U.S. abortion bans compel women to be not just Good Samaritans, but ‘splendid’ ones

January 4, 2022
Kimberley Brownlee

If a music lovers’ society kidnaps you and attaches you at the kidneys to a famous violinist with a fatal disease, are you required to stay and keep him alive for nine months until he recovers?

This is the well-known thought experiment posed by the late American philosopher Judith Jarvis Thomson in “A Defense of Abortion.” The essay was published prior to Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 United States Supreme Court ruling that held that the U.S. Constitution protects a woman’s right to abortion without excessive government restriction.

Continued: https://theconversation.com/u-s-abortion-bans-compel-women-to-be-not-just-good-samaritans-but-splendid-ones-173220

Judith Jarvis Thomson, Philosopher Who Defended Abortion, Dies at 91

She wrote some of the most influential papers in contemporary American philosophy and prompted debates about urgent moral concerns in everyday life.

By Alex Traub
Published Dec. 3, 2020

Judith Jarvis Thomson, who created new fields of inquiry in philosophy through her writings on abortion and a moral thought experiment that she named the “Trolley Problem,” died on Nov. 20 at her home in Cambridge, Mass. She was 91.

Her niece, Pamela Jarvis, confirmed the death.

Continued: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/03/us/judith-jarvis-thomson-dead.html

Judith Jarvis Thomson (1929–2020)

Judith Jarvis Thomson was one of the most important philosophers of the twentieth century. Her justly famous essay in defense of abortion rights is a model for how to combine philosophical rigor with political engagement in the real world.


A fan-favorite episode of NBC’s The Good Place is called “The Trolley Problem.” If you’ve watched it, or if you’re one of the quarter of a million people who follow the “Trolley problem memes” page on Facebook, you know at least a little bit about Judith Jarvis Thomson’s work — even if you’ve never heard her name.

The prehistory of this philosophical puzzle goes back to Philippa Foot. In an essay crammed with examples intended to illustrate the complexities of an obscure idea in moral philosophy called the “doctrine of double effect,” she introduces the “driver of a runaway tram which he can only steer from one track to another.” If he does nothing, he’ll kill five workers doing repairs on the track. If he steers onto an alternate track, he’ll only kill one. Foot thought it was obvious that “we should say, without hesitation, that the driver should steer for the unoccupied track.”

Continued: https://www.jacobinmag.com/2020/11/judith-jarvis-thompson-obituary-abortion-essay