The issue of abortion as a morally right or morally wrong action is a controversial one. Although abortion is considered by many as the right decision that does not violate ethical rules, this paper aims to show that abortion is ethically controversial because it neglects such concepts as “the personhood” and “the right to live”.
Why Abortion Is Right: Views of the Opponents
When research provides facts about abortion, it is often women’s happiness and rights that count. Although abortion itself is a process that can be considered as harmful, many women experience relief when after it (Rocca et al. 126). Some of the abortions are viewed as the right decision because women who were sexually assaulted do not want to keep the child. Such an example is mentioned by Cockrill and Nack: a woman who was raped after a date admits that abortion was the only choice for her (982).
Abortion is considered to be the fundamental right of women to control their bodies and their life. Therefore, they are allowed to abort the child if they are not ready to become a mother or merely do not want children. Non-consensual sex or lacking financial and emotional resources are often considered to be the main reasons why abortion is right. Unplanned pregnancies and births often can interfere with women’s education or career, which will adversely influence their life and the life of their children. Hillary Clinton’s quote is a case in point: “You cannot have maternal health without reproductive health. And reproductive health includes contraception and family planning and access to legal, safe abortion” (Center for Reproductive Rights).
Abortion: Between the Opinions
The issue often marked as “the gray zone” in abortion is the following: should abortion of a late-term fetus be considered morally wrong? It is illegal in many Western countries, but the cause of pregnancy could also be considered when deciding whether late-term abortion is ethically wrong. If a woman was raped or the pregnancy is life-threatening, should the woman be allowed to abort the child? In the late-term of pregnancy, a fetus is considered to be sentient, which implies that abortion is a violation and, therefore, morally wrong (Herstein 2). However, a woman also has the right to decide what will happen to her body. Thus, a controversy between the child’s and the woman’s right is created.
Some of the women who would be morally right (e.g. abortion due to rape) to attempt an abortion during the first trimester are not allowed to get an abortion during the late-term because it is illegal and morally wrong. However, social, cultural, and economic conditions that influenced the delay should be considered as well.
Other women who do not want a child and abort a long-term fetus are, presumably, ethically wrong because the fetus is sentient, and women can look after the child. Therefore, if a woman decides to get an abortion because she does not want the child for any reason, she denies this child the basic right to live. Furthermore, some women are at risk of not being fertile anymore after such a procedure. These women should be denied abortion if they are able to look after the child, the mother and the child are not at risk of mental and physical illnesses, and the pregnancy is not caused by rape.
Why Abortion Is Wrong
There are various reasons why abortion can be considered wrong: it can be dangerous and harmful to women, it can lead to mental and physical problems, and it does not consider the opinions of others (the partner/husband, the child).
First, abortion itself and the conditions of it can lead to traumatic experiences in women. Although the abortions described in the study were legal, the participants still felt intimidated by the surroundings and the procedure, acknowledging that it was traumatic (Kimport et al. 207). Some of the clinics insisted on separation from their companion (partners or parents), which also hurt women.
Second, illegal abortion, medical abortion, and abortion conducted by unqualified staff can lead to negative impacts on women’s health. Illegal abortion can lead to various complications, as, for example, the rare abdominal pregnancy. This condition was caused by the woman’s decision to terminate pregnancy illegally using a midwife’s help (Lalooha et al. 495). Secondary abdominal pregnancies, as presented in the case, are often caused by tubal abortion (Lalooha et al. 494). Medical abortion conducted without guidance can lead to “serious morbidity in terms of anemia and sepsis” (Mishra 858). It should also be noted that medical abortions are dangerous because they can be incomplete or result in ectopic pregnancies (Mishra 858). Restricting the sale of such medications and providing information about the possible causes of abortion are the needs that have to be considered.
The paragraph above addresses the scientific side of the danger that abortions can present. Ethical considerations need to be considered as well. The concept of personhood applies to the fetus during any trimester because the fetus can be seen as a person who has the right to be born and live. The problem of late-term abortions is that it includes fetal pain, which can be considered as direct violence against another person. It is also important to decide when the personhood begins and if it can begin at all. If personhood cannot be applied to different stages of fetus development because its frames remain vague, does that mean that personhood begins at conception? If so, even abortions at the early stages violate the rights of another person, e.g. the child. Even if the child is mentally or physically ill, they cannot provide the decision to the mother, which eventually leads to a lack of any choice. The main choice upon the life of the child belongs to the mother, while the child, although a person, cannot decide anything. Therefore, it does not own its life. However, all human beings deserve respect. Taking the child’s life during the stage of its development where the child cannot have any choices is, therefore, lack of any respect whatsoever.
The child’s right to dignity is also denied, and so is their right to be born. Of course, some might argue that fetuses are not persons per se. However, it implies that human beings’ personhood appears and vanishes, depending on the conditions or their development. Judging if a human being is a person only by the developmental stages of this being seems ethically wrong (Collopy 105). It means that being’s personhood can be taken by somebody’s opinion or decided using his or her stages of development. Therefore, if all human beings have the right to live and exist, so do fetuses, because they belong to humanity as well. Different people might have different opinions on what it means to be human (being rational, self-aware, having specific neurological functions, etc.). The exclusion of fetuses from this category cannot be based on any lack of the mentioned factors because it will lead to the exclusion of other human beings (those who are not rational or self-aware). Thus, fetuses need to be seen as any other human being that have the right to live.
The issue of abortion is a controversial one because it requires the public to regard it from different points of view (cultural, philosophic, ethical, sociologic, political, etc.). The complexity of this problem is in its link to the value of life, the ability to choose, and the desire to make the right decision. Abortions are often considered morally wrong because they make us decide who has the right to live and who does not. However, no human should have this power over the life of another. Abortion can be seen as an act of violence. As Mother Teresa noticed, “any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love but to use violence to get what they want” (Collopy 193). Thus, if we decide to value the human life, we need to value it whether it is a child or an adult.
Although abortion can be understood in specific conditions, it is a serious violation against the life of a human being. Those who are to be aborted cannot choose whether they will live or die. Abortions can often lead to complications in mental and physical health. At last, they bring the power over somebody’s life into the arms of another person.
Center for Reproductive Rights. “Clinton to Canada: Abortion Access Must Be Included in G8 Initiative.” reproductive rights, 2010. Web.
Cockrill, Kate, and Adina Nack. ““I’m Not That Type of Person”: Managing the Stigma of Having an Abortion.” Deviant Behavior, vol. 34, no. 12, 2013, pp. 973-990.
Collopy, Michael. Works of Love Are Works of Peace: Mother Teresa of Calcutta and the Missionaries of Charity. Ignatius Press, 2016.
Herstein, Ori J. “Defending the Right to Do Wrong.” Law and Philosophy, vol. 31, no. 3, 2012, pp. 343-365.
Kimport, Katrina, et al. “Analyzing the Impacts of Abortion Clinic Structures and Processes: A Qualitative Analysis of Women’s Negative Experience of Abortion Clinics.” Contraception, vol. 85, no. 2, 2012, pp. 204-210.
Lalooha, Fateme, et al. “Advanced Secondary Abdominal Pregnancy: A Complication of Induced Abortion.” International Journal of Case Reports and Images (IJCRI), vol. 4, no. 9, 2014, pp. 494-497.
Mishra, Nidhi. “Unprecedented Use of Medical Abortion Can Be Injurious to Health.” JEMS, vol. 2, no. 8, 2013, pp. 856-859.
Rocca, Corinne H., et al. “Women’s Emotions One Week After Receiving or Being Denied an Abortion in the United States.” Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, vol. 45, no. 3, 2013, pp. 122-131.