In this paper I will discuss the moral difference between abortion and infanticide with special reference to the views of Michael Tooley and Mary Anne Warren. Metaphysics is an area of philosophy that deals with questions having to do with the ultimate grounding and nature of things in the world. It is concerned with such diverse topics as the mind/body problem, identity, God, the existence and nature of universals, the existence and nature of the soul, and so on. Thus, the morality of abortion, if it is to be construed as contingent upon the nature of the fetus, is an issue whose resolution depends on which metaphysical view of the human person is correct. Given this, let us take a look at Michael's argument.
Although he makes many provocative and interesting claims that deserve a reply, I will focus on a small portion of his essay that I believe is the core of his case. According to Michael, "the first principle of religious liberty is that laws will not be based upon abstract metaphysical speculation, but will be fashioned through the democratic processes in which every perspective is subject to critical analysis (Michael, 2000). Any proposal must be open either to revision or rejection." He then goes on to cite, as an example of what is not speculative metaphysics, the viability standard proposed by the Court in Roe.
I will first critique Michael's use and defense of the viability standard and then move on to a general critique of Michael's view of "abstract metaphysical speculation." ...
the viability standard in particular, fairly, sensibly, and effectively functions to safeguard the constitutional liberties of pregnant women while recognizing and accommodating the State's interest in potential human life. The viability line reflects the biological facts and truths of fetal development; it marks the threshold moment prior to which a fetus cannot survive separate from the woman and cannot reasonably and objectively be regarded as a subject of rights or interests distinct from, or paramount to, those of the pregnant woman (Michael, 2000). At the same time, the viability standard takes account of the undeniable fact that as the fetus evolves into its postnatal form, and as it loses its dependence on the uterine environment, the State's interest in the fetus' potential human life, and in fostering a regard for human life in general, becomes compelling.
Michael's argument for the viability standard is nearly identical to the one presented by Blackmun: Part of the genius in Roe v. Wade (now affirmed in Casey) was putting forward the standard of viability: that stage of development at which the fetus has sufficient neurological and physical maturation to survive outside the womb. Prior to that, the fetus simply is not sufficiently developed as an independent being deserving and requiring the full protection of the law, i.e., a person (Michael, 2000). The notion of viability correlates biological maturation with personal identity in a way that can be recognized and accepted by reasonable people.
Michael's use of the viability standard is seriously flawed. First, he praises the Court's legal use of the standard and then employs the standard as a decisive moment at which he believes it is reasonable to say that the fetus becomes a person, even though that is