Internet Resources on Abortion
- Gonzales v. Planned Parenthood. (2006, 5-4,upheld the ban on partial-birth abortion)
- Gonzales v. Carhart (2006, 5-4, upheld the Congressional Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act against charges that it is unconstitutionally vague and imposes an undue burden on the pregnant woman)
Leila, et al. v. Colorado, et al. 98-1856. ( 2000, 6-3, upheld a Colorado ban to prevent abortion protesters from approaching women going into an abortion clinic)
- Stenberg v. Carhart (2000, 5-4, struck down a Nebraska ban on partial-birth abortions)
v. Pro-Choice Network of Western New York (1997)
et al. v. Women's Health Center (1994, prohibited abortion protesters from interfering with the running of a Florida abortion clinic and with the private lives of the clinic's staff; it affirmed the right to protest in ways that did not interfere in these ways, including the right to picket on the sides and backs of abortion clinics)
Parenthood v. Casey (1992, 5-4, introduced standard of whether laws impose an "undue burden" on the pregnant woman, allowing numerous restrictions in Pennsylvania's Abortion Control Act)
- Rust v. Sullivan (1991, 5-4, upheld federal restriction against abortion counseling and referrals in clinics that receive federal funding, thereby upholding the 1984 Reagan "gag rule." Obama struck down the "gag Rule" in early 2009, after it had been rescinded by Clinton and then Resurrected by Bush).
v. Reproductive Health Services (1989, 5-4, upheld state ban on use of state resources to facilitate abortions)
- Thornburgh v. American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists (1986, 5-4, struck down Pennsylvania law requiring women to listen to a speech designed to persuade them not to have an abortion)
- City of Akron v. Akron Center for Reproductive Health and Planned Parenthood v. Ashcroft (1983, decided on same day, struck down a number of Akron restrictions on minors and abortion and struck down a Missouri law requiring second trimester abortions be done in a hospital, but upheld requirement that minors get permission from either parents or a judge)
- Harris v. McRae (1980, 5-4, upheld the Hyde amendment and maintained that there was no necessity for the federal government to pay for abortions for indigent women)
- Maher v. Roe, Beal v. Doe, and Poelker v. Doe (1977, all dealing with the public funding of abortion and allowing states greater latitude in restricting funding and encouraging motherhood over abortion; all decided on the same day)
- Belotti v. Baird (1976, 1979, 8-1, struck down state laws requiring minors to get consent from parents)
- Planned Parenthood of Central Missouri v. Danforth (1976, struck down Missouri requirements that required consent of spouse or--for minors--parents.)
v. Wade (1973, 7-2, struck down a Texas law outlawing abortion except in cases where it was necessary to save the mother's life; also stated that 14th Ammendment guarantees to a "person" do not include the unborn; establishyed trimester schema)
v. Baird (1972, 6-1,established privacy right for non-married couples in regard to controceptive information)
v. Connecticut (1965, established right to privacy for married couples and their freedom from government intrusion--a foundation upon which Roe v. Wade would rest eight years later)
Legislative Documents Relating to Abortion
If you want to see recent and current (including pending) legislation on
abortion (including late term abortions), enter that search
term in Thomas, the legislative search engine
To see congressional hearings, etc. on partial-birth
abortions, click here
and then type in the search term "partial birth abortion." Set the
maximum number of items to 500 and search "All sections."
Papal Documents Relating to Abortion
Web Sites Relating to Abortion
In addition to the resources mentioned above, there are links available to
a number of both "pro-life" and "pro-choice" pages. Among
the more helpful are:
Searching for the Latest Popular Articles on Abortion
Memorial rites for the spirits of departed fetuses
Notable On-Line Full Text Articles Relating to Abortion
- Steven Schwartz,
The Moral Question of Abortion. (Loyola University Press, 1990). Full
text of entire book.
- Judith Jarvis Thomson, "A Defense of Abortion," Philosophy & Public Affairs, Vol. 1, no. 1 (Fall 1971). Probably the most reprinted article by a philosopher on abortion, and one that generated numerous responses.
