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The Ethics of Pregnancy, Abortion and Childbirth: exploring moral choices in childbearing - Dr Helen Watt

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The Ethics of Pregnancy, Abortion and Childbirth: exploring moral choices in childbearing, by Dr Helen Watt.

The Ethics of Pregnancy, Abortion and Childbirth addresses the unique moral questions raised by pregnancy and its intimate bodily nature. From assisted reproduction to abortion and 'vital conflict' resolution to more everyday concerns of the pregnant woman, the book argues for pregnancy as a close human relationship with the woman as guardian or custodian. Four approaches to pregnancy are explored: 'uni-personal', 'neighborly', 'maternal', and 'spousal'. The author challenges not only the view that there is only one moral subject to consider in pregnancy, but also the idea that the location of the fetus lacks all inherent, unique significance. It is argued that the pregnant woman is not a mere 'neighbor' or helpful stranger to the fetus but is rather already in a real familial relationship bringing real familial rights and obligations. If the status of the fetus is conclusive for at least some moral questions raised by pregnancy, so too are facts about its bodily relationship with, and presence in, the woman who supports it. This lucid, accessible and original book explores fundamental ethical issues in a rich and often neglected area of philosophy in ways of interest also to those from other disciplines.

Dr. Helen Watt is Senior Research Fellow and former Director of the Anscombe Bioethics Centre, Oxford, UK. She is the author of Life and Death in Healthcare Ethics: A Short Introduction and the editor of several books, including Fertility and Gender: Issues in Reproductive and Sexual Ethics.


"Helen Watt's book is the most thorough attempt to understand pregnancy available. It speaks particularly to the issue, whether we should understand pregnancy as a normal episode in the life of a woman, or some sort of alien intrusion...Anyone interested in the abortion issue, or any of the other biomedical and social issues surrounding human reproduction, should read it carefully." - Philip Devine, Providence College, USA

"Helen Watt has written a brave and provocative book—one sure to shake up many people’s closely held ‘certainties’ about the ethical issues surrounding pregnancy. In a style that is at once both accessible and rigorous, Watt addresses dimensions of human reproduction and pregnancy that have been heretofore ignored or shortchanged. One may disagree with some of Watt’s conclusions, but she has shown us what it will take to develop a morally consistent and thorough view about the complexities of our social and mammalian nature." – Susan Dwyer, University of Maryland, USA


1: The Uni-personal Pregnancy
2: The Neighborly Pregnancy
3: The Maternal Pregnancy
4: The Spousal Pregnancy
Appendix: Pregnancy and Lethal Fetal Anomaly

148 pages
Publisher: Routledge (2016)
Language: English
ISBN: 9781138188082 (Hardback)
ISBN: 9780815371939 (Paperback)
A kindle e-book is available from Amazon here for £34.99: