Volume 10, Issue 4, Winter 2010
Christopher D. Hare
At the Original Position as a Fetus
Rawlsian Political Theory and Catholic Bioethics
The approach of liberal political philosopher John Rawls on the issue of abortion relied on his construct of “public reason,” in which citizens in a pluralistic democracy restrict the use of deliberative arguments and reasons that are drawn from their “irreconcilable comprehensive doctrines,” including their religious worldviews. From this reasoning, Rawls concludes that a just society is one that includes the legal right to abortion. However, the author contends that the use of another of Rawls’s theories—“justice as fairness”—leads to an alternative conclusion: that legally sanctioned abortion represents the unjust persecution of a specific population—the unborn. Further, this same theoretical approach supports the egalitarian application of Catholic social thought to protect the fetus as a uniquely vulnerable position in society. National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly 10.4 (Winter 2010): 677–686.