- Judith Jarvis Thomson, "Abortion," The Boston Review Vol. XX, No. 3, (Summer 1995),
- Replies by
Philip L. Quinn, Donald Regan, Douglas Laycock, Drucilla Cornell, Peter de
Marneffe, and a rejoinder by Judith Jarvis Thomson.
- Elizabeth Harman,
"The Potentiality Problem",' Philosophical Studies, May 2003. Abstract, Paper.
Harman argues that "potentiality has a particular significance that affects
the way that human babies matter morally, but does not affect the way that early
human embryos matter morally."
- Elizabeth Harman, "Creation Ethics: The Moral Status of Early Fetuses and the Ethics of Abortion," Philosophy and Public Affairs, Fall 199.: Abstract, Paper.
- Elizabeth Harman, "Sacred Mountains and Beloved Fetuses: Can Loving or Worshipping Something Give It Moral Status?" Philosophical Studies, March 2007. Abstract, Paper.
- Steven Darwall, "Abortion: Lecture Notes." Part I,
- Ronald Dworkin, "Objectivity
and Truth: You'd Better Believe It."
- Frank Bouchier-Hayes, "Minerva:
Philosophers on Abortion and Infanticide"
- Kelly L Ross, "Abortion"
- Peter Suber, "Against
the Sanctity of Life"
- Maureen Paul, "Abortion's
Past: A Review of Doctors of Conscience: The Struggle to Provide Abortions
Before and After Roe v. Wade, by Carole Joffe." The Boston Review.
Rights Leader Urges End to 'Half Truths'."
- Diane M. Gianelli,
AMNews staff - American Medical News. March 3, 1997.
Abortion's Middle Ground: Why My Pro-Life Allies Should Revise Their Self-Defeating
- Frederica Mathewes-Green
- Washington Post, Sunday, July 28 1996; Page C01.
This article is adapted from a talk the author gave May 31 in Madison, Wis.,
at the first national conference of the Common Ground Network for Life and Choice,
an organization of antiabortion activists and abortion-rights supporters who
are seeking new ways to discuss their differences. Also see her, "The
Bitter Price of 'Choice'.
- Robert Bork, "Inconvenient
Copyright (c) 1996 First Things 68 (December 1996): 9-13.
Francis J. Beckwith, Abortion (Politically Correct Death)
- Articles from Libertarians
for Life, including Abortion
and Thomson's Violinist: Unplugging a Bad Analogy
- John Jefferson Davis, Abortion
and the Christian: What Every Believer Should Know.
- Sidney and David Callahan,
the Stereotype "
- Sallyann Roth, Margaret Herzig, Richard Chasin,
Laura Chasin, Carol Becker, "Across
the Chasm." The Boston Public Conversations Project. On having meaningful dialogue in highly polarized situations.
NPR's "Talk of the Nation"
Life After Abortion Host: Melinda Penkava Guests:Dana
Dovich *Co-author, The Healing Choice (a Fireside Book published
by Simon & Schuster, 1997), *Psychotherapist in private practice in
Los Angeles, specializing in reproductive health, post-abortion conflict,
stress, trauma, and other women's issues. Description:
The never ending argument over abortion is wrapped in a contentious web
of moral, religious, and political concerns. But even for the most ardently
pro-choice, the decision to abort can be excruciating-- and while some may
feel a sense of relief after the procedure, for others, feelings of regret,
shame, or anger may creep in over time. Join Melinda Penkava and guests
for a look at life after abortion. October
Down ; Guests: Mohammed
N. Akhter, MD, MPH Executive Director, American Public Health Association
(Washington, DC) Former Senior Advisor, U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services
in the Agency of Health Care, Policy and Research (1994-1996) Former Washington,
DC Commissioner of Public Health Rita J. Simon,
Distinguished Professor of Public Affairs and Law, American University,
Washington, DC Author, Abortion: Statutes, Policies and Public Attitudes
the World Over  February
Do Extremes Control the Debate? October
Roe V. Wade
Host: Ray Suarez Guests:
Cynthia Gorney Author, Articles of Faith: A
Frontline History of the Abortion Wars [Simon and Schuster, 1998], Former
reporter, The Washington Post (1975-1991); David Garrow
International Family Planning . Guests:
Sara Seims Assistant Director,
Population Science Division at the Rockefeller Foundation
Marty Dannenfelser, Head of the Government Relations Department, Family
Research Council; Victoria Markell Vice-President and Director, Political
Affairs for Population Action International Member, U.S. Delegation to the International
Conference on Population and Development, 1994 February
Author, Liberty and Sexuality: The Right to Privacy and the Making of Roe
v. Wade [Macmillian, 1994],
Professor, Emory University School of Law; Janet Benshoof
Executive Director, Center for Reproductive Freedom; James
Bopp General Counsel, National Right to Life Committee. Description:
It's been 25 years since the Supreme Court legalized abortion with the ruling
in Roe versus Wade. Though legal, abortion has remained a highly controversial
issue, having moral implications on American politics, legislation, and religion.
