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Professor Jeff McMahan at Rutgers University recently gave a talk at the NYU Center for Bioethics and the Department of Philosophy on “Gene Therapy, Cognitive Disability, and Abortion.”

With his permission, a podcast of his talk can be found here:

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An abstract of his talk is as follows:

Most of us take it for granted that what we believe to be liberal, humane views about abortion, genetic therapy for cognitive impairment, and prenatal injury must all be compatible. My talk will challenge this comfortable assumption. I will suggest that the possible reasons we might have to provide genetic therapy for a cognitively impaired fetus are also equally strong reasons not to have an abortion. I then argue that what seems to be the obvious way for those with liberal views about abortion to avoid this dilemma has wholly unacceptable implications concerning the infliction of prenatal injury.


  1. 1. Posted by Nick Byrd | August 11, 2012 7:08 pm


    I am on the hunt for the most respected arguments for women’s autonomy concerning abortion (e.g. why they have the right to abort). I have read Thomson’s famous paper, a few other papers, and attended some sessions at conferences about abortion, but it seems that everyone is comfortable assuming that women have this right. I wonder, has this “right” ever been defended in any notable or successful way?

    Please point in some direction if you are aware of a good paper, essay, or even book. Thanks in advance!

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