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Journal of Bioethical Inquiry

, Volume 16, Issue 3, pp 389–404 | Cite as

Epistemic Virtue, Prospective Parents and Disability Abortion

  • James B. GouldEmail author
Original Research

Abstract

Research shows that a high majority of parents receiving prenatal diagnosis of intellectual disability terminate pregnancy. They have reasons for rejecting a child with intellectual disabilities—these reasons are, most commonly, beliefs about quality of life for it or them. Without a negative evaluation of intellectual disability, their choice makes no sense. Disability-based abortion has been critiqued through virtue ethics for being inconsistent with admirable moral character. Parental selectivity conflicts with the virtue of acceptingness (the commitment to welcome whatever child comes naturally) and exhibits the vice of wilfulness (the project of picking and choosing what children one will take). In this paper I claim that, beyond failures of moral virtue, disability abortion often involves failures of epistemic virtue on the part of parents. I argue two things: parents believe something false, or at least contested, about life with intellectual disability—and they do so because they are not epistemically conscientious. I first explain why a central motivation for disability abortion—that it prevents harm to the child—is mistaken. I next give a brief account of intellectual virtue and culpable ignorance. I then indicate why many parents fail to be intellectually virtuous when choosing to terminate pregnancy. I focus on elimination of intellectual disability and have little to say about physical and sensory impairments.

Keywords

Culpable ignorance Epistemic virtue Intellectual disability Selective abortion 

Notes

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Copyright information

© Journal of Bioethical Inquiry Pty Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyMcHenry County CollegeCrystal LakeUSA

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