Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Philosophy

Content Description

1 online resource (vi, 236 pages)

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Bonnie Steinbock

Committee Members

Rachel Cohon, Ron McClamrock


Abortion, Bioethics, Virtue Ethics, Virtue

Subject Categories

Bioethics and Medical Ethics | Ethics and Political Philosophy | Philosophy


Ethical discussions about abortion, typically, focus on whether or not it is morally permissible to destroy a fetus. If it is morally impermissible to do so, that seems to answer the question of abortion outright: all things being equal, it is wrong. If it is permissible to kill a fetus, however, it doesn't follow that one cannot err morally by doing so. Using virtue ethics as my guiding normative theory, I argue that there are many potential moral errors one can make in having an abortion (or, in other cases, by not having an abortion) that do not hang on whether or not it is, generally, permissible to destroy a fetus. I argue that a woman can act immorally in having an abortion by not demonstrating a proper sense of wonder over fetuses and fetal development, by not appropriately valuing parenthood, by wrongly evaluating the rewards of raising a child with disabilities, and by going through with an abortion that she believes will cause her fetus to suffer. Lastly, I argue that there are certain cases in which a woman acts immorally by not having an abortion, specifically when (i) the woman harms herself by carrying a child to term, (ii) the woman harms others by bearing a child, (iii) bringing a child into existence harms that child, and (iv) there is a general harm produced without involving any individual or group.