Moral disagreement concerning abortion

Main Article Content

Bernard Gert


I use the example of abortion to show that there are some unresolvable moral disagreements. I list four sources of unresolvable moral disagreement: 1) differences in the rankings of the basic evils of death, pain, disability, loss of freedom, and loss of pleasure, 2) differences in the interpretation of moral rules, 3) ideological differences in the view of human nature and human societies, and 4) differences concerning who is impartially protected by the moral rules. It is this last difference that is the source of unresolvable disagreement concerning the moral acceptability of abortion. I examine the views of Don Marquis and Mary Ann Warren who present opposing arguments concerning the moral acceptability of abortion. I show that their failure to take account of this last difference leads to flaws in their arguments that show that neither has been successful in showing that their position is the uniquely correct one.


Download data is not yet available.

Article Details

How to Cite
Gert, Bernard. 2010. “Moral Disagreement Concerning Abortion”. Diametros, no. 26 (December):23-43.
Special topic – Right to life
Author Biography

Bernard Gert, Dartmouth College

Bernard Gert is Stone Professor of Intellectual and Moral Philosophy, Emeritus, Dartmouth College, Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry, Dartmouth Medical School, Research Professor, Department of Social Medicine, School of Medicine, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

Share |


Bernat, Gert, Mogielnicki [1993] – J. Bernat, B. Gert and R.P. Mogielnicki, Patient refusal of hydration and nutrition. An alternative to physician assisted suicide or voluntary euthanasia, “Archives of Internal Medicine” (153) 1993: 2723-2728.

Feinberg, Dwyer [1997] – The Problem of Abortion, Joel Feinberg and Susan Dwyer (ed.), 3rd ed., Belmont, Calif. 1997.

Rawls [1971] – John Rawls, A Theory of Justice, Harvard University Press, Cambridge 1971.

Thomson [1997] – Judith Jarvis Thomson, A defense of abortion, [in:] The Problem of Abortion, Joel Feinberg and Susan Dwyer (ed.), 3rd ed., Wadsworth, Belmont, Calif. 1997: 59-74.