Abortion Ethics

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Applied Ethics

Abortion

1. Abortion is an “act which a woman performs in voluntarily terminating, or allowing another person to terminate her pregnancy”. (Mary A. Warren)

• The women’s liberation movement in the 1960s is a movement for independence of women from men, for equality of gender and for women’s rights. It leads to the debate over whether women should be given a right to abortion on demand.

• Is abortion morally permissible or impermissible, right or wrong?

2. Two theoretical positions on abortion:
a) For utilitarians, no taking of human life, be it abortion or euthanasia, is intrinsically wrong, since actions are wrong only insofar as they cause suffering or reduce happiness. For abortion, it is the consequence or effect on the mother, fetus (unborn baby), and others that matter, not person’s rights or moral status of fetus.

b) The second position relies on some theoretical concepts--human being, person or rights. Is the fetus a human being or person? If it is a human being or person, then does it have rights, especially right to life? What are the criteria for being a person? Is there any morally relevant dividing line along the biological process of development from the unicellular zygote to birth?

3. Conservative and religious view: This anti-abortionist or pro-life view takes the fetus as a human being. Abortion is morally wrong since the fetus is a human life, and since abortion is the taking of human life and the taking of human life is wrong. Thus, abortion is justifiable in only some special circumstances, say, if a pregnant woman gives birth to the baby, the pregnant woman will die.

3.1 Secular argument against abortion: The fetus continues to grow and develop during the 9-month pregnancy, and there is no significant dividing line in fetal development separating something is a human being from something is not. Hence the fetus is a human being from conception onwards. Since

It is wrong to kill a human being.

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