Published online by Cambridge University Press: 01 January 2020
A dominant trend in the philosophical literature on abortion has been concerned with the question of whether the fetus has moral status and how such a status might or might not conflict with women's liberties. However, a new and powerful trend against abortion requires philosophical examination. We refer to this trend as the paternalistic argument (PA). In a nutshell, this argument holds that, insofar as motherhood is a constitutive end of women's well‐being, abortion harms women; thus, abortion is wrong and should be prohibited, restricted, or avoided when possible regardless of the moral status of the fetus. In this article we undertake three tasks. First, we analyze four variations of this reasoning: what we call the Kantian PA, the Aristotelian PA, the Catholic Church PA, and the Psychological PA. Second, we show how some public policies that regulate or prohibit abortion around the world are now in fact following paternalistic justifications and imposing distinctive paternalistic restrictions (hard, soft, or libertarian); we refer to these policies as “the new abortion laws.” Finally, we argue that both the four paternalistic arguments presented and the new abortion laws are at times ill‐intentioned, comprehensive in nature and thus unsuited for guiding public policy, empirically flawed, or else unjustified.