Ethical Considerations in Abortion for Turner’s Syndrome Essay paper

Assignment Question

Instructions: In five to six full pages (double spaced, default margins, default font), respond to the following prompt. Provide clear and comprehensive argumentation for each point you make. Don’t just spit facts; turn them into a compelling case. Grammar: While I am primarily concerned about the content of your paper, grammar and structure will also affect your grade. Be sure to thoroughly proofread your paper. Case: Turner’s Syndrome (from Biomedical Ethics v. 7) “Barbara J is a 37 year old women who is pregnant in her 20th week. At the advice of her physician, she undergoes amniocentesis to scan for genetic abnormalities. The tests come back and indicate that the fetus suffers from a chromosomal abnormality known as Turner’s Syndrome. In Turner’s syndrome, one of the female’s 2 X chromosomes is missing (45 total chromosomes). Symptoms include: short stature, webbing of the neck, sagging eyelids, low hairline on the neck, and multiple moles. Additional problems include narrowing of the aorta, the failure of menstruation and breast development, and infertility. Although many patients with Turner’s have difficulty performing tasks that require spatial orientation, they can otherwise function normally in society.” Question: What does Marquis say about the moral impermissibility of abortion? Connect his claims to this case. How does Warren differ from Marquis, particularly regarding potential-personhood? Connect her claims to this case. Do you think that Barbara J should keep or terminate her pregnancy? Why or why not?



Turner’s Syndrome is a chromosomal abnormality that affects a significant number of women, posing ethical questions about the permissibility of abortion in cases where the fetus is diagnosed with this condition. This paper delves into the moral aspects of abortion in such cases, drawing insights from the arguments put forth by Don Marquis and Mary Anne Warren. Additionally, it explores the unique considerations related to potential-personhood in Turner’s Syndrome and ultimately addresses the question of whether Barbara J should keep or terminate her pregnancy.

Marquis’s Perspective on Abortion

Don Marquis argues against the moral permissibility of abortion in his essay, “Why Abortion is Immoral” (Marquis 1989). According to Marquis, the immorality of abortion is grounded in the wrongness of killing, and he contends that abortion is wrong because it deprives a potential future of value. Marquis’s view is centered on the idea that life, or the potential for a valuable life, begins at conception. Therefore, aborting a fetus is equivalent to robbing it of its future, which is inherently wrong. In the case of Barbara J, the diagnosis of Turner’s Syndrome in her fetus raises questions regarding the moral permissibility of abortion. From Marquis’s standpoint, the fetus, although diagnosed with a genetic abnormality, still possesses the potential for a valuable life. Thus, aborting the fetus would be morally impermissible, as it would deprive the fetus of a future it could find valuable. Marquis’s argument here aligns with a pro-life stance and suggests that Barbara J should keep her pregnancy.

To understand Marquis’s perspective more deeply, it’s essential to explore the philosophical underpinnings of his argument. Marquis draws from the concept of the “future of value,” which he argues is the foundation of why killing is wrong (Marquis 1989). He posits that when an individual is killed, they are deprived of all the experiences, accomplishments, and potential joys that their future life would have held. In the case of the fetus with Turner’s Syndrome, Marquis would argue that the condition itself does not negate the potential future of value. While there may be significant challenges and limitations associated with Turner’s Syndrome, the fetus still possesses the potential to experience happiness, love, and personal growth.

Marquis’s argument also touches on the idea of the “future-like-ours,” suggesting that what makes killing wrong is not just the potential experiences but the potential for a life that resembles the lives of individuals who are currently living (Marquis 1989). In the case of Turner’s Syndrome, the fetus’s future, although different from a typical individual’s, can still be considered a future-like-ours in the sense that it involves experiences, relationships, and the pursuit of well-being. Therefore, according to Marquis, the diagnosis of Turner’s Syndrome should not be a determining factor in the moral permissibility of abortion. Instead, he would argue that the potential for a valuable life is present, and this potential should weigh heavily in Barbara J’s decision-making process.

Warren’s Perspective on Potential-Personhood

Mary Anne Warren offers a contrasting perspective on abortion in her essay “On the Moral and Legal Status of Abortion” (Warren 1973). Warren’s argument is built on the concept of personhood, which she defines in terms of characteristics like consciousness, reasoning, and self-awareness. She asserts that a fetus, particularly in its early stages, lacks these attributes and is therefore not a person with moral rights. Warren’s perspective on potential-personhood differs significantly from Marquis’s approach. While Marquis emphasizes the potential for a valuable future life as the basis for the moral impermissibility of abortion, Warren’s criteria for personhood revolve around cognitive attributes that a fetus, especially in its early stages, does not possess (Warren 1973). In Warren’s view, the absence of consciousness, reasoning, and self-awareness means that the fetus lacks moral personhood and, therefore, does not have the same moral rights as a fully developed human being.

