What about rape (incest, etc.)?
Rape is a terrible crime, and society should do everything in its power to prevent it. But the question of abortion arises only after such an assault has occurred.1 Like all unplanned pregnancies, the situation is difficult, and it is rendered particularly tragic by the circumstances surrounding the conception. Since a pregnancy has resulted, the woman faces not only the injustice of the attack but also the burden of childbearing with which she is imposed. That the situation demands a remedy is clear. But the question is whether the proposed remedy—abortion—is ethically acceptable, a question which hinges on whether it kills an innocent person. If the prenatal product of rape is not a person, then the woman should have the right to an abortion regardless of whether or not she was assaulted. If the prenatal product of the rape is a person, then killing him is no more an acceptable solution than it would be for any other unplanned pregnancy. Indeed, killing an innocent person is never an acceptable solution to an injustice, no matter how serious.
Consider the following scenario. A woman is raped and conceives a child.2 She either decides to carry the child to term or, for whatever reason, is unable to obtain an abortion. Stuck with the baby, and unable to bear the thought of adoption, she raises him for seven years. Eventually, she decides that he is too painful a reminder of the traumatic experience and suffocates him to death. Was it fair for her to have to raise him? No. But was it acceptable for her to kill him? If not, why not? The reason is that he is a person, and it is unacceptable to kill him for the crime of his father. If a fetus is just as much a person as a seven-year-old, then the same is true of him. The key question, therefore, is not the circumstances under which the fetus was conceived but whether he ought to be considered a person.