Abortion & Ethics: Approaches to the Problem

Introduction

The topic of legality and righteousness of abortion has been at the forefront of the U.S.’s political agenda and social discourse from the 1960s to the present day. In this regard, Congressional Digest (2021) discusses how various politicians have been seeking to limit the rights for personal privacy to end pregnancy established by landmark rulings in Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton. Particularly, the questions that the Supreme Court has been addressing include determining the legality of abortion in general and at the later stages of pregnancy, partial-birth pregnancy termination, and public funding, to name a few. Such a struggle in the political and legislative arena is explained by the fact that abortion raises many ethical controversies and, thus, results in the existence of numerous often opposite opinions.

As for the arguments in favor of legal abortion, many people pinpoint that women have the right to make the decisions that concern their bodies freely. Especially, it is noted that in the case of rape, females are deprived of the freedom to choose whether they want to become pregnant. Therefore, pro-abortion advocates assert that women should not bear the responsibility of delivering a child when they are the victims of the crime. On the other hand, the opposing party maintains that the fetus from the time of conception is considered as a human being, thus, having the right to live. Additionally, it is mentioned that abortion is not the only choice that potential mothers have as they can seek to adopt a child. Moreover, many people worry that abortions negatively affect the perception of human life value. Therefore, it can be argued that at the core of the ethical dilemma is the comparison of a female’s rights against those of a fetus. In this respect, this paper seeks to discuss which legal and moral principles guide healthcare professionals’ behavior, identify the type of ethical problem, and elaborate on ethical approaches to analyze this issue.

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Since abortion is a highly controversial issue, there are neither ‘good’ nor ‘bad’ decisions that medical workers can make except for the situation when continuing with pregnancy threatens a patient’s physical well-being. Therefore, a professional’s behavior is sometimes explained by the personal moral stance. As such, the specialist should decide how to balance the two ethical principles, namely respect for patient’s autonomy and nonmaleficence, in a manner that would be the most beneficial for pregnant woman and fetus. Yet, more often, the healthcare worker’s decisions are affected by the existing laws. For instance, doctors are generally only allowed to conduct abortion operations prior to the third trimester. However, if they disobey the government regulations, they may be convicted with a prison sentence.

The Type of Ethical Problem

From the moral standpoint, abortion is regarded as an ethical dilemma, as was mentioned above. Indeed, on the one hand, there is the necessity to respect the personal autonomy of every woman. Yet, on the other hand, the decision to terminate the pregnancy implies the end of the fetus’ life. Although some argue that an unborn child is considered a human being only after it reaches 24 weeks of gestational age, it is fair to notice this opinion is relative (Chervenak & McCullough, 2017). Sometimes, however, the problem of abortion may be the cause of moral distress. For example, it can appear due to the contradiction between doctors’ beliefs and existing legal regulations.

Approaches to Analyze the Problem

Abortion may be analyzed using various ethical approaches that allow viewing the issue from different perspectives. Firstly, it is important to mention that this problem is not embedded in relationships. Secondly, the concept of abortion can be examined using a principle-based approach. As such, those who argue in favor of abortion legalization usually assume that all people should have the freedom of choice to the extent that it does not interfere with the freedom of other individuals. On the contrary, the opposing view is based on the principle that every life matters, including those of an embryo and fetus.

Additionally, the problem can also be analyzed using the deontological or teleological theories approach. For instance, when personal freedoms are considered an end, then abortion supporters would argue that achieving it justifies the death of a fetus, whereas those in opposition would think otherwise. These opinions, however, would reverse when the life of a fetus is considered as an end. Finally, abortion may be viewed from the communitarian perspective meaning that healthcare professionals should consider the impact of one’s decisions on the community’s well-being and prosperity.

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Summary

Overall, it can be concluded that abortion is a highly controversial problem that does not have a simple solution and requires developed ethical and critical thinking from healthcare professionals. The current analysis revealed that there are generally no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ decisions except for those that reduce the well-being of both pregnant women and fetuses. Therefore, each person’s behavior is explained by his or her personal moral stance and legal restrictions. Additionally, it was found that the abortion issue most of the time presents an ethical dilemma and sometimes can cause moral distress. Finally, the discussion showed that the problem of pregnancy termination could be successfully analyzed using principle-based, deontological, teleological, and communitarian ethics approaches. As a result, it can be argued that the problem arises due to the coexistence of the two moral views, namely the freedom to make decisions about one’s body and the importance of a fetus’ life. Although it is widely agreed that both concepts are crucial and valuable when considered separately, the contradiction arises when people have to decide what is more important. Therefore, it is unlikely that the ethical problem will be resolved in the observable future.

References

Chervenak, F. A., & McCullough, L. B. (2017). Ethical dimensions of the fetus as a patient. Best Practice & Research Clinical Obstetrics & Gynaecology, 43, 2-9. Web.

Congressional Digest. (2021). Abortion in the Supreme Court and Congress: Roe v. Wade led to years of litigation over abortion access. Congressional Digest, 100(9), 3-8. Web.

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