What Would J.S. Mill Do?

J.S. Mill, Abortion, Philosophy, Pro-Choice, Pro-Life, Pregnant, Women, Harm Principle

Arguably one of the greatest minds in philosophy, J.S. Mill published a book entitled On Liberty, in which he advocated several key principles for society.

In light of this, it may be useful to take a closer look at these arguments to see how J.S. Mill might view the abortion debate if he were alive today.

First, it should be noted that one of his key ideas is the harm principle, which holds that individuals may act as they wish, as long as these actions do not harm others [1].

Also, Mill argued that because no one lives in isolation, even harm that is thought to be done exclusively to oneself often results in harm to others as well – immediate family members perhaps, but also the community.

We often hear the phrases “My Body, My Choice” and “Pro-Choice: the radical idea that women have control of their bodies” uttered by those who are in favor of abortion.

What those who hold these signs don’t seem to be aware of is that the pro-life movement is not out to take away any of their rights, nor deprive them of any of their freedoms.

All individuals, both men and women, have every right to exercise their freedom, but society always has an obligation to intervene when harm is being brought to another life. This is the case in all areas of society, not just abortion, and it holds true for men and women alike.

Especially given the great damage that abortion does to women (let alone the unborn life), society has both a personal and public obligation to discourage abortion in whatever ways it can.

Only then can true liberty be realized.



[1] Mill, J.S. (1869). On Liberty. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003. 78. Print


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3 thoughts on “What Would J.S. Mill Do?

    1. Hello Hasi,

      I am glad to see someone who approaches this topic with civility, I appreciate you looking for answers rather than assuming that the answers are not there. Before I address your question however, I just want to clarify that rape is repulsive and evil. There are no two ways about it, rapists should be punished to the full extent of the law and the women should get the best help she can. We have an obligation to bring justice as best we can to those who have suffered such a crime.

      Now, to your question. To be totally honest, I think your concern, although very important, overlooks a more fundamental question. I assume that you appose abortion in almost all cases (by the look of your comment), and I think your reason for this is because you think the unborn are human beings worthy of protection. If there is any doubt on this point, there are many sources to the scientific confirmation of this fact right here on this website. So with that established, let’s move on.

      I want you to imagine that a mother has a 2 year old child that was conceived of rape. Every day, the mother is reminded in some way of that painful event when she looks at her child; she experiences intense emotional trauma due to her child’s existence. Should we, in light of the mothers condition, allow that child to be killed by his mother? I would hope you join me in saying “no”. But why can we not use rape as justification for the killing of the child? Why is rape considered to be justification for the killing of the unborn child, but not to those that are born? The answer is because it is often assumed that the unborn are not human beings. Therefore, rape is not the justification for abortion (keep in mind that rape gives no justification for killing 2 year olds), the notion that the unborn are not humans is.

      With this in mind then, rape is not the factor to be considered. The status of the unborn is the real issue behind it all. We know that the unborn is a valuable human being worthy of protection, therefore, we can no more kill the unborn in the name of rape than we would a 2 year old.

      I hope this helps

  1. Loved reading this. Thanks for the insight in your previous comment as well.
    I myself had to get an abortion when I was 14 years old. I was raped and I only noticed my body acting strange a month after, therefore I went through with the abortion. Now my main reason, and I’m sorry if this shocks anyone, but please try to understand, was that every single time I thought of ‘his’ child growing in me, it made me sick, it made me cringe, and it made me have suicidal thoughts. I completely understand that unborn children still have a right to life, but what if having that baby removes two lives, instead of one? In this case, I have absolutely no doubt I would have went through with suicide if I had allowed the foetus to grow. Writing about this makes me shiver at the thought of it, but the decision I made when I was 14 was the best decision I could make under my circumstances, at the time.

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