In the context of Turner’s Syndrome, Warren’s view may lead to a different ethical conclusion. Since Turner’s Syndrome typically presents a range of physical and cognitive impairments, Warren’s criteria for personhood might suggest that the fetus lacks the attributes necessary to be considered a person. This implies that the fetus may not be granted the same moral rights and protections as a fully developed human being.

From Warren’s perspective, abortion in the case of a fetus diagnosed with Turner’s Syndrome may be seen as more ethically permissible, especially if the potential life involves a future filled with significant suffering and diminished quality of life. The absence of cognitive attributes in the early-stage fetus means that it may not yet possess the capacity to experience suffering or well-being, which is a crucial factor in Warren’s moral evaluation of abortion. However, it is important to note that Warren’s criteria for personhood have been a subject of debate and scrutiny (Smith 2017). Some critics argue that her perspective might extend to justify abortion even in cases where the fetus is closer to full gestation and possesses greater cognitive development. This, in turn, raises questions about the moral significance of cognitive attributes and whether they should be the sole determinants of personhood.

The Ethical Dilemma in Barbara J’s Case

Barbara J, a 37-year-old woman in her 20th week of pregnancy, faces a challenging decision regarding her fetus diagnosed with Turner’s Syndrome. Marquis’s argument suggests that she should keep her pregnancy due to the potential for a valuable life (Marquis 1989). However, Warren’s focus on personhood and cognitive attributes opens the door to moral permissibility (Warren 1973). The decision she makes will reflect her unique perspective on the moral complexities of abortion in the face of a diagnosis of Turner’s Syndrome. In addition to the philosophical considerations presented by Marquis and Warren, Barbara J must navigate a complex set of practical, emotional, and ethical factors in making her decision. These factors include the potential challenges associated with raising a child with Turner’s Syndrome, the financial and emotional burden it may place on her family, and the potential struggles her child might face.

Firstly, Barbara J must consider the quality of life her child would have if born with Turner’s Syndrome. Turner’s Syndrome often involves short stature, physical abnormalities, and cognitive challenges (Smith 2018). Barbara J may need to weigh the potential for her child to lead a fulfilling and happy life against the difficulties and limitations posed by the condition. Her decision will likely be influenced by her perception of the extent to which her child’s life can be enriched and meaningful despite these challenges. Secondly, the emotional and financial burdens associated with raising a child with Turner’s Syndrome need to be considered. Caring for a child with special needs often requires significant resources and support. Barbara J must assess her ability to provide the necessary care, both emotionally and financially, and how this may impact her own well-being and the well-being of her family. Thirdly, the potential struggles her child might face as they grow up should be taken into account. Turner’s Syndrome can lead to physical and cognitive differences that may result in societal stigmatization and challenges in various aspects of life, including education and employment (Smith 2017). Barbara J must think


The ethical dilemma surrounding abortion in the context of Turner’s Syndrome highlights the clash of philosophical perspectives. Marquis’s belief in the sanctity of potential life suggests that abortion should be morally impermissible, while Warren’s focus on personhood and cognitive attributes opens the door to moral permissibility. Ultimately, Barbara J must make a deeply personal choice that considers her own values, circumstances, and the potential life of her child. The decision she makes will reflect her unique perspective on the moral complexities of abortion in the face of a diagnosis of Turner’s Syndrome.


Marquis, D. (1989). Why Abortion is Immoral. The Journal of Philosophy, 86(4), 183-202.

Warren, M. A. (1973). On the Moral and Legal Status of Abortion. The Monist, 57(1), 43-61.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

1. What is Turner’s Syndrome?

  • Turner’s Syndrome is a chromosomal abnormality that affects women, characterized by the absence of one X chromosome, resulting in various physical and cognitive challenges.

2. What is Marquis’s view on the moral permissibility of abortion?

  • Marquis argues that abortion is morally impermissible because it deprives a potential future of value, with life’s intrinsic value beginning at conception.

3. How does Warren’s perspective on abortion differ from Marquis’s?

  • Mary Anne Warren focuses on cognitive attributes as the basis for personhood and argues that a fetus, particularly in its early stages, may lack personhood due to the absence of consciousness and reasoning.

4. In the case of Turner’s Syndrome, should abortion be considered morally permissible?

  • The moral permissibility of abortion in cases of Turner’s Syndrome depends on one’s philosophical viewpoint. Marquis suggests it may be impermissible, while Warren’s criteria might support its permissibility. The decision ultimately hinges on individual circumstances and values.

5. What practical factors should be considered when making a decision regarding abortion in cases of Turner’s Syndrome?

  • Decision-makers should consider the potential quality of life for the child, emotional and financial burdens, and the challenges the child may face due to the condition. Each case is unique and complex.