Can prolife theorists justify an exception for rape?

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Prolife theorists typically hold to the claim that all human beings possess equal moral status from conception and consequently possess a right to life. This, they believe, entails that abortion is impermissible in all circumstances. Critics characterize this as an extreme anti-abortion position, as it prima facie allows no exceptions, even in cases of rape. Here, I examine whether the prolife claim regarding equal moral status is compatible with a more attractive moderate stance that permits an exception in the case of rape. I show that Judith Jarvis Thomson's analysis of rights can be used to modify the prolife position in this way, but that doing so involves concessions that prolife theorists are unlikely to find acceptable.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-53
Number of pages5
Issue number1
Early online date2 Oct 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
I am grateful to the anonymous reviewer who supplied the helpful examples that I have referenced, and for the valuable comments provided by other anonymous reviewers.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 John Wiley & Sons Ltd


  • Thomson
  • abortion
  • prolife
  • rape
  • substance view

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Philosophy
  • Health Policy


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