Date of this Version
Judith Jarvis Thomson's 'A Defense of Abortion' was published in the first ever issue of "Philosophy and Public Affairs". It is quite likely that, not only is it the most widely reprinted and cited essay ever to appear in that journal, it is also one of the most influential academic essays ever to appear on the topic of abortion. Almost every serious discussion of abortion in Anglo-American philosophy has made some reference to the essay, and to Thomson's central argument in it, since the essay was first published. Perhaps more students have read, and so to some degree have been influenced by, Thomson's essay than any other on this topic. It was welcomed by some pro-choice advocates as an original and sound defense of the morality of at least many, though by no means all, cases of abortion. There was, however, something in it for anti-abortionists too. For, given its starting point (the assumption that a fetus is a human person), Thomson argues that many cases-perhaps most-are, in varying degrees, immoral. It is in view of recent legislation passed in South Dakota, along with the religious and political right's clamour for a near total ban on abortion that we wish to reread Thomson's essay.
This document has been peer reviewed.