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Responding to Simkulet's objections to the two tragedies argument

Journal article
Authors Henrik Friberg-Fernros
Published in Journal of Medical Ethics
Volume 46
Issue 3
ISSN 0306-6800
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Political Science
Language en
Subject categories Medical Ethics


The two tragedies argument (2TA) has been raised as a response to the argument against abortion from spontaneous abortion (or miscarriages). According to this argument against the antiabortion position (AAP), miscarriages should be of great concern for proponents of this position since they result in a greater amount of deaths of human beings than induced abortions do. According to critics of AAP, this fact undermines its plausibility, since proponents of the AAP either must try to prevent miscarriages to the same extent as they try to prevent abortions or abandon their opposition to at least some abortions - which are not acceptable options for proponents of APP. The claim of 2TA is that one can differentiate between induced abortion and miscarriages due to the fact that the former involves the act of killing of another human being. This fact adds a tragedy to the tragedy that both abortions and miscarriages result in - the death of a human being - and contributes to justifying the choice of proponents of AAP to prioritise the prevention of abortions rather than miscarriages. In this response, I defend 2TA against criticism that claims that this argument is: (1) inconsistent with the AAP and (2) trivialises the death of the fetus. My claim is that the first line of criticism rests on a misunderstanding of the premises of 2TA while the second line of criticism rests on a disanalogous thought experiment. I therefore conclude that these objections fail. © Author(s) (or their employer(s)) 2019. No commercial re-use. See rights and permissions. Published by BMJ.

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