Abortion: Moral and Social Problems

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Phil 108: Moral and Social Problems


For many years the topic on abortion has brought up controversy all over the world. Abortion topics touch upon our deepest values and most basic beliefs. Abortion is the deliberate termination of a pregnancy by surgical or medical processes. Two main questions that arise in the abortion debate are: Is abortion right? And what should the law allow? Arguments for and against abortion are diverse and vary from conservative (“pro-life”), liberal (“pro-choice”), and moderate. All three groups agree on the immorality of murder. The conservative and liberal disagree over the nature of persons and who does or does not qualify as one, and the moderate over when personhood starts.

One of the main arguments that conservatives and liberals debate upon is whether or not abortion is morally permissible. The conservative’s perception on abortion is that it is almost never morally permissible. Conservatives highly believe the fetus is a person, a human being, with full moral rights. They believe that a human receives these rights at the time of conception, usually based on the ensoulment doctrine which can’t be proven. According to our textbooks, an argument that a “pro-life” conservative brings up in a debate is that the “unborn is obviously a human life. It is wrong to take a human life. Abortion is the taking of a human life. Therefore, abortion is wrong” (P 167). The term “human life” has two meanings in the premises. In premise one, “human life” means “biologically human”- a person with human DNA. In premises two and three “human life” means “person”- a human being with all the moral rights. Conservatives believe conception is the beginning of personhood and during conception a person receives its genetic code and also has a soul. Others who are against abortion argue that the fetus has the potential to become a person with all the same rights as a grown person, therefore it should be protected. But they fail to weigh this against the rights of the mother.

Liberals (“pro-choice”) main argument is that abortion is almost always permissible. Unlike the conservative theory, liberals believe that the fetus is not a person yet, or a human with moral rights, therefore abortion is permissible. According to the liberal theory an unborn becomes a person at birth not at conception. An argument brought up by the liberal is “the unborn is not a person until birth (and thus does not have a right to life). It is wrong to kill an innocent people. Abortion before birth would not be the killing of an innocent person. If abortion before birth is not the killing of an innocent person, it is permissible. Therefore, abortion before birth is permissible” (169). When involving law restrictions in arguments about abortion, pro-abortionists have the upper hand in the debates. Pro-abortionists believe that the fetus is not yet a person, and argue that by preventing the abortion option from being legal, some women might seek to illegal unsafe abortions, that can lead to death. If the abortion law is not allowed then the government is forcing women to bear to term, a type of procreative servitude. The moderate agrees with both the conservative and liberal positions on abortion. One of the moderate positions argue that the fetus becomes a person with full rights sometime after conception, during viability (the stage in which the fetus is able to survive outside the uterus begins at 26-28 weeks), and quickening (the point when the mother can feel the fetus moving). The moderate in position one would like abortions to be legal up until viability. Moderate position two distinguishes between legitimate and illegitimate reason for having abortions. They believe abortion is legitimate when the mother’s life is at risk or she is a victim of rape or incest. The less legitimate reason in having an abortion is that the fetus is defective or the pregnancy interferes with life plan or financial reasons. Moderates...
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