Helms School of Government
abortion, united states, personhood, government, human rights
Human Rights Law | Law | Law and Philosophy
Buchanan, Jessica, "Defending the First Premise: Why Prenatal Life Is Not the Exception" (2023). Senior Honors Theses. 1307.
This thesis frames the abortion debate by dividing the pro-life position into two premises: that the government must protect human beings’ right to life, and that an unborn human organism is a human being. It briefly describes the proposition that the unborn are moral persons. It then proceeds to examine philosophical, legal, and practical objections to the first premise, concluding that if the unborn are established as human beings, the government must uphold their right to life. While this thesis is intended to argue in favor of restricting elective abortion, it does not put forth an opinion on what should be considered an elective abortion or how restrictions should be enforced.
Abortion’s moral status is not subjective; the government can and should legislate it. An unborn human being has the right to live in dependence on its mother, and abortion is not justified by the right to bodily autonomy or self-defense. The Roe v. Wade opinion provided weak support for a constitutional right to abortion. The Court has recognized its insufficient reasoning, and the case is no longer controlling law. Prohibiting abortion does not confer an affirmative duty to aid beyond the bounds of what is appropriate in law. While abortion is treated as a cultural panacea, its societal benefits are vastly overstated. Any positive impact of abortion cannot overcome the government’s duty to protect human rights. Like slavery, abortion is an unsalvageable institution that must end.