Abortion is a perennial problem in the West. This essay shows that although the three major Western approaches to this issue – pro-life conservativism, pro-choice liberalism and the third way view that supports early but disallows late abortions – sound quite incompatible with each other, they nevertheless share a fundamental idea. They take the maternal-fetal relation as a relation between two unrelated right-holders, the pregnant woman and the fetus. This assumption can be criticized as not appropriate to the reality of the maternal-fetal relation. In this essay, I adapt the not-one-and-not-two relationship model of the pregnant woman and the fetus proposed by others, and take their proper relationship as an internal relationship. I argue that we cannot solve the conflict in abortion by the claim of rights of the two parties. Furthermore, as the pregnant woman is a moral agent, this relation should be considered within the conception of a moral community to arrive at a conclusion that reflects our moral experience.
I employ the Confucian conception of a family ethical relation to analyze and explain this internal relationship and its characteristics. The most important feature is that within such an intimate family relationship, the obligation of members to each other is primordial. In other words, the pregnant woman as a moral agent has the inescapable obligation to protect the fetus. She cannot claim a right to abortion by autonomy or the right to bodily integrity. Then I go further to explain how this Confucian conception of family relationships could give the proper reasons and solutions for various types of pregnancy to determine whether it is morally acceptable for abortion in such cases.