Ethical Issues Surrounding Abortion
In many societies worldwide, abortion is a very debatable subject and the center of many political deliberations. The Harvard Medical School (2019) defines abortion as the removal of pregnancy tissue, conception products, or fetus and placenta from the uterus. There are several reasons to terminate a pregnancy, for instance, when the fetus is a risk to the mother’s health, when there is abnormal fetal development and when the pregnancy is unplanned (Harvard Medical School, 2019). In the United States, abortion is a ubiquitous experience, and it is an approximation that between 4 women, one will likely have an abortion by the age of 45 (Druet, 2018). Additionally, in every four pregnancies, one will probably end in abortion (Druet, 2018). Abortions are voluntary and legal and can’t occur without the woman’s consent, therefore posing morality questions. Nonetheless, differences in opinions continue to spark ethical discussions concerning abortion.
Most discussions concerning the ethics of abortion seem to revolve around a few fundamental principles. The ideologies include the fetus’s humanity status, whether or not the fetus is a human, the pregnant woman’s rights compared to those of the fetus, and the woman’s challenges during the pregnancy (Fromer, 1982). The morality and legal statuses of abortion have divided opinions across most communities. Some believe that abortion is wicked and shouldn’t be legal in most or all cases, while others agree with the act to some degree where they draw the line.
The Personhood of the Fetus
The main issue that surrounds the morality of abortion concerns the personhood of the fetus. According to Warren (1973), fetuses are not persons and therefore do not have a right to life. In her view, abortion is allowed all through the course of the pregnancy. The main argument that she makes is that fetuses lack some key characteristics that an average person would have. These include; self-awareness and irritability, reasoning, the ability to communicate, the ability to choose what or not to do, and self-concept (Austin, 2019). However, the timeline of the fetus’ development invalidates the argument put forward by Warren. Fetuses usually become conscious about the midpoint of a pregnancy where their brain activity increases (Austin, 2019). Therefore, the conclusion to Warren’s argument is based only on the pregnancy’s first half. Additionally, most abortions in the United States occur at about the first half of pregnancies.
In contrast, a fetus will eventually develop into a conscious human being when the pregnancy is allowed to progress. All the traits that Warren put forward will ultimately apply to a newborn child. Austin (2019) argues that fetuses do not possess the traits mentioned earlier in the actualized form but latent forms because of their human nature. He adds that having the personhood traits in latent form is enough for the fetus to have a personhood status as well as the right to life. Furthermore, by Warren’s standards, killing newborns would be an ethical thing to do because they also aren’t members of the moral community entirely. Therefore, despite not being self-conscious, fetuses have the right to life as much as normal human beings do.
Abortion and Welfare of the Women
Many people seem to prioritize the needs of the fetus more than what the pregnant women actually want. Hewson (2001) explains that characterizing questions about the ethics of abortion in terms of fetal concerns tend to sideline women and the reality of their lives. Pregnancies, especially unplanned ones, disrupt the lives of women to a greater extent. According to Hewson (2001), sidelining women correlates with the increase in women’s freedoms and that advocating for fetuses’ rights is a way of oppressing them. Additionally, those who advocate for fetuses’ rights do so without considering another person’s loss of autonomy.
Pregnancy is a significant event of life that transforms a woman. Hewson (2001) believes that those opposing abortions commit to values that demand that a pregnant woman must persevere through the process regardless of how risky and painful it is for them despite the woman not getting pregnant intentionally. Others argue that abortion and murder are equal, and the justification for this is that the suffering of women is less brutal than terminating a fetus. However, Hewson (2001) explains that since a fetus is similar to an invasive organism, it is the woman’s right to refuse to serve as a life support system for it, even if it is in the views of many a human. Many women resort to abortion to spare themselves and their families the pain, suffering, and costs of childbearing. Therefore, it is difficult to justify how ethics can excuse the wastage of female life.
