Internal WiP: Assoc Professor Catherine Mills

Responsibility in pregnancy: reactive attitudes and the fetus

Oxford Martin School, Seminar Room 2

Despite the explosion of literature on the moral responsibilities entailed in reproduction in recent years, there has been surprisingly little discussion of the specific obligations that arise in pregnancy and gestation. This paper moves toward addressing this gap, by considering the influential framework of reactive attitudes as a theory of holding responsible and its implications for the ethics of gestation. Given its emphasis on the interpersonal and emotional aspects of responsibility, the reactive attitudes framework seems at first blush to be valuable for elaborating an ethics of gestation, a perception that is reinforced by recent references to reactive attitudes in discussions of antenatal phenomena such as miscarriage and abortion. However, I argue that there remain considerable difficulties with this approach, some of which relate to the question of how to best understand the gestational relationship and the normative importance of it. In this paper, I explore these problems, and especially what normative implications might follow from different models of gestation. The overall aim of the paper is to make some headway toward clarifying a woman’s obligations to her fetus in the process of gestation.

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