Contraception and Abortion:
A Utilitarian View

10. Conclusion

Book cover: Bioethics: An Anthology by Helga Kuhse and Peter Singer

This concludes my development of a utilitarian view on contraception and abortion. I have argued that within such a perspective, the utilitarian is able to give due weight to all of the interests involved, unlike the traditional conservative and liberal positions. I have tried to show that by seeing the problems of contraception and abortion within the context of a social population policy, satisfying and conceptually coherent solutions may be generated. To achieve this, I developed a new 'mixed' view maximizing principle that guides how social and legal rules in practice are to be implemented. These formed the framework within which social policies on contraception and abortion, I argued, ought to be developed. I then showed how act-utilitarian principles can be applied at the level of individual decisions.

The ethical framework I advocated in this essay satisfactorily explains the general asymmetry between the immorality of knowingly giving birth to a severely deformed infant and the moral permissiveness with which we treat the birth of healthy infants. This theory also explains the increasing moral seriousness with which we treat contraception, abortion and infanticide. Another advantage brought to light is the theory's ability to make sense of the asymmetry between the permissiveness of abortion and the prohibitions against killing an adult. Some previous versions of utilitarianism had encountered difficulties in explaining all of these commonly held intuitions. Throughout, I illustrated how the ethical principles proposed and the utilitarian framework developed in this essay are applied using the Australian social and legal context as an example.

Copyright © 2015

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