Ronald Dworkin on the Right to Abortion

The article deals with the problem of abortion from the perspective of the ideas developed by the American legal philosopher Ronald Dworkin. The main concern is to identify strengths and weaknesses of Dworkin’s position on this matter. In the first part the paper describes the main components of his theory, especially the distinction between derivative and detached opposition to abortion and the three kinds of values which are relevant to the discussion, namely subjective, instrumental and intrinsic values. Then the very important value for Dworkin’s proposal is described – the category of sacred values. The second part of article contains critical remarks on Dworkin’s theory, particularly its inadequate presentation of the stance of the conservative side to the dispute and embracing of an incomplete conception of rights. To that end, the author makes use of Rawls’s intellectual tools to debate and contest termination of pregnancy, tools termed “reflective equilibrium” and “veil of ignorance”. The paper ends with the author’s own outline of the resolution to the abortion controversy, named ethical contextualism.

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