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debates between those who are pro-life and those who are pro-choice end with nothing accomplished. Marquis s thesis is supported by Kant s Categorical Imperative. though. Furthermore. Viability and sentience of fetuses are often hotly debated. Marquis explores this concise statement by defining murder and determining whether or not it applies to fetuses. Herein is where the first appeal to Marquis s theory lies. incest. In order to be universal. Why Abortion Is Immoral. and when the life of the mother is at risk) are analyzed and reanalyzed. he focuses on one claim: Abortion is murder. Don Marquis ventures away from the general arguments. Instead. He concludes that because fetuses have a distinctly human future. Though this seems fairly simple. a moral theory must be accessible to all. in his essay. one of the most highly regarded philosophies in modern times. 2 . killing them is immoral. but also the validation he receives from Kantian ethics is extremely appealing. Marquis claims that his beliefs are not purely a symptom of irrational religious dogma (109) but rather are based on philosophy and logic and that his thesis is applicable in a vast majority of abortion cases. it is a vital aspect of a moral theory. For some. it is a matter of life and death. None of his remarks are purely theological which few other prolife arguments can boast. Frequently. no particular religious affiliation is required to adhere to his thesis. it is an issue of freedom of choices regarding one s body. Not only is Marquis s straightforward and efficient approach to abortion attractive. and countless specific case studies (including rape. and for others. Don Marquis begins by countering one of the most common arguments against abortion: the rhetorical onslaught that the pro-life movement frequently receives from the opposition.Abortion is one of the most divisive issues of modern times.

Regularly. Each of these approaches appears to have a relatively equal likelihood of being true. stages in development are arbitrarily labeled as the moment of personhood. this is irrelevant. As opposed to deciphering different biological qualities of a fetus. the extent to which each group gets 3 . Even further along the spectrum. Each of these instances in a pregnancy has grounds as to why it could be the defining moment when person status is gained. Marquis chooses not to consider whether or not a fetus is a human. These vary from the time of conception to maintaining a heartbeat to feeling pain and to birth. Marquis instead determines the validity of the pro-life claim that abortion is murder. In order to do this. the murdered. inadvertently or not. one may choose to say that not until a fetus is birthed and no longer dependent on the mother s womb can it be truly called a person. to him. but he also discovers another error in personhood-centered arguments. cannot straightforwardly account for the wrongness of killing infants and young children (110). Pro-life supporters can claim that having forty-six chromosomes makes a person indeed a person. Murder is a multi-dimensional moral issue that negatively impacts the murderer. in regards to some standards (such as independence and social interaction).The greatest advantage of Marquis s moral theory is that it does not rely on the category of personhood (111). In order to determine the moral implications of murder. Marquis analyzes why he believes murder is wrong. This alone disturbs Marquis. and the significant others of the murdered. A more liberal-minded individual may believe that a fetus does not become a person until it can feel pain like most humans can. Marquis believes that no abortion theory should condone infanticide. Due to these complications. Marquis points out that personhood logic. Marquis decides to establish his own argument.

. but even so he believes there is a greater consequence. The ambiguity of the biological definition of person prevents these arguments from ever being definitive. there is what appears to be a significant weakness.affected must be evaluated. Consequently. Marquis starts by claiming that it is not the brutiliz[ing of] the one who kills that makes murder wrong (109). their questionable view on infanticide prevents these arguments from ever being universal. Because even though it is obvious that this is a negative impact. A man s future is the most precious thing that can be taken from him. Some may allege that Marquis s thesis implies that contraception is immoral: that the logic that follows for fetuses can also follow for sperm and eggs. based on the future like ours principle does not conflict with accepted beliefs on infanticide and does not rely on a vague definition. Marquis then furthers his argument by identifying that it is also not the loss others would experience due to our absence that makes killing ultimately wrong (109). Therefore. . Marquis addresses this in 4 . . Killing someone deprives him of all of which he currently values and enjoys and all of which he will come to value and enjoy later in life. primarily because the killing inflicts (one of) the greatest possible losses on the victim (109). it is not the most significant. These make Marquis s argument more effective and appealing. Marquis concludes that anyone with a future like ours deserves the right to live (110). killing a fetus is murder and abortion is immoral. It is clear to Marquis that this consequence outweighs the first. Marquis criticizes other abortion essays because they are often personhood-centered and consequently extremely crippled. According to Marquis. Marquis notes that his moral theory. killing is wrong. Despite the advantages to Marquis s argument.

Nothing at all is denied such a future by contraception. Certain philosophies have persisted through the years because people adhere to their principles. In regards to abortions that occur because the life of the mother is at risk. Others may have an issue with some of the specific. However. if a new proposal on an issue fails to find roots in a philosophy. less common abortions. . because there is no nonarbitrarily identifiable subject of the loss in the case of contraception (112). Therefore. He states . contraception is morally permissible by Marquis s standards. Because Marquis does not explicitly mention any exception in his rule. . Modern authors must substantiate their arguments with sound logic and support from the past in order for their work to be considered valid. Therefore. Marquis elaborates saying that there are millions of possible combinations prior to fertilization (111). but because the loss of the mother is as great as the loss of the fetus. there is no evidence that Marquis would be willing to declare abortions in the cases of rape and incest as morally permissible. it will also most likely fail to find roots in the contemporary society. abortion when the life of the mother is at stake is allowed. . the reader must assume that Marquis s future like ours theory still applies. only if the loss consequent on failing to abort would be at least as great [as the loss entailed in an abortion] (111). New ideas about moral issues are often rejected if the logic behind them is not supported by past. Marquis appears to believe that they are morally acceptable. 5 . The loss of the fetus is significant.his paper by saying. Because there is no entity to which you can assign moral standing. abortion could be justified in some circumstances. . there is no need to consider its rights. established schools of thought.

Marquis believes that it is a duty to prevent unnecessary killing ergo abortion is immoral. philosophers make exceptions for the morality of abortion in cases of incest and rape. Then. realizes that he has created an elementary theory of the wrongness of killing that fails to address some other moral dilemmas. but Marquis refuses to compromise his principles. Marquis uses this philosophy (without specifically mentioning it) to outline the immorality of abortion. The thesis that Marquis creates is consistent with Kantian principles. himself. Marquis s focused and poignant argument is one of the most powerful defenses of the pro-life movement. As Kant s Categorical Imperative demands. one can apply the Categorical Imperative to abortion.Marquis s logic in his essay holds parallels with Kant s Categorical Imperative and deontological ethics. Kant states that to be beneficent when we can is a duty (55). it does the task it is supposed to: it determines the morality of abortion. Each action performed must follow this imperative for it to be moral: Act only on that maxim whereby thou canst at the same time will that it should become a universal law (57). Marquis. He acknowledges that his theory may have implications for animal rights and euthanasia (and that those implications may be serious) but 6 . Unjustified killing is murder and is immoral in all situations. As previously explained. the law would necessarily destroy itself (56). but this does not faze him (110). using this definition that Marquis created. Though some may criticize it for its simplicity. Frequently. For if murder became universal law. Marquis begins his argument against abortion by defining murder. even on a universal scale. Marquis s assertions are unwavering. It is not the end result of an action that should be considered before behaving but rather the extent to which the action meets the Categorical Imperative.

Marquis s Why Abortion Is Immoral effectively establishes an accessible pro-life philosophy.claims that it is another matter to discuss these issues (110). and Marquis outlines a defense of the pro-life movement that is applicable in most situations. Backed by Kantian deontological ethics and thoroughly scrutinized argumentation. The focus of his thesis is abortion. 7 .

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