1st Edition

The Ethics of Pregnancy, Abortion and Childbirth Exploring Moral Choices in Childbearing

By Helen Watt Copyright 2016
    168 Pages
    by Routledge

    168 Pages
    by Routledge

    The Ethics of Pregnancy, Abortion and Childbirth addresses the unique moral questions raised by pregnancy and its intimate bodily nature. From assisted reproduction to abortion and ‘vital conflict’ resolution to more everyday concerns of the pregnant woman, this book argues for pregnancy as a close human relationship with the woman as guardian or custodian. Four approaches to pregnancy are explored: ‘uni-personal’, ‘neighborly’, ‘maternal’ and ‘spousal’. The author challenges not only the view that there is only one moral subject to consider in pregnancy, but also the idea that the location of the fetus lacks all inherent, unique significance. It is argued that the pregnant woman is not a mere ‘neighbor’ or helpful stranger to the fetus but is rather already in a real familial relationship bringing real familial rights and obligations. If the status of the fetus is conclusive for at least some moral questions raised by pregnancy, so too are facts about its bodily relationship with, and presence in, the woman who supports it. This lucid, accessible and original book explores fundamental ethical issues in a rich and often neglected area of philosophy in ways of interest also to those from other disciplines.

    Introduction. 1. The Uni-Personal Pregnancy 2. The Neighborly Pregnancy 3. The Maternal Pregnancy 4. The Spousal Pregnancy. Appendix: Lethal Fetal Anomaly.


    Dr. Helen Watt is Senior Research Fellow and former Director of the Anscombe Bioethics Centre, Oxford, UK. She is the author of Life and Death in Healthcare Ethics: A Short Introduction and the editor of several books including Fertility and Gender: Issues in Reproductive and Sexual Ethics.

    "... the most thorough attempt to understand pregnancy available. It speaks particularly to the issue, whether we should understand pregnancy as a normal episode in the life of a woman, or some sort of alien intrusion, as Judith Jarvis Thomson does in her defense of abortion. Anyone interested in the abortion issue, or any of the other biomedical and social issues surrounding human reproduction, should read it carefully. All earlier work on the abortion issue, including my Ethics of Homicide and David Boonin's widely admired Defense of Abortion could be improved by a consideration of Watt's work." Philip E. Devine

    "Watt's monograph will be of most interest to readers interested in a brief, wide ranging coverage of topics of moral significance connected with conception, pregnancy and childbirth that articulates a point of view often closely aligned with Catholic scholars, but without making reference to specifically religious ideas or claims." Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

    "... a fascinating and frustrating book ... Watt is asking vitally important questions that tend to be side-lined in mainstream bioethics." Anna Smajdor, BioNews

    "The insights of this book are profoundly important ... Especially innovative is the explication of four ways to view pregnancy, namely, the uni-personal, the neighborly, the maternal, and the spousal...Highly recommended."R. Mary Hayden Lemmons

    "Though I suspect few will agree with Watt on every point, she makes her arguments clearly and carefully and within this relatively short volume she explores a wide range of issues some of which I have never seen discussed anywhere else. Most readers will find something to challenge existing views and to stimulate fresh thought about the ethics of pregnancy."Trevor Stammers, The New Bioethics

    "Helen Watt has written a brave and provocative book—one sure to shake up many people’s closely held ‘certainities’ about the ethical issues surrounding pregnancy. In a style that is at once both accessible and rigorous, Watt addresses dimensions of human reproduction and pregnancy that have been heretofore ignored or shortchanged. One may disagree with some of Watt’s conclusions, but she has shown us what it will take to develop a morally consistent and thorough view about the complexities of our social and mammalian nature." Susan Dwyer, University of Maryland, USA