Abortion and Religion
Different religious branches also have had their opinions on the morality of abortion. According to Christianity, God creates every person in His image and likeness and grants life as a gift; therefore, everyone should unconditionally enjoy it (Stefan 2014). Christianity indicates that since God is the giver of life, He alone has the right or, as Stefan (2014) puts it, “moral legitimacy” to end all life. Since fetuses are products of conception, a process commanded by God, they unreservedly have a right to life just like any other person. No human has the authority to terminate a form of human life. The act of abortion has anthropological implications on the fate of human life (Adrian, 2010). Therefore, abortion is a sin because it is not in line with the divine order.
It is not only Christianity that judges abortion. Hinduism puts abortion among the worst sins that a Hindu devotee can commit (Adrian, 2010). Additionally, the documentation of texts speaking about karma and the laws of reincarnation indicate the stance that Hinduism takes on the concept of abortion. On the other hand, Buddhism does not take a much different stance on abortion. Buddism focuses on conventional embryology and the non-violence principles that strictly regard life in the highest order (Stefan, 2014). In that aspect, these religions consider abortion wrong and violate the right to life, despite the reasons behind the act.
Conversely, atheists and scientists base their decisions on facts and differ significantly with the views put forward by religions. They argue out that realistically, God is an unproven entity, and man shouldn’t make decisions concerning life based on a mythical being (Stefan, 2014). Atheists and scientists question the subject of faith and discuss that people can’t make decisions based on faith foundations as different people have different beliefs (Stefan, 2014). However, the right to life is essential for all human beings, but when conditions are dire, one can consider putting an end to one to save another. In these circumstances, atheists believe that abortion should be permitted based on specific settings.
Abortion Cannot be Justified and is Completely Avoidable
Different intellectuals have also expressed their views concerning abortion. Stefan (2014) discusses that abortion is a wrong solution, and the parties involved can all benefit if they don’t consider it. To break his argument down, he distributes his points into three situations. Firstly, sexual behavior leads to pregnancy without being adequately educated and becomes subject to unstable financial conditions. The specific situation occurs commonly in teenagers attending high school not only in the US but also globally. The incidence may result from lacking sufficient knowledge on sexual education, lacking the means of contraception, or information concerning the risks of unwanted pregnancies. The teenagers fear upsetting their parents and consequently resort to abortion.
Additionally, they are yet to graduate and lack the financial stability to raise a child. In this regard, the education system should be advanced enough to teach sexual education and incorporate it into the family. Additionally, the government must initiate public policies to support young women who find themselves in such fixes. The scenario concludes that abortion is entirely avoidable.
The second situation concerns abortions caused by misdiagnosis. Physicians may be wrong when they diagnose a fetus to be terminally ill or suffers particular malformations. It is when they perform an abortion that they establish that the baby was perfectly healthy. Stefan (2014) recommends that doctors perform all tests to completion and as accurately as possible to avoid such situations. If possible, a repeat of the tests should confirm the accuracy of the results. Therefore, to prevent the case, it is critical to have competent medical practitioners as well as proper and well-maintained equipment that give truthful results.
Lastly, unwanted pregnancies by natural parents may be a gift to infertile couples. Stefan (2014) argues that even if the parents do not want the child, it may interest couples who can’t have their own naturally or through artificial insemination to adopt the child. This situation can save the mother from the guilt of abortion and give the adoptive parents the joy of raising a child as one of their own (Stefan 2014). It is, therefore, a win-win for both parties. However, both parties need to contact each other and find an agreement for this to be possible. A database containing all the essential information of both parties should help them communicate. This situation is ideal to avoid terminating unwanted pregnancies and having to end innocent lives.
In conclusion, the still is no final agreement as to whether abortion is wrong or right, and society might not find a consensus sooner due to increasing knowledge in biology, theology, and life. When viewed from specific angles, differing opinions seem to justify the points they make, and for that reason, discussions are endless. Ethical battles regarding abortion occur from multiple fields and paint the opposing side as morally monstrous, but many opinions settle on a joint agreement that life is a right. Personal values will always clash with any ethical point, and in this case, one cannot simply establish an autonomous rule to either support or reject abortion. However, it is essential always to consider the circumstances and acknowledge that the final decision rests on the female who has a difficult choice to make.