Today, abortion is one of the most controversial issues worldwide. It was initially considered a social problem, but over the last decade, the situation has changed to include a political and ethical context. Many people take murder as morally unacceptable but when it comes to abortion the story changes. Under the United States, legal system people are convinced of murder, but abortion is legal in every state. Abortion is the termination of a pregnancy by the removal or expulsion from the uterus of a fetus or embryo, resulting in or caused by its death. Philosophical arguments concerning the moral status of abortion have been a source for a long time on whether or not it is morally acceptable. Reading the works of philosophers like Aristotle’s, Mill’s, Thomson’s and Immanuel Kant, it is clear from their arguments that abortion is purely unacceptable. Consequently, there are numerous counter-arguments presented that support pro-choice for abortion. In these cases, those for pro-choice think that their lives are more relevant and having an abortion will give the greatest joy. Debates all over on abortion come to different conclusions. Abortion is unethical as it does not preserve human life and it goes down to an individual decision on whether it is ethical or unethical.
The central question of whether abortion is acceptable or not is purely based on trying and deciding when human life starts. The two methods used to determine this are the religious and the scientific view. Every religion seems to have a different point of view, for most like Christians and Buddhists believe in life begins at conception. The Judaism religion, however, does not share the same belief. “The Babylonian Talmud Yevamot 69b states that: the embryo is considered to be mere water until the fortieth day. Afterward, it is considered subhuman until it is born.” (Schenker, 2008 p.271) it is with no doubt that most of those against abortion rely on the idea that the fetus is a human being from the moment of conception which sometimes is not well argued. (Thomson, 1971 p.1)
Judith Thomson’s famous article, “A Defense of Abortion” argues on the equal reasonableness of abortion. She argues that a fetus is a person since at least the tenth week “it already has a face, arms, and legs, fingers and toes; it has internal organs, and brain activity is detectable” (p.48) however she also points out the sloppiness of the argument that the fetus is a person during conception and calls it a newly fertilized ovum. It should nonetheless be noted that throughout the article she makes her points of view based on a fetus being a person. She further argues that the fetus is human life as such it should be treated whether the pregnancy was acquired voluntary or as a result of rape or in cases where it is harmful to the mother as the end of the day the mother and the child are both lives. Killing one to save the other is not right.
On the other hand, the scientific point of view is more challenging as there is no experiment to show the beginning of life. However, Condic 2013 believes states, “The scientific evidence indicates that a one-cell human organism, the zygote, forms immediately at the fusion of sperm and egg. From a scientific perspective, this single cell is inarguably a complete and living organism;” (p.70) this is to say that life starts at conception using a scientific argument since the sperm and the ovum fuse and also the hereditary material which is what human life.
According to Kant’s argument of duty, he says, “I ought never to act in such a way that I couldn’t also will that the maxim on which I act should be a universal law.” (Bennett, 2017, p.11) This is to means that our action or acts we perform should be right such that would be okay for all to follow the same. It gives a reason that a person should play in a way that if another were to perform the equal act on them, it would be okay. Applying this to the abortion discussion, we have a duty as human begins to sustain human life. If our maxim becomes, it is okay to kill a human life born or unborn. It cannot be a universal law since we would not want someone else to kill us and go unpunished. From the above it makes the maxim to preserve life a moral, making abortion immoral.
Likewise, for those who don’t believe that life begins at conception it would mean to make abortion right we would have to end potential life, and this is not a maxim that can be universal. Making abortion a universal maxim would mean we get the chance and get decisions to stop potential life by not giving one a chance to be born. According to Kant’s concept, it is immoral to perform abortions as he advocates for judging the morality of our actions on its ability to become a universal law.
Aristotle’s ethics bases its idea on delivering happiness being the meaning of our actions and achieved by living a virtuous life. His ethics idea state that “Every art and every inquiry, and similarly every action and choice, is thought to aim at some good; and for this reason, the good has rightly been declared to be that at which all things aim.” (Ross, 1971 p.1) Aristotle talked of different virtues and pointed out Magnanimity, or having the proper amount of self-esteem as the most significant one. From his principle, I believe that there are people who would rather choose to have an abortion than giving birth and destroy their honor. This may be high in cases of high school students or women of a younger age group and cultures where it is wrong for a woman to have a child out of wedlock.
Aristotle also believed in Natural Law. He believed that whatever was fair stood regardless of the legality of the issue. Natural law is of the idea that murder is wrong no matter the circumstances. If we take life beginning at conception view, then abortion is not okay no matter the conditions. Likewise, Aristotle also believed that not all humans were equal hence should not be treated fairly. He thought that human beings were superior to the unborn child since there was no way of telling what they would grow up to be unlike the adults that we already know who they are. Whether they grew to be good or bad in the future, it should not be our choice to decide who lives and dies and superior or inferior.
According to Aristotle, there are three kinds of actions, voluntary, involuntary and mixed actions. In this case, there is one for abortion that is unethical. In the case of rape, the victim has no authority over what happens to her which means that there is an outside factor that played a significant role. However, when the action is spontaneous abortion is unethical as the parties had the control. When we engage in acts of sex voluntary one way we ought to know that pregnancy might occur, we cannot then claim that an abortion tool after such an act to be ethical.
