Abortion is a controversial topic because there is an ongoing debate about whether or not it is morally permissible. In Don Marquis’s article, “Why Abortion Is Immoral,” he ultimately argues that it is immoral to kill fetuses for the same reason that it is wrong to kill adult humans. This reason is that ending any life deprives someone of a future and fetuses have a future like ours so it must be wrong to terminate them. I will reject Marquis’s view and argue that fetuses do not have a future like ours because they do not even have a conception of a future. Therefore, it is not the same as killing an adult human and it is morally permissible to terminate fetuses.
Marquis believes that both the anti-abortion and the pro-choice assumption is, if abortion is wrong then it is wrong because of the moral status of the fetus. Marquis claims that the two conflicting views rest on the question of whether or not a fetus is something whose life is morally wrong to end. He explains that the structure for the anti-abortion argument is if fetuses have feature F then it is morally wrong to terminate them. He then explains that the structure of the pro-choice argument is if fetuses do not have feature F then it is not morally wrong to terminate them. Marquis resolves this debate by claiming that feature F is a future, and killing, in general, is wrong because it deprives the victim of a future and enjoyment of life experiences. Therefore, Marquis believes that since it is wrong to kill an adult human because that would deprive them of a future, then it is wrong to terminate a fetus because fetuses have a future like ours.
I say that fetuses lack feature F, a future like ours, therefore it is not morally wrong to terminate them and there is a difference between terminating them and killing an adult human. Even though fetuses develop into viable beings with a future like ours, they themselves are not viable until they are born. Therefore, I believe that fetuses do not have a future like ours because they have no concept of what a future even is, or of what it would be like to be born and experience the enjoyments of life. In addition, I do not think that it is fair for Marquis to compare terminating a fetus to killing an adult human. I believe the main difference is that adult humans have feature F, a future like ours, therefore it is wrong to kill them. Adult humans actually have a concept of what a future is, and they can imagine the enjoyments in their lives that have yet to come, hence it would be unfair to deprive them of that. A fetus, on the other hand, does not have these concepts and cannot even live outside of the mother, therefore it is okay to terminate them. I believe that if Marquis claims that it is wrong to kill a fetus because it has a future like ours, then his view also implies that it is morally permissible to kill the very elderly. That is to say, people in nursing homes may not have a future like ours because they lack the ability to find value in their futures, so Marquis should agree that it is right to kill them. However, killing an adult human or the elderly would still not be morally permissible because, unlike fetuses, they have the concept of a future and what it would be like to be deprived of one.
Marquis might object by claiming that just because a fetus does not have the concept of a future, it does not mean that it does not have feature F, a future like ours. What matters is that it has the potential to have those concepts. Even though fetuses are not fully developed into viable beings, just having the ability to do so is enough to make terminating them immoral. Marquis could argue that saying it is okay to terminate a fetus because it does not have a concept of a future, is like saying it is okay to kill a baby because babies cannot imagine the enjoyments of their futures yet either. Also, babies cannot live without someone to take care of them just as much as a fetus cannot live outside of the mother’s body without her taking care of it, but it would still be immoral to kill a baby because babies have a future like ours. Just like babies and adult humans, fetuses will be able to enjoy the goodness of life if they are not terminated, just like how adult humans will be able to enjoy the goodness of their life if they are not killed. Marquis might add that the biological state by itself is not what makes terminating the fetus wrong, but rather the effect of the loss of the biological life, which is the effect of the loss of experiences and enjoyments of the future. In terms of killing the very elderly, Marquis might argue again that it does not matter whether or not they find value in their futures because having that future by itself is enough to make it immoral to kill them. Therefore, it does not matter if people like the elderly do not have the concept of a valuable future, because just like fetuses, having a future is what makes it wrong to deprive them of it.
I reply that just having the potential of a future like ours is not enough to prove that terminating a fetus is immoral, because I still believe that people must have a concept of their futures in order for it to be wrong to kill them. Marquis claims that it is not the biological state that matters but the effect of loss of that biological state. However, if a fetus does not have a concept of the effect of loss of a future then terminating it would not matter as much as killing an adult human who is aware of the effect of loss of a future. In terms of Marquis’s baby example, the difference between killing a baby and terminating a fetus is that a baby has already been born and is viable even though it needs the mother to take care of it. Even when a baby is firstborn, it cries due to the trauma of birth, hence it has concepts of its future when it will be able to sleep and eat. Unlike a fetus, even a baby has a concept of a future therefore it would be immoral to kill one. Moreover, Marquis’s claim that having a future alone is enough to make terminating a fetus immoral, could imply that it is morally wrong to use contraception and for males to masturbate. Sperm technically has the potential to have a future like ours because it can attach to an egg, become an embryo, then become a fetus. Since contraception prevents sperm from reaching the egg and there is no egg for the sperm to attach to after a male masturbates, the sperm is being deprived of creating a future like ours. Hence, Marquis should agree that contraception and masturbating are equivalent to terminating a fetus because these ideas prevent something from having a future.
Overall, Marquis makes a reasonable argument by structuring the pro-choice and anti-abortion arguments in a way where both sides are charitable. He just happens to believe that the anti-abortion argument is more reasonable because since fetuses have a future like ours, it is not morally permissible to terminate them. I, on the other hand, believe in the pro-choice argument that fetuses do not have a future like ours thus it must be morally permissible to terminate them.