Join host Ray Suarez for a discussion about the impact of Roe v. Wade, the history
of the anti-abortion and pro-choice movements, and the evolution of abortion
services. January 26, 1998
Partial Birth Abortion Debate March 05,1997
(with Terri Gross) interview
with Art Caplan and James McCartney on the 25th anniversary of Roe v.
Wade, including a discussion of viability.
Hugh LaFollette's "Ideas
A Bibliographical Survey of Philosophical Literature on Abortion
Biliographical essays are drawn
from Lawrence M. Hinman, Contemporary
For a comprehensive bibliographical guide, see Diane E. Fitzpatrick, A History
of Abortion in the United States: A Working Bibliography of Journal Articles
(Monticello, IL: Vance Bibliographies, 1991). For excellent surveys of the philosophical
issues, see Mary Anne Warren, "Abortion," in A Companion to Ethics,
edited by Peter Singer (Oxford: Blackwell, 1991), pp. 303-314, and Nancy (Ann)
Davis, "Abortion," Encyclopedia of Ethics, edited by Lawrence
C. Becker and Charlotte B. Becker (New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1992),
Vol. I, pp.2-6. For demographic data, see Paul Sachdev, International Handbook
on Abortion (New York: Greenwood Press, 1988).
Anthologies and Books
There are a number of excellent anthologies of selections dealing solely with
the issue of abortion. The Problem of Abortion, 2nd ed., edited by Joel
Feinberg (Belmont, California: Wadsworth Publishing Company, 1984) contains
a number of important pieces covering a wide range of positions, as does The
Ethics of Abortion: Pro-Life vs. Pro-Choice, edited by Robert M. Baird and
Stuart E. Rosenbaum (Buffalo: Prometheus Books, 1989). Lewis M. Schwartz's Arguing
about Abortion (Belmont, California: Wadsworth Publishing Company, 1993)
not only contains a number of important essays, but also (a) provides a well-done
introduction to reconstructing and evaluating argumentative discourse and (b)
offers an outline and analysis of six of the essays contained in the anthology.
Abortion: Moral and Legal Perspectives, edited by Jay L. Garfield and
Patricia Hennessey (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1984) contains
several new essays as well as reprints of some previously pieces. Also see Marshall
Cohen, Thomas Nagel, and Thomas Scanlon, eds., Rights and Wrongs of Abortion
(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1974) and John T. Noonan, Jr., ed.,
The Morality of Abortion: Legal and Historical Perspectives (Cambridge:
Harvard University Press, 1970). The anthology Abortion: Understanding Differences,
edited by Sidney Callahan and Daniel Callahan (Plenum Press, 1984) contains
a number of perceptive essays. For an excellent selection of both philosophical
and popular articles, see Abortion: Opposing Viewpoints, edited by Charles
P. Cozic and Stacey L. Tripp (San Diego, CA: Greenhaven Press, 1991). Among
the many excellent books on this issue, see L. W. Sumner, Abortion
and Moral Theory (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1981) for a carefully-reasoned
moderate view on the permissibility of abortion. Rosiland Hursthouse's Beginning
Lives (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1987) includes a perceptive account of the
issue of abortion. John T. Noonan, Jr., who represents a conservative Catholic
view, has several books on this issue, including How to Argue About Abortion
(New York, 1974) and A Private Choice: Abortion in America in the Seventies
(New York: The Free Press, 1979); Germain G. Grisez's Abortion: The Myths,
the Realities, and the Arguments (New York: Corpus Books, 1970) also argues
for a strongly conservative view. Baruch Brody's Abortion and the Sanctity
of Human Life: A Philosophical View (Cambridge, Mass.: The M.I.T. Press,
1975) defends a fairly conservative view, arguing that the fetus becomes a person
when brain activity begins. Michael Tooley's Abortion and Infanticide
(Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1983) presents some controversial arguments in support
of abortion and situates the issue within the larger context of infanticide
and the killing of non-human animals. Bonnie Steinbock's Life Before Birth:
The Moral and Legal Status of Embryos and Fetuses (New York: Oxford, 1992)
concentrates primarily on the isue of the status of embryos and fetuses, while
F. M. Kann's Creation and Abortion (New York: Oxford, 1992) develops
a broader theory of creating new people responsibility, and explores the issue
of abortion within this context. Also see Stephen D. Schwarz, The Moral Question
of Abortion (Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1990).
