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Abortion, the Gag Rule, and Kantian Ethics

Why Self-Determination Necessitates the Right to Choose By Mary Kimball

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n Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals, Kant makes two claims. First, he describes duty as the sole, moral motivation for action. In addition, he explains that good will along with rational, free choice are essential to human dignity. Recently, a gag rule has been imposed on healthcare providers by the Trump administration that forbids medical professionals from referring abortion in order to receive federal funding from Title X. To keep funding under the rule, providers must accept a condition that bans presenting abortion as an option to their patients.¹ In the following essay, I will summarize Kant’s ethics as they pertain to the issue, then apply them to illuminate the unethical nature of this gag rule. I argue that this rule is unethical because it forces healthcare professionals to treat women as less than human by denying them the option of abortion in a violation of Kantian standards. Duty, as Kant defines it, is respect and compliance with moral law by prioritizing it over individual desires and motives. People are dutiful through their will, which Kant defines as the

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faculty humans have to make choices. To have a good will is to be able to understand and act with duty to overcome selfish desires. Kant asserts that “duty can be expressed only in categorical imperatives.”² A categorical imperative is a moral law that is a priori. The law is true and universal in itself, not built upon another imperative. To follow the categorical imperative, Kant urges readers to examine their maxims, or their individual and reasoned motives for every action. Maxims worth following must adhere to a categorical imperative; they must be moral no matter what situation in which they function. Therefore, the categorical imperative forms dutiful maxims that a person with a good will must follow.³ Essential to Kantian duty is his second formulation, part of the categorical imperative, that people are ends in themselves; they should not be used as means to an end. Kant explains that “rational nature exists as an end in itself... every other rational being thinks of his existence on the same rational ground that holds also for me.”⁴ Part of one’s duty in life is to be respectful of every

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Spring 2019  

We proudly present our first issue! The topics include abortion, the Iran deal, voter ID laws, targeted killings by governments, Hamilton: A...

Spring 2019  

We proudly present our first issue! The topics include abortion, the Iran deal, voter ID laws, targeted killings by governments, Hamilton: A...

Profile for rebuttal
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