Croatian Journal of Philosophy

Volume 3, Issue 2, 2003

Roberta Sala
Pages 187-198

Contextualistic Critiques of the Principle-Based Approach to Bioethics
The Case of Abortion

Among the main assumptions of the well-known principle-based method in bioethics, the ideal of consensus assumes central importance. Indeed, by proposing this method, Beauchamp and Childress offer a base for a practical agreement that can be reached starting from different moral perspectives: they defend the universality of the principles shared by the common-morality theories. The ideal of consensus based on the universal acceptability of the principles is criticized by a large number of authors, communitarians and feminists. They attack the notion of universality in different ways: universal principles cannot yield any practical solution to ethical problems. The feminists in particular emphasize the relational, emotional involvement, and also the particular context ofeach situation, as central elements of any practical decision, rather than the cold detachment of the conformity to principles and norms. The case of abortion provides a good example of this position.