Among philosophers, there are several key essays that have set the stage
for the philosophical discussion of abortion. The most reprinted essay in contemporary
philosophy is probably Judith Jarvis Thomson's "A Defense of Abortion,"
which originally appeared in the inaugural issue of Philosophy and Public
Affairs, Vol. 1, No. 1 (Fall, 1971), pp. 47-66 and is reprinted in her Rights,
Restitution, & Risk: Essays in Moral Theory (Cambridge; Harvard Univesity
Press, 1986)-which also contains her "Rights and Deaths," a reply
to several critics of her initial essay--and in both the Feinberg and the Schwartz
anthologies cited above. Thomson's article has elicited a number of replies;
one of the more recent and insightful of these is John Martin Fisher, "Abortion
and Self-Determination," Journal of Social Philosophy, Vol. XXII,
No. 2 (Fall, 1991), pp. 5-13. John T. Noonan, Jr.'s "An Almost Absolute
Value in History," is also widely reprinted (including in Noonan's The
Morality of Abortion, cited above) and is a strong, classic statement of
the conservative view. Joel Feinberg's "Abortion," in Matters of
Life and Death, edited by Tom Regan (New York: Random House, 1980), pp.
183-217 is a careful and nuanced discussion of the question of the moral status
of the fetus. Roger Werthheimer's "Understanding the Abortion Argument,"
Philosophy and Public Affairs, Vol. 1, No. 1 (Fall, 1971), pp. 67-95
presents strong arguments for a fairly conservative view. Mary Anne Warren's
"On the Moral and Legal Status of Abortion," The Monist, Vol.
57 (1973) argues for a strongly liberal position, maintaining that the fetus
is not a person. For background on the principle of double effect, see
Joseph T. Mangan, "An Historical Analysis of the Principle of Double Effect,"
Theological Studies, Vol. 10 (1949), pp. 41-61. G. E. M. Anscombe's "Modern
Moral Philosophy," Philosophy, Vol. 33 (1958), pp. 26-42, raises
important questions about the distinction between intended consequences and
forseen consequences. Phillipa Foot expresses doubts about the moral significance
of this distinction in her article, "Abortion and the Doctrine of Double
Effect," in her Virtues and Vices and Other Essays (Berkeley: University
of California Press, 1978), pp. 19-32. For a short survey of the philosophical
issues surrounding this principle, see William David Solomon, "Double Effect,"
Encyclopedia of Ethics, edited by Lawrence C. Becker and Charlotte B. Becker
(New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1992), Vol. I, pp. 268-69.
On women's experiences with the abortion decision, see Carol Gilligan, In
a Different Voice (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1982), which contains
in-depth interviews with young women who have faced the abortion decision. Linda
Bird Francke's The Ambiguity of Abortion (New York: Random House, 1978)
is an excellent source of interviews with women of all ages who have had abortions.
