Symposium on Ronald Dworkin and abortion

Rights, intrinsic values and the politics of abortion

Linda Barclaya1

a1 La Trobe University, L.barclay@latrobe.edu.au


In Life's Dominion Ronald Dworkin argues that disagreement over the morality ofabortion is about how best to respect the intrinsic value of human life, rather than about foetal rights as many people mistakenly suppose. Dworkin argues that the state should be neutral indebates about intrinsic value and thus it should be neutral in the abortion debate. Through a consideration of the notion of intrinsic value, it is argued in this article that Dworkin'sargument fails. On the interpretation of ‘intrinsic value’ which Dworkin seems to favour, it is shown to be implausible that such a notion accounts for different views about the value of human life. On an alternative interpretation of ‘intrinsic value’ it is argued that the state is not usually neutral on such matters, and thus there is no reason why it should be in the case of abortion.