Mill’s Greatest Happiness Principle states that “the goodness of action should not be judged by the decency of its intentions, but by the utility of its consequences.” (Veenhoven, 2004 p.1) If applied to the abortion argument, it means that those who believe that having a baby would’t cause them happiness. Mainly when they are not ready to have a child or take care of the baby, the utilitarianism argument would believe that it would cause more happiness and better not to have them born into a world of pain.
Mill is also of the belief that human life has the best potential for happiness and the highest amount of comfort. By this, he says that happiness “is a state of mind, which cannot be assessed ‘objectively’ in the same way as weight or blood pressure. Happiness cannot be measured with access to merit-goods since the effect of such ‘life-chances’ depends on ‘life-abilities.’” (Veenhoven, 2004 p. 6) this is to mean that happiness is not impossible and abortion to avoid creating pain goes against human life bringing pleasure and also that social conditions are not permanent and can be removed.
In modern times, pregnancy has a different significance depending on ages, locations, socioeconomic status, cultural background and the times. (As cited by Sollinger, 2005 in Lopez 2012 p. 512). Pro-choice abortion advocates to choose whether or not to abort a baby from their body. The United States has a pro-choice position legalized by the Supreme Court that legalized abortion in the case Roe vs. Wade on January 22, 1973. (Lopez 2012 p. 512). This created an opening and the existing situation it became more evident, highly-publicized which led to the creation of a series of organization nationwide, and tens of major religious groups.
The pro-choice raises serious ethical, moral and philosophical questions. Since ancient times, women were seen as nurturers, caregivers and home careers. WIth westernization, there have been more and more women neglecting their children for work which hurts their children both physically and mentally. Pro-choice advocates have been seen to focus more considerable attention on parents who do not want to have a child as they advocate for future implications of having an unwanted child. (Lopez 2012, p. 514)
Abortion has since taken a political view with liberals in favor of the concept pro-choice, and conservatives in support of pro-life ideas. Even so, this had had a tremendous implication from both parties as they try to attract their opposition voters through abortion debate. (As cited by Saletan, 2003 in Lopez 2012, p. 515). Liberals are known to appeal to voters by showing restrictions on abortion as a violation by the government on tradition, family, and property. Conservatives, on the other hand, use morality and religion by differentiating women who indulge in sex willingly and those who favor family values as a way to attract customers.
To understand the topic of abortion we have to go back to ancient times and follow the trends as the world’s perspective changed. From previous arguments, it is evident and clear that people have different views of abortion from political, religious, moral, and economic. The bottom line is we cannot fully understand why individuals are for or against abortion as it is a multi-faces and controversial issue. Abortion focuses on women rights to their bodies but not the unborn child who needs a chance. When we make conscious decisions to have intercourse, we should be able to take responsibility. Abortion is an easy way out that is wrong. Pro-choice tells us that we have a choice, but I think it should also include the child’s decision whose voice is not heard. We look at this debate with different angles, but in most cases, it turns out to be unethical. Looking at Mill’s, Aristotle’s, Thomson’s or Kant’s philosophical theories they all justify abortion to be wrong as it goes against natural laws, universal law and happiness in general. However, it is without question that abortion is an individual choice whether legal or not.
- Bennett, Jonathan. Groundwork For The Metaphysic Of Morals: Immanuel Kant. 2017, pp. 1 – 53, https://www.earlymoderntexts.com/assets/pdfs/kant1785.pdf. Accessed 12 May 2019
- Condic, Maureen L. “When Does Human Life Begin? The Scientific Evidence And Terminology Revisited.” The University Of St. Thomas Journal Of Law And Public Policy, vil. 8, no. 1, (2013), pp. 44-81.
- Cottingham, John. Western Philosophy. An Anthology, Second edition . Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2008.
- Lopez, Raquel. “Perspectives On Abortion; Pro-Choice, Pro-Life, And What Lies In Between.” European Journal Of Social Sciences, vol 27, no. 4, (2012), pp. 511-517., https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/bbdc/b17b6616460d58ecb0efable31da8507329a.pdf. Accessed 12 May 2019
- Ross, David, ed. by. ARISTOTLE: The Nicomachean Ethics. Oxford University Press, 1971
- Schenker, Joseph G. “The beginning og human life: status of embryo. Perspectives in Halakha (Jewish Religious Law).’ Journal of assisted reproduction and genetics vol. 25, no. 6 (2008), pp 271-6. doi:10.1007/s10815-008-9221-6
- Thomson, Judith Jarvis. “A Defense of Abortion”. Philosophy and Public Affairs, vol. No. 1, 1971, pp. 47-66. JSTOR www.jstor.org/stable/2265091
- Veenhoven, Ruut. HAPPINESS AS AN AIM IN PUBLIC POLICY: The Greatest Happiness Principle. John Wiley And Sons, Inc., 2004 pp. 1 – 31, https://personal.eur.nl/veenhoven/Pub2000s/2004c-full.pdf. Accessed 12 May 2019