Martha Bolton's "Responsible Women and Abortion Decisions," in
Having Children: Philosophical and Legal Reflections (New York: Oxford University
Press, 1979), pp. 40-51 places the decision within the context of the narratives
of individual women's lives. For collections of narratives about abortion, see
The Choices We Made: Twenty-five Women and Men Speak Out About Abortion,
edited by Angela Bonavoglia (New York: Random House, 1991). For a fascinating
portrait of individuals involved on all sides of the abortion controversy, see
Faye D. Ginsburg, Contested Lives: The Abortion Debate in an American Community
(Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989). Also see Denise Winn, Experiences
of Abortion (London: Macdonald & Co., 1988) and Ellen Messer and Kathryn
E. May, Back Rooms: Voices from the Abortion Era (New York: Simon &
Schuster, 1988) and The Voices of Women: Abortion, in Their Own Words (Washington,
DC: National Abortion Rights Action League, 1989).
Abortion and the Law
On Roe v. Wade, see especially David J. Garrow, Liberty and Sexuality.
The Right to Privacy and the Making of Roe v. Wade (New York: Macmillan,
1994). For a broader history, see Mary Ann Glendon, Abortion and Divorce
in Western Law (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1987).
On Finding a Common Ground
Several recent contributions to the search for common ground in the abortion
discussion are Laurence H. Tribe, Abortion: The Clash of Absolutes (New
York: Norton, 1992); Roger Rosenblatt, Life Itself (New York: Vintage
Books, 1992) Ronald Dworkin, Life's Dominion: An Argument about Abortion,
Euthanasia, and Individual Freedom (New York: Knopf, 1993); and Elizabeth
Mensch and Alan Freeman, The Politics of Virtue. Is Abortion Debatable?
(Durham: Duke University Press, 1993). For an excellent review of Tribe's book,
see Nancy (Ann) Davis, "The Abortion Debate: The Search for Common Ground,"
Ethics, Vol. 103, No. 3 (April, 1993), pp. 516-539 and Vol. 103, No. 4 (July,
1993), 731-78. For a discussion of abortion within the general context of a
theory of compromise, see Martin Benjamin, Splitting the Difference: Compromise
and Integrity in Ethics and Politics (Lawrence, Kansas: University of Kansas
Press, 1990), esp. pp. 151-71.
Earl Conee, "Metaphysics and the morality of Abortion",
Mind 1999. Argues that metaphysics has no importance for our views about abortion.
Timothy Chappell, "Reply to Conee", Mind 2000. Contests Conee's argument.
Timothy Chappell, Understanding Human Goods (Edinburgh UP/ Columbia UP 1998):
Chs.3-4 discusses personhood and abortion, arguing (1) that all human animals
are persons, (2) that there is a moral absolute protecting the lives of persons,
(3) that foetuses are human animals, and so (4) that there is a moral absolute
protecting the lives of foetuses.
David Oderberg, Applied Ethics (Blackwell, 2000): chapter 1 is a new and forceful
statement of a strongly pro-life position on abortion.
Selected Recent Philosophical Literature on Abortion
- Jose Luis Bermudez, "The
Moral Significance of Birth," Ethics, Vol, 106, No. 2 (January,
1996), pp. 378-403.
- Jim Stone, "Abortion as Murder?: A Response," Journal of Social
Philosophy, Vol. 26, No. 1 (Spring, 95), 129-146.
- Edward S. Shirley, "Marquis' Argument Against
Abortion: A Critique," Southwest Philosophy Review, Vol. 11, No.
1 (January, 1995), pp. 79-89.
- Don Marquis, "Justifying the Rights of Pregnancy: The Interest View,"
Criminal Justice Ethics, Vol. 13, No. 1 (Winter-Spring 94), pp. 67-81.
- Elisabeth Porter, "Abortion Ethics: Rights and Responsibilities,"
Hypatia, Vol. 9, No. 3 (Summer, 1994), pp. 66-87.
- Laurie J. Shrage, Moral
Dilemmas of Feminism: Prostitution, Adultery, and Abortion
(New York: Routledge, 1994).
- Kathie Jenni, "Dilemmas in Social Philosophy: Abortion and Animal Rights,"
Social Theory and Practice, Vol. 20, No. 1 (Spring 94), pp. 59-83.
- Louis P. Pojman and Francis J. Beckwith, eds., The Abortion Controversy:
A Reader (Boston: Jones & Bartlett, 1994)
- Warren Quinn, Morality and Action (New York: Cambridge University
- Jeff McMahan, "The Right to Choose an Abortion," Philosophy
and Public Affairs, Vol. 22, No. 4 (Fall, 1993), pp. 331-348
- William LaFleur, Liquid
Life: Abortion and Buddism in Japan,
(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992). See the
review in The Journal of Buddhist Ethics
by Charles Prebish and Damien Keow.
