Judith Jarvis Thompson, an eminent philosopher from MIT, has written the most widely cited article of all those ever written about abortion. She likens the fetus to a trespasser. Suppose you wake up in bed next to a famous violinist who is (innocently) connected to your kidney, through a sort of umbilical cord, without which he will die. What rights does he have? What obligations do you have? Using this brilliant analogy to pregnancy, she sheds light on the abortion controversy.
The method used in the present paper is to widely quote Thompson’s (1971) essay, and then to distinguish it from a libertarian analysis of the pro-choice, and pro-life positions on abortion.
The present essay is an attempt to distinguish Thompson (1971) from a libertarian analysis of abortion. I offer a third alternative: evictionism. Here, the mother may evict the fetus from the womb at any time she wishes, since she is the sole owner of the “terrain.” She has private property rights over her own body.
Although there are some strong parallels between the two approaches, there are also important differences. Thompson (1971), then, is not entirely congruent with the libertarian philosophy. To wit, she fails to recognize the libertarian insight that abortion is actually a complex act, consisting of two parts, one licit, the other illicit. The first is eviction of the fetus from the mother. The second constitutes murdering the fetus, when mere eviction could separate the two. However, her violinist example is congruent with this philosophy.
Walter E. Block,
Judith Jarvis Thomson on Abortion; a Libertarian Perspective,
DePaul J. Health Care L.
Available at: http://via.library.depaul.edu/jhcl/vol19/iss1/3