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The Ethics of KillingProblems at the Margins of Life$
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Jeff McMahan

Print publication date: 2002

Print ISBN-13: 9780195079982

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/0195079981.001.0001

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(p.267) 4 Beginnings
The Ethics of Killing

Jeff McMahan (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Discusses abortion, infanticide, and the infliction of prenatal injury. It argues that early abortion is morally comparable to contraception and that late abortion can be justified in many cases because of the comparative weakness of the fetus's interest in continuing to live. The permissibility of abortion is not threatened either by considerations of potential or by claims about the sanctity of human life. Because there is no significant intrinsic difference between a late‐term fetus and a newborn infant, infanticide can also be permissible in a limited range of cases for the same reasons that abortion can be justified. Abortion cannot be justified, however, by appealing to a pregnant woman's right of self‐defense.

Keywords:   abortion, infanticide, potential, prenatal injury, sanctity of life, self‐defense

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