A Response to the Strongest Violinist

Here's a paper I originally posted back in April 2013:

"De Facto Guardian and Abortion: A Response to the Strongest Violinist"  

Ernest Hébert, "Le Petit Violoneux Endormi" (1883),  Musée Hébert

Ernest Hébert, "Le Petit Violoneux Endormi" (1883), Musée Hébert

It begins in a "Cabin in a Blizzard," where Mary finds herself stranded with a newborn that's not her own, and ends with a short reference to one Carl and an annoying "wilderness explorer" named Russell (from the movie, Up).  In between these thought experiments, we attempt to describe and give a suggested account for our intuitions about our obligations to children.  We believe that account sheds light on and casts doubt on the viability (pun intended) of the strongest version of Judith Jarvis Thomson's Violinist Argument from her 1972 "A Defense of Abortion."  We invite you to wrestle with that argument and with our response to it.  Share comments below.


  • This paper was originally posted on April 13, 2013 at the Life Report website, and the comment thread under that post includes some discussion of the paper that took place from 2013-2014.  
  • I wrote the paper, but many others deserve credit for helping crystallize the ideas in the paper and for supplying some of the raw material for the central thought experiment.  See the preface and the footnotes for my attempt to give credit where credit is due.
  • See how the ideas from this paper changed the way that one student at the University of Texas at San Antonio thought about whether abortion should be legal when the pregnancy resulted from rape: "A Good Conversation Is...a Window" (Nov/Dec 2013 newsletter).
  • See also Timothy Brahm's "Autumn in the Sovereign Zone" for a masterful response to another version of bodily rights argument.  Mr. Brahm now works at Equal Rights Institute.
  • See also "Good Samaritan on Life Support" by 2010 JFA Intern Tony George.
  • The main url for discussion of the paper, www.jfaweb.org/DFG, is now being directed to this post.

Note: This post was updated on Dec. 14, 2015 with the link to the Tony George article.