Discussion Questions on Baruch Brody, "Opposition to Abortion: A Human Rights Approach"

1. At what stage in pregnancy does Brody believe that abortion should be morally permissible? What are his reasons? What do you think of his reasons?

2. In the rare case in which a pregnant woman will die if no abortion is performed, while the fetus will live if no abortion is performed, it would seem that the right to life of the fetus is no weightier than the woman's right to life. Indeed, if the right to life of the mother and the fetus balance one another, it would seem (as Thomson argues) that abortion should be permissible since the woman in addition has right to control what happens in her body. Yet Brody argues that in the case abortion is absolutely impermissible, that it is equivalent to murdering an innocent person. What is his argument? Do you think it is sound? If you think it is unsound, how would you criticize it.

3. Brody does, however, maintain that in a case where both the pregnant woman and the fetus would die if an abortion were not performed, then it is permissible to perform an abortion. Given his principles, can he consistently permit an abortion even in such a case? Can you construct an argument, using Brody's principles, against permitting an abortion even in this case? How could Brody respond to that argument?

4. Brody wants to distinguish sharply between (a) taking X's life and (b) refusing to save or continue sustaining X's life. Why? How important do you think this discussion is? How might it be relevant to Thomson's case of the unconscious violinist?

5. Suppose that an abortion is performed by inducing labor. Should such an abortion be described as taking the life of the fetus or as refusing to sustain X's life?

6. Does Brody believe that A's killing B in self-defense can be justified when B is not unjustly attempting to take A's life? Does he believe that carrying out an abortion in a case in which the mother will die if the abortion is not carried out can be justified as killing in self-defense?

7. Brody believes that whether a pregnancy results from rape is irrelevant to whether abortion is morally permissible. Why? Can you think of a way to defend a "moderate" pro-life position that makes abortion illegal except when the woman has been raped or when the woman would otherwise die?

8. Many people who hold a pro-life position would permit abortion in the case of incest. How can this be justified?