Killing Innocent Life


P1. It is always wrong to kill an innocent human being

P2. Every abortion kills an innocent human being

C. Therefore, abortion is always wrong


P1 is controversial as many believe that it is not necessarily wrong to kill an innocent human being if it would save more innocent human beings. Many also believe it is not necessarily immoral to kill an unborn baby if not doing so would kill the mother. So P1 must allow for exceptional circumstances.

The argument can be amended as follows:

P1. It is wrong to kill an innocent human being, unless it is an exceptional circumstance

P2. Every abortion kills an innocent human being

C. Therefore, abortion is always wrong, unless it is an exceptional circumstance

Exceptional circumstances related to abortion may be rape, incest or the potential risk of life to the mother.

OBJECTION: Thomson’s violinist objection

In 1971 philosopher Judith Jarvis Thomson famously posed the following thought experiment:

You wake up in the morning and find yourself back to back in bed with an unconscious violinist. A famous unconscious violinist. He has been found to have a fatal kidney ailment, and the Society of Music Lovers has canvassed all the available medical records and found that you alone have the right blood type to help. They have therefore kidnapped you, and last night the violinist’s circulatory system was plugged into yours, so that your kidneys can be used to extract poisons from his blood as well as your own. [If he is unplugged from you now, he will die; but] in nine months he will have recovered from his ailment, and can safely be unplugged from you.,Fall02/thomson.htm

The thought experiment is used as a defence of abortion in that it would be outrageous to assume that you cannot be unplugged from the violinist, in the same way it would be outrageous that a woman cannot be separated from the child through abortion.

There have been many responses to this thought experiment such as the following:

  • In the thought experiment you are kidnapped, so the only analogy with abortion would be in the case of rape
  • In the thought experiment, the violinist is a stranger whereas in abortion the other person is your own child to which you have responsibilities and obligations to
  • In the thought experiment, disconnecting from the violinist lets them die, whereas abortion intentionally kills the child

Each of these responses can allow the violinist to be disconnected yet not the child while others have rejected that the violinist should be disconnected at all.