Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics

The Philosopher's Corner

Michael Tooley on Possible People and Promising

Helga Kuhsea1

a1 Monash University, Melbourne, Australia

In Abortion and Infanticide, Michael Tooley argues that it is not wrong to destroy potential persons, such as fetuses and newly born infants. His argument presupposes the following: 1)that the destruction of potential persons is not directly wrong because potential persons do not have a right to life; 2)that destroying a potential person—a fetus or an infant—is morally the same as preventing the existence of an (as-yet-unconceived) possible person by, for example, using a contraceptive or refraining from, intercourse during a woman's fertile period; and 3)that it is not wrong to prevent the existence of additional persons who are likely to lead happy or satisfying lives. Here I am concerned with the third presupposition. On this presupposition, the prima facie permissibility of abortion and infanticide hinges on the “moral neutrality” of those of our reproductive decisions on which the existence of additional people depends.

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