Date of Award


Document Type

Union College Only

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Political Science




abortion, arendt’s, argue, autonomy, choice


Abortion has become an extremely divisive issue usually framed as a “cultural” or “moral” one. Espousing the sanctity of life and the legal rights of the fetus, pro-life adherents lobby for state laws restricting access to abortion with the ultimate goal of overturning Roe v. Wade. The pro-choice proponents argue for the right to privacy, respect for female autonomy, and not granting the fetus the status of personhood under the 14th Amendment to keep Roe as law and fight against state laws seeking to place restrictions on abortion. With both sides holding fast to the notion of autonomy and trapped within the language of life and choice, the debate has come to a linguistic stalemate. Although Hannah Arendt (1906 -1975) is best known for her theories on totalitarianism, violence and revolution, I turn to her works on the human condition, action and freedom for a new perspective. Posing the question ‘How might Arendt’s theory help us to re-conceptualize the abortion debate?’ I offer my view of how she would critique both sides’ arguments and actions. Embracing her call to consistently reexamine commonly used concepts to ensure they are applicable to our new experiences, I approached the abortion debate by questioning the relevance and usefulness of terminology such as ‘autonomy’, ‘privacy’ and ‘choice’. The ultimate goal of my thesis is to provide abortion rights feminists with new theoretical grounds, inspired by Arendt’s political theory, to argue for governmental defense of access to abortion for all women in America. Most important, using Arendt’s theory of politics, I argue that abortion is ultimately a political, rather than a moral, issue, one that requires an enhanced sense of democratic judgment.