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Hastings Center Report

Another Defense of Abortion: What Transplant Ethics Tells Us about the Ethics of Abortion after Dobbs

Abstract: In 1971, two years before Roe v. Wade affirmed federal protection for abortion, Judith Jarvis Thomson attempted to demonstrate the wrongs of forced gestation through analogy: you awake to find that the world’s most esteemed violinist is wholly, physically dependent on you for life support. Here, the authors suggest that Thomson’s intuition, that there is a relevant similarity between providing living kidney support and forced gestation, is realized in the contemporary practice of living organ donation. After detailing the robust analogy between living kidney donation and gestation, we turn to current ethical guidelines incorporated in the United Network for Organ Sharing’s requirements for legally authorized organ donation and transplantation. We conclude that if, as we—and Thomson—suggest, organ donation and gestation are relevantly similar, then the ethical framework supporting donation may aid in articulating ethical grounds that will be compelling in informing the legal grounds for a defense of abortion.

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