Recent Popular Literature on Abortion
Mary Gordon has several interesting essays relating to abortion, including
"Abortion: How Do We Think about It?" and "Abortion:
How Do We Really Choose?", both of which are to be found in her Good
Boys and Dead Girls and Other Essays (New York: Viking, 1991), pp. 128-37,
138-47, respectively. Also see in that same volume her journal entries on "Having
a Baby, Finishing a Book," pp. 215-221. The "How Do We Really Choose?"
piece is particularly interesting, beginning with an account of a number of
women recalling abortions from their youth. Powerful and provocative.
Lisa Belkin, "Kill for Life?" The New York Times Magazine,
(October 30, 1994), Section 6, pp. 47 ff. and Verlyn Klinkenborg, "Violent
Certainties: Abortion Politics in Milwaukee, Wisconsin," Harper's Magazine,
Vol. 289; No. 1736 (January, 1995), pp. 37 ff.
- Two interesting and nuanced portraits of abortion protesters.
Naomi Wolf, "Our Bodies, Our Souls: Rethinking Pro-choice Rhetoric."
The New Republic, Vol. 213 ; No. 16 (October 16, 1995), pp. 26 ff.
A very interesting and thought-provoking article by the author of The Beauty
Myth, who maintains "that we need to contextualize the fight to defend
abortion rights within a moral framework that admits that the death of a fetus
is a real death; that there are degrees of culpability, judgment and responsibility
involved in the decision to abort a pregnancy; that the best understanding of
feminism involves holding women as well as men to the responsibilities that
are inseparable from their rights; and that we need to be strong enough to acknowledge
that this country's high rate of abortion--which ends more than a quarter of
all pregnancies--can only be rightly understood as what Dr. Henry Foster was
brave enough to call it: "a failure."
Naomi Wolf, "Pro-Choice and Pro-Life." New York Times,
Op-Ed., April 3, 1997. Wolf asks, "What if we called abortion what many
believe it to be: a failure, whether that failure is of technology, social support,
education, or male and female responsibility?"
Suggestions for Discussion Questions and Term Paper Topics
Late Term Abortions
- In recent months, there has been intense debate in Congress over the morality
and legality of late term abortions, especially those that involve the active
killing of a partially-born fetus that might have been able to survive on
its own. At what point does the fetus become a person? To what extent does
your answer to this question affect your position on late term abortions?
Abortion Clinic Protests
- In the eyes of many, abortion clinic protests--and especially those that
end in the injury or murder of abortion providers--are profoundly upsetting.
To what extent are these protests justified if the fetus is a person
with the same rights as, say, a newborn infant? Are those who protest so strongly
acting in a way that is consistent with their beliefs?
How Do We Change Society?
- Many people--including those who do not think that abortion involves the
killing of a human being--espouse the goal of a society in which abortion
is at least rare. Some see increasing legal restrictions on abortion as the
most effective means to that goal, but others doubt the wisdom of that approach.
What are the possible courses of action that will help to reduce the number
of abortions in the United States? How do you see these various courses of
action being combined into a coherent approach to the issue of abortion?
Are Some People Too Old to Become Parents?
- With the development of new reproductive technologies, it is now possible
for women to become pregnant even after menopause. Are some people too old
to become parents? In the past, men could father children late in their own
lives; now women in their fifties can bear children--and a few already have.
Should their be any restrictions on the age at which people can become parents?
Should these restrictions be gender-neutral? What kind of restrictions should
they be--general moral prohibitions, or should they have some legal or financial
sanction? For a discussion of this issue, see "Are
Some Parents Too Old?"
New Birth Control Developments
Recently, researchers have raised the possibility of developing a birth
control vaccine--medication that prevents the process of conception from
beginning at all. What is the morality of using such birth control methods
that do not allow the process of conception to begin in the first place? Are
there any moral reasons for hesitating to use such methods? Are there any
moral reasons for requiring such methods?