The root question to ethics is whether abortion is considered murder or a justified killing? Is it morally wrong and if so, should it be made legal or illegal?
There are mainly 2 views towards abortion. The pro-choice regard abortion as acceptable in some circumstances as women should be given a freedom of choice. Whereas the pro-life regard abortion an absolute act of wrong and should be criminalized.
Let us first take a look at various approaches to help us better understand and justify both sides of the argument.
A pro-choice would argue that women have the rights to her life, body and health. Before abortion was permitted, women will either have to carry their pregnancy to term or desperately seek to abort due to various reasons (eg. health, incest, rape, career), thus resorting to unsafe and life-threatening procedures. However, with access to safe and legal abortions, women will have the basic right of managing their own bodies and the risk of health will be reduced.
One example is an article extracted from the National Organization for Women which mentioned the deaths of women who turned to illegal and unsafe abortions. (Refer to Example 1)
Besides, women have the rights to liberty and thus have the power to exercise their rights to abortion. In the event a woman needs to continue her employment or meet other obligations, she will not be forced to bear a child against her will which can result in misery as it becomes impossible for her to carry out her duties and obligations in the usual manner.
An example is from the New York Times Magazine (LIVES - When One Is Enough). A woman named Amy Richards explains why she decided to go for abortion. (Refer to Example 2)
In addition, women have the rights to sovereignty. By allowing abortion, women would not be unjustly forced into motherhood which in turn forces them into submissive roles in society. Thus their rights to livelihood and continuation of education and profession will not be depleted. They can have the potential of being on equal status, dominion and power as men.
Under the concept of personhood, it is argued that fetuses are not yet born and are not sentient beings. They do not have the capacity to have experiences (eg. feeling pain) and are not yet reasoning, self-aware beings capable of moral reciprocity. Hence, they do not have a substantial right to life yet.
However, I feel that fetuses are considered human beings from conception and thus they should enjoy the full moral status of born human beings. It is said that although fetuses may not be persons yet, they have the potential to become one and thus, fetuses should enjoy basic moral rights to life. Hence, the rights of an unborn should not be compromised against the rights of the mother.
On one hand, it is argued that legalizing abortion diminishes the maternal mortality rate of women within the society. Studies have indicated that after the legalization of abortion, it has resulted in a much lower percentage of maternal death rates due to greater access to safer and legal methods of abortion and timely abortions, thereby reducing the risk of health complications. (Refer to Example 3)
Besides, timely abortions can be made. Abortions done in early stages (1st trimester) will greatly reduce the fetus’s suffering compared to later stages where the fetus starts developing into a sentient being (capability to experience suffering).
In addition, it can potentially reduce the number of unwanted children. In the cases of rape or physical and mental defects of the unborn child, abortion will be the better alternative to reduce the potential physical and mental suffering the mother feels that her child will possibly face in future. For instance, the child suffers psychologically due to his peers teasing his physical defects....