Who Bears Greater Responsibility when Choosing to have an Abortion?

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Contrasting Di Nucci’s concept of responsibility to abort, Harris introduced a so-called responsibility to bear. He argues that there are cases when abortion would mean that woman is directly harming the man. The term wrongful harm is here used for violating father’s autonomy and morally legitimate interest in self-determination. In his work, Harris has used five scenarios to demonstrate both situations in which abortion would and would not harm the man’s legitimate interests. The first two cases are about cases when abortion is not violating the man’s autonomy, and the latter three show situations where clear violations have occurred. These scenarios essentially differ and they include cases of rape, casual sex, negligence, deceit and malice.

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According to Harris, procreation is a morally legitimate interest but the fulfilment of this interest is conditioned by the requirement that men respect the autonomy of women in this regard. In other words, the foetus must be a result of pursuing a legitimate interest in procreation in a morally legitimate way. These claims directly brings us to the conclusion that, if foetus occurs as a result of rape or casual sexual relationship, it is not an object of a legitimate interest for the man, therefore, having an abortion would not harm his interests, since it, in fact, does not exist. In this case, the foetus would only be his in a biological sense. But he also emphasises that if the woman in this case would decide to keep it, she would not harm the man’s autonomy, regardless of his wishes, as it is not a matter of his legitimate interest. The reasons why Harris claims so in the case of rape is that, when forcing to woman into an intercourse, he did not take into consideration her autonomy, and therefore, the requirement of reciprocity is lacking.

This reasoning is intertwined in the latter three cases, where Harris used examples of married couples, where the wives were deceiving the husband. The husbands wanted to become a parent, while the wives were not interested in this role. Harris argues here that, by not sharing their views and opinion of becoming mothers, and misleading their husbands that they would become father throughout the marriage, constitutes morally impermissible abortion. Further in the scenarios, they become pregnant and decide to abort, but the relevant point here is just by acting in this deceiving manner, the wives already harmed their interest in procreation. Sherain on this matter claims that there are fathers who want to have children and are prepared to take on all responsibilities that fatherhood brings with it, and that law should also take their interests into consideration, as well as the mothers. Furthermore, he argues that in a situation where the father is willing to bear all the burden of parenthood himself with no expectance from the mother to bear any of it, the state should cofer a veto over abortion on the theory the man’s right to raise his own child is important enough to justify the burdens of coerced pregnancy for the woman.

He also relies on another source that claims that such a husband ‘is no longer an outsider but rather part of a team, which does seem to entitle him to follow the entire procedure through from beginning to end.

To conclude on Harris’ reasoning, an abortion is morally impermissible in this case:

When a man has satisfied the requirements of autonomy in regard to the interest. In procreation both in regard to himself and to his sexual partner. The woman has a prima facie obligation to him not to harm the fetus. And unless there is some countervening moral consideration to override. This prima facie obligation, the abortion of the fetus is morally impermissible.

In addition to this, I will add that, from my point of view, this reasoning goes vice-versa. If the intention for procreation is shared by both the wife. And the husband, while the husband is secretly wishing not to become a father. Then he cannot expect nor demand the wife to abort in case of pregnancy. As it would morally impermissible to her right to self-determination. As a mother to abort, especially if we take into account the women’s reproductive biological clock.

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Who bears greater responsibility when choosing to have an abortion?. (2022, Oct 05). Retrieved December 5, 2022 , from

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