Examining Thomson’s Views on Fetal Personhood

Acorns in ladies hands

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Published in 1971, Judith Jarvis Thomson’s A Defense of Abortion is now a classic in contemporary philosophy. She presents nuanced yet controversial conclusions on abortion from creative thought experiments, most notably the violinist scenario. While many have critiqued and defended Thomson’s violinist, I want to examine her views on fetal personhood.

Thomson used an acorn analogy to explain why she did not think human fetuses were persons. I still remember the first time I read her article in my Philosophy 101 class. When my philosophy professor asked for our thoughts on her acorn analogy, I did not know what to say; I was stumped.

In this article I will show why Thomson’s acorn analogy is faulty and fails to refute the fetal personhood view, even though it does work against one bad pro-life argument.