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Abortion Article Summaries Notes

Updated Abortion Article Summaries Notes

Medical Law Notes

Medical Law

Approximately 1067 pages

Medical Law notes fully updated for recent exams at Oxford and Cambridge. These notes cover all the LLB medical law cases and so are perfect for anyone doing an LLB in the UK or a great supplement for those doing LLBs abroad, whether that be in Ireland, Hong Kong or Malaysia (University of London).

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NOTE: Kate Greasley’s Arguments About Abortion has some pretty good arguments and critiques!! About various abortion arguments!!


  • I strongly agree with Greasley’s views about a capacity-based conception of personhood, and her adoption of Warren’s five cluster criteria

    • And also her views that even if the foetus and young infant is not a person, it can still be deeply immoral to harm them

  • I also strongly agree that foetuses have interests independently of their personhood

  • I think we can act immorally by aborting even if the foetus is not a person!

    • For instance late term abortions – they seem to show a callous disregard for human life, and that is why we consider it so immoral (I think)

    • Another similar example is abortion for trivial reasons (e.g. because you wake up one day and want to take a trip overseas, and can’t do so because your belly is too big)

Kate Greasley and Christopher Kaczor, Abortion Rights: For and Against (Cambridge University Press 2017)

Chapter 1 – In Defense of Abortion (Greasley)


  • Greasley argues that:

    • Personhood turns on developmentally acquired capacities, namely higher cognitive capacities such as reasoning ability, consciousness, and a concept of the self.

    • As such, she argues that there is no bright line or threshold of personhood, it is a gradual process

    • What about infants?

      • Young infants are not yet moral persons, but we still have reasons not to infringe on their interests

      • 1) One might think that the avoidance of fetal pain is a serious moral consideration in abortion regardless of personhood status.

      • 2) The violent destruction of beings that possess so much human embodiment – a mode of embodiment shared with person-types – may be unsettling not only because it contravenes their interests, but because it manifests serious disrespect for the human form, which has significant meaning in being the requisite physical substratum for persons as we know them

    • What about the profoundly disabled?

      • She argues that we have moral considerations for treating all human beings who could have been persons, but through some misfortune fail to be, with the same moral respect that is owed to actual persons

    • In terms of legal personhood, she recommends birth as a concession to practicality, she thinks that this is the clearest line which facilitates clarity and consistency in the law, and this also has clear social significance

  • Greasley’s position

    • In the last section, I presented the prima facie case for believing that moral status – or what we might call “personhood” – ultimately depends not on biological or genetic humanity but rather on developmentally acquired capacities, more specifically, higher cognitive capacities such as reasoning ability, consciousness, and a concept of the self.

    • According to this view, although mature human beings are indeed persons, they are not persons because they are human but because of the capacities with which they are endowed. Equally, as the intelligent alien hypothetical demonstrates, a creature need not be human in order to qualify for personhood, so long as it is in possession of the morally relevant capacities.

  • Furthermore, some of the considerations for treating mature humans who lack personhood’s constitutive features with serious moral respect may have to do not just with the good of those

  • individuals themselves, but also with how our treatment of them influences and reflects our moral respect for all mature human beings and what is important in their lives.

    • This may be true, for instance, of certain harmless behaviours directed at individuals with RCD (radical cognitive deficiencies) that, although they inflict no detriment on the individual, demonstrate a pernicious disregard for the dignity and value of all developed humans

  • In the case of human beings with radical cognitive deficiencies, I pointed out that the degree to which such individuals are excluded by a capacities-based account could be miscalculated when there is insufficient knowledge of what people with cognitive limitations are actually like, and the kinds of interactions of which they are in fact capable.

  • Second, however, I suggested that the main intuition that renders the NOTK theory compelling may indeed be reflected in the moral considerations we have for treating all human beings who could have been persons, but through some misfortune fail to be, with the same moral respect that is owed to actual persons. Inasmuch as it encapsulates this moral imperative, the kernel of the “flourishing like ours” account of moral status might be correct.

    • Crucially, though, I suggested that fetuses do not, on this rationale, stand in the same position as mature human beings who lack the constitutive properties of personhood.

    • The nature of their flourishing is not “like ours” and they are not

  • Supports birth as the line drawn for legal personhood, as a concession to pragmatism (even though in her view, moral personhood starts sometime after birth)

    • But someone would be mistaken to claim that there are absolutely no significant changes that take place during birth. Early human beings in fact undergo extremely dramatic biological and physiological changes in the birth process itself to prepare them for survival in the extrauterine environment. These include numerous biological adaptions, such as changes in the circulatory system and the clearing of fluid from the lungs, which enables the newborn to breathe in air for the first time. Surges of hormones are released to regulate temperature outside the womb, new enzymes are activated, and the digestive system undergoes considerable adaptations. Neonatologists Noah Hillman et al. describe the transition from intrauterine to extrauterine life as “the most complex adaptation that occurs in human experience

    • Some psychologists have even argued that entry into the extrauterine world is a condition for the development of subjective conscious awareness. Psychologist and pain specialist...

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