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Volume 26 • Number 4

October 2012



Abortion Rights and Paternal Obligations

by Peter Alward

Although the obligation of biological fathers to support their offspring has received a lot of attention as a self–standing issue, it has received relatively little attention as part of the abortion debate. In particular, the question of whether paternal support obligations are in some sense incompatible with robust maternal abortion rights has been heretofore underdeveloped. The central goal of this paper is to develop it. Two distinct arguments for the incompatibility of paternal obligations with abortion rights will be addressed here: a popular, or "commonsense," argument and a philosophical argument. According to the popular argument, if there is an exclusively maternal right to decide whether or not to have an abortion, then it is unfair to demand financial or other support from the biological father who does not want children, should a pregnant woman decide to refrain from aborting the unborn human she is carrying. And according to the philosophical argument, the very same rationales that are used to defend maternal abortion rights undermine paternal support obligations as well. In this paper, I wish to argue that neither argument is ultimately successful.

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ISSN: 2152-0542