Ira W. DeCamp Bioethics Seminars
ABSTRACT: I will begin by arguing that there is no substantial moral difference between an abortion and preventing a person from coming into existence. Then I will note that the arguments that support this claim also seem to imply that the infliction of prenatal injury is morally no different from causing a less well-off person to exist rather than causing or allowing a different, better-off person to come into existence. The obvious objection to this latter claim, however, is that, whereas abortion may not frustrate any significant interest of the fetus, prenatal injury will frustrate many important interests that the person who develops from the fetus will later have. I will argue, however, that in many cases this is unlikely to be true and that the reasons why this is so support the initial claim about the infliction of prenatal injury. This compels us to investigate the nature and strength of the moral reason to cause better-off people to exist rather than different, less well-off people.
Jeff McMahan is Sekyra and White’s Professor of Moral Philosophy at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of Corpus Christi College. He is the author of The Ethics of Killing: Problems at the Margins of Life (Oxford University Press, 2002) and Killing in War (OUP, 2009). He is currently writing a book, The Ethics of Creating, Preserving, and Ending Lives, which will also be published by OUP.
Melinda Roberts, Professor in the Department of Philosophy, Religion and Classical Studies at The College of New Jersey, will respond.
Audience: Free and Open to the Public. Registration is required to attend via Zoom.