Chapter 8 : Abortion


Title: The Morality of Abortion and the Deprivation of Futures

Author: Mark T. Brown

Publication Information: Journal of Medical Ethics 26, no. 2 (April
2000),   pp. 103-105


Mark Brown strongly disagrees with Donald Marquis’s argument that
abortion is as wrong as killing an adult is wrong. Marquis in his
article “Why Abortion is Immoral” argues that in both cases, we are
depriving the “person” of a “future of value”. Marquis supports his
argument with a concept of “future like ours (FLO)” that suggests that a
“standard fetus” in its future can have similar “experiences, projects,
and activities” of an adult or a young child. Brown on the other hand
questions the ambiguity in Marquis’s definition of “future of value”
itself. He suggests that it can lead us to two potential interpretations
– “potential future of value” or “self-represented future of value”, and
argues that both interpretations, however, contribute to rejection of


Brown makes a parallel comparison between depriving someone of
“potential future of value” with denying someone access to something
that he or she needs to live. According to Marquis’s definition, both of
such scenarios are homicides. If it were true, Brown argues that it
would also be a homicide when a homeless man dies due to exposure, when
an elderly woman suffers from fatal pneumonia due to unheated apartment,
and when an injured child dies since he could not receive right blood
transfusion on time. These tragic incidents in reality do not qualify as
a homicide or violation of anyone’s right. Brown further clarifies that
we receive medical services because we are part of a health insurance
program or there is a universal health care system in place. We do not
receive these services as our “welfare right” or just because we would
have a better future.  Similarly, someone needs a kidney transplant to
survive and preserve one’s “potential future value” but it is not a
homicide if that patient dies due to lack of a donor or a perfect organ
match. In such scenarios, our life depends upon external circumstances
that we do not have ownership or control over. With the same token Brown
argues that survival of a fetus and its “potential future value”
entirely depend upon reproduction system of a woman. An abortion would
be wrong only if woman had no “presumptive right to control access to
their [own] reproductive systems”.


Brown then takes on the “self-represented future of value”
interpretation of Marquis’s definition of “future value”. A
“self-represented future of value” is a self-realized phenomenon for a
person. It comes from within a person’s complex mental life without any
external dependencies. A person can think of many possible futures for
oneself from one’s present perspective and past memories or experiences.
Everyone cares about one’s self-represented futures because it defines
who they are and “confers meaning and significance upon what they think
and do”.  The past and future that people base their value upon are
something that they have created themselves and they rightfully own
them. Brown writes that depriving someone of their past and future by
killing them is ethically wrong and is a homicide. Brown then argues
that a fetus, however, does not have the same capability to construct
mental representation of its future. Quoting medical journals, Brown
argues that since a fetus does not develop “self-consciousness” until
well after its birth, it does not have a “self-represented future of
value” that gets lost due to abortion.  

With the analysis above, Brown categorically rejects the possible two
interpretations of Marquis’s concept of FLO. Consequently, he
disapproves Marquis’s claim that abortion is same like a homicide.

Hita Gurung (QCC,2003)



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