Ethics Paper - Abortion Debate

Topics: Abortion, Pregnancy, Fetus Pages: 9 (2780 words) Published: February 8, 2013
Jennifer Sozio
Section Instructor: Ms. Colleen Farrell
Ethics: PHI-104-51-8
26 June 2012


The moral question on both sides of the abortion argument is when a fetus achieves personhood and is awarded moral status thus granting it rights. Does the fetus have a right to life at the use of the mother or does the mother's choice for autonomy over her body take precedence over the fetus? How do we begin to answer this highly debated question and what conclusions can be made that have the most logical ethical answer?

The difficulty in answering the issue of fetal personhood is that there is not one concrete indication of when that actually occurs in pregnancy. Pro- Life supports the position that personhood occurs immediately at conception thus granting the fetus full rights as a person born. In contrast Pro-Choice reinforces the mother’s rights to her own personhood and her choice to be autonomous from the fetus.

The main ethical issue up for debate is whether society can infringe upon a person’s right to personal bodily security for the purpose to save the life of another. Should anyone or any entity force a person to give up their decision to do what they seem fit with their own body? How would that affect a woman’s right to her reproductive liberty? What precedents does that set forth for the future for women?


The nature of abortion rights can be broken out into three different perspectives; the protection of unwanted social parenthood; the unwanted genetic parenthood and the right to bodily autonomy. (Manninen 36)

The burdens of social parenthood weigh heavily on the woman who is forced to endure a pregnancy. These burdens can be detrimental to mental and physical health and psychological harm is likely to damage the child that is brought into a situation not fully embracing or prepared to care for its needs.

Through abortion, a woman has the right to prevent the existence of a child with her genetic characteristics. It is an essential part of her overall reproductive liberty to have either the right to or the right not to conceive children. (Manninen 37) However, once a child is born, then it becomes a moral subject with its full entitlement to personhood and you cannot kill a child with your genetic characteristics or to avoid the responsibility of social parenting.

Judith Jarvis Thomson’s thesis gives us a graphic description of a violinist who without your consent, is attached to you and relies upon you for his/her life. Are you morally obligated to submit to the unwanted bodily intrusion in order to support the life of another person? The clear answer to this question is “No.” A person is under no moral obligation whatsoever to use his body to sustain the life of another at the compromise of his own. The concept of forced violations of bodily autonomy is morally indefensible. This has nothing to do with the value of the fetus in general but the right not to be subject to the intrusion as the right to your body is exclusively yours.

To make abortion illegal is to force pregnant women to surrender their own bodies to provide another human being all its needs for survival. Using Kantian moral philosophy, with specific attention to the second principle of the categorical imperative that describes using people as mere means to an end; aren’t the pregnant women being used? (Manninen 40) The women essentially become hosts to the fetuses and are used to cultivate life. How can the forced use of women’s bodies be a moral act?

A blastocyst or a human zygote does not have the full characteristics of what human beings have. It cannot function on its own, communicate or have a consciousness attributed to it. It merely possesses the potential to form into personhood and ultimately a human life. If we cannot pinpoint the exactness of when a fetus achieves personhood, how can we correlate the crime of murder to something that hasn’t had a life? No...
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