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Critique on Marquis’ and Cohens’ Arguments

Critique on Marquis’ and Cohens’ Arguments

The debate on pro-choice and pro-life has permeated discussions and debates. Each side poses points to substantiate their argument. Marquis, an American journalist, argues against abortion and why it is wrong. Marquis posits that abortion is the act of killing and it is morally impermissible. He states that a fetus is of sentimental value as a person. Having an abortion deprives it of the right to enjoy its future. Marquis suggests that abortions should be judged with the same severity as killing an adult. Does the right to life equate to the right to the means necessary to sustain that life? Are the virtues and privileges shared by humans extended automatically to the fetus on the notion that it shares aspects of humanity?

Marquis’s argument does not clarify what loss means. He states that abortion causes the fetus’ loss of its future. For instance, Alice and Angela are competing in a race. The end goal is to receive a trophy from the organizers. If Angela wins the race, does this mean that she caused the loss of Alice’s trophy? It is imprudent to argue that Angela’s win causes Alice’s loss. Alice is not obligated to acquire the trophy after the end of the race. This kind of loss can be deemed to be a moral loss. The loser would keep the trophy if the proxy did not act. If the proxy had no justification for acting, then it would be turned morally wrong since he/she caused the loss of something. Hence, can one not argue that a fetus has a valuable future when abortion is allowed in extreme circumstances? Marquis’s argument commits to the fallacy of equivocation, thus making it ambiguous (Brennan, & Stainton, 2010).

The ambiguity and inadequacy in Marquis’s argument can also be viewed in the premise of two patients who require medicine. In the first case, X needs an injection to deal with pain. On the other hand, the patient requires the same dose to stay alive. The custodian of the medicine is patient X. Is she obligated to give Y the dose, and would it be morally wrong if she used the medicine to alleviate her pain?  Such a case justifies the need to have Y take the medicine. However, X is the rightful owner and can not be judged if she denies Y access to the medicine. This premise can be used to examine Marquis’s argument on abortion. The mother is the owner of the womb, which provides the fetus with nourishment and a means to survive (Brennan, & Stainton, 2010). If the expectant mother decides that she does not wish to accommodate the occupant of its womb, then abortion should be permissible.

It is quite evident that Marquis is unsuccessful in defending his argument against abortion. He fails to contend the fetus’ loss of its future and the inability of the mother to use her body in a manner that seems appropriate. Though his argument takes a non-religious stance against abortion, he focuses only on the act of killing and fails to present any other compelling points.

Critique on Cohen’s Argument Against Animal Rights

A right is a fundamental normative rule that an individual/group has over another. The process of understanding a right requires one to recognize who is the bearer of the right, to what extent it is a right, and to whom it is held. Rights may be founded on legal jurisprudence, moral obligation, or both. For instance, the right to privacy and the right to a fair trial is based on the constitution, while keeping a promise is a moral obligation. Carl Cohen makes his case against animal rights by stating that animals cannot react to moral claims. Cohen’s argument implies that rights are accorded based on an individual’s capabilities. The argument is flawed since the ascription of rights should not be based on capabilities or incompetence.

One might agree that his statement is plausible when viewed in this perspective-a right is an obligation to another. The right of A demands that B’s rights are respected. However, the rights of A are not acknowledged during corporal punishment since A did not respect B’s rights. Hence, individual A forfeits his right of freedom among others and cannot be held to equal consideration with a law-abiding citizen. The argument is flawed since other individuals are not held to such equal standards. For instance, humans who are mentally incapacitated cannot perform basic moral functions. Individuals who are mentally challenged cannot achieve moral abilities such as obedience, while animals such as dogs exhibit quasi-moral functions. The ability to hold and exercise moral judgment should not be administered to animals. Cohen’s assumption that humans belong to a unique category of species guarantees that they have been considered in a special manner (Cohen, 2015). However, it is also important to appreciate that certain animals have a greater capacity for moral abilities.

It is morally justifiable to administer a study such as injection of a deadly microbe to an animal than to a human being. One needs to examine the distress and pain caused by the experiment as well as the subsequent loss of life. The research community needs to pose this question and determine if an experiment is justifiable. If the test were to be performed on an individual, does the test justify pain, distress, and loss of life? If such a test cannot be performed on an individual, then it is not justifiable to be conducted on an animal. Exploring such case scenarios outlines the necessity of scouting for other alternatives. The use of animals in biomedical research will be limited, and certain cases will be prohibited due to the legitimacy of the position that animals and human beings hold. Some of the options that can be explored include coordination of research studies and sharing of information to limit duplication of experiments and sharing of animals (harvesting of tissues for use in other experiments).

The moral equality of species cannot be defended since humans have proved their lack of moral regard in certain cases. On one hand, some do not have a duty to the lives and well beings of others with no degrees of respect. For instance, racism and sexism violate moral tenets and depict humans as species with no moral reflection. Hence there should be no differential treatment for humans. If humans should be regarded as a superior species for having moral restrains on communal behavior, then animals should be held to such standards for their most endearing acts do not depict sexism or racism.


Cohen, C. (2015). The case for the use of animals in biomedical research. Ethical Issues in Scientific Research: An Anthology814, 253.

Molavi, M., & AleBouyeh, A. R. (2018). Ethical analysis and critique of the account of Dan Marquis about the wrongness of abortion. Bioethics8(30), 89-106.

Brennan, S., & Stainton, R. (2010). Philosophy and death. Peterborough, Ont.: Broadview Press.

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By Hanna Robinson

Hanna has won numerous writing awards. She specializes in academic writing, copywriting, business plans and resumes. After graduating from the Comosun College's journalism program, she went on to work at community newspapers throughout Atlantic Canada, before embarking on her freelancing journey.

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