The ethicality surrounding abortions is not a new concept, as it has been a controversial topic of debate for decades now. However, what is a new concept is how when looking at the debacle regarding abortion, it is transparent that it has transformed form an argument of choice to an argument of morality. Judith Jarvis Thomson explores the morals of abortion utilizing insightful mind experiments that allow everyone to put themselves in the shoes of a woman who is contemplating terminating an unexpected pregnancy. Thomson uniquely grants that for the sake of the abortion debate, a human fetus is automatically classified as a person. In eliminating one of the main controversies regarding abortion, Thomson is able to effectively formulate her argument and protest the stance that all abortions are ‘morally impermissible’ (Thomson).
I agree with Thomson that abortions have the potential to be morally permissible and should not be classified as immoral, but I disagree with her claim that a fetus is equivalent to a person, because although it was an attempt to further her argument, I believe that it actually unintentionally discredits the argument for the morality of abortion in the grand scheme of the ‘pro-choice’ argument.
It is safe to say that everyone can agree people have the right to make their own decisions, specifically when it comes to decisions regarding their own bodies. Who’s to say, then, that women do not have the right to their own body? If you support human rights, then this means you are also an advocate for women rights. As an advocate for women’s rights, this means that you understand that whatever decision a woman decides to make about her body is ultimately her right. If the government were to place a law banning abortion and interfering with a woman’s personal and private decisions regarding her own body, then this also means the government is ethical in inflicting control in other personal decisions people decide to make regarding their bodies, such as getting plastic surgery. It is in no shape, way, or form, the government’s responsibility to decide, or even have a say, in what anyone decides to do with their bodies. Statistically, it is eye-opening to see that when looking at what population makes up pro-life leaders, 77% of these leaders are men (Planned Parenthood). Men, who have never experienced the suffering that is often paired with pregnancy or the trauma of labor, should not be dictating what a woman can or cannot do with her body and limiting their rights.
The majority of men in the ‘pro-life’ movement emphasizes how invalid the argument against pro-choice is because it is immoral for a male to inflict his opinions on what a woman should do with her body. To further put this into perspective, a man telling a woman she cannot get an abortion is like a woman telling a man that he cannot receive a heart transplant. Both of these surgeries can be viewed as required procedures, and without the surgery, both are at equal risk and poses a threat to their health. Why should an abortion be treated as any different than other medical procedures?
Ann Furedi embodies this exact stance in her book, ‘The Moral Case for Abortion’. Furedi argues that by allowing people the right to an abortion, whether they choose to utilize this right or not, is a moral good in itself. She specifically states, ‘When we prevent a woman from making her own moral choices about her pregnancy, we undermine her humanity by taking away that ability to exercise her agency’ (Furedi). Furedi furthers her stance that limiting a woman’s right to abortion is a limit on a woman’s rights in general because when abortions become regulated, it means that women who become pregnant are seen as having less control over their futures and lives. This is illogical and immoral because consequently this means human life in the womb is equivalent to a human life that begins after a human is born.
This is where Thomson’s argument in attempt to justify abortion as being moral in certain scenarios is at fault, because it is not scientifically correct to equalize a fetus, in which is defined as a clump of cells and tissue residing in the uterus, to a fully developed human whom possesses basic human rights. To equate a potential life with an already existing life is like viewing an 11-year-old as a potential voter, but this 11-year-old does not get the right to vote until he or she is 18 and gains the right to vote. It is unreasonable to associate a human, whom has the ability to breath, think, feel, and carry out tasks on its own, with a fetus whom in the first trimester, which is when most abortions take place, possesses none of these qualities discrediting its equality to a developed human’s right-to-life (Jacobson).
Opponents of the mere idea of abortion being moral would argue with the claim that abortion is seen as a right that belongs to women and women only by contending that abortion is always immoral because regardless of how undeveloped a life may be, it is still a life and still has potential to possess human rights and a right to live. Donald Marquis embodies this stance and asserts that if abortion is justifiable, so is the killing of adults. He strongly believes abortion is immoral because in performing an abortion, one is limiting and depriving the fetus of its’ future (Marquis). However, what proponents of this view fail to acknowledge is that their advocacy for a potential fetuses’ future does not extend further than after the moment the fetus takes its first breath of air. To utilize the term ‘pro-life’, it seems those who believe abortion is immoral because it prevents a potential child from a future seem to be ignoring the fight for other things that would protect a fetus’ future such as childcare, healthcare, and education. The Susan B. Anthony List, one of the biggest pro-life organizations, stated in regard to family separation at the border, ‘from its inception Susan B. Anthony List has been completely dedicated to protecting the first right without which no other rights matter: the right to life … Therefore, we refrain from public comment on immigration and many other topics, including other policies that impact families’ (Susan B. Anthony List). This exposes the hypocrisy in those who believe abortion is immoral because it strips a fetus from its ‘right to life’ and a potential future.
This flaw in the ‘pro-life’ argument discredits the stance that it is immoral to have an abortion because by putting value on a life when it is in the womb while simultaneously campaigning for policies that separate families and harm the futures of children means that advocates for the immorality of abortion are not actually concerned with the potential life of a child. As a matter of fact, this flaw actually shows that advocates for ‘pro-life’ are more concerned with stripping the autonomy of a woman’s decision and right to do what she pleases with her body. In order for the ‘pro-life’ movement to succeed in its argument of being, literally, pro-life, it must be redefined in a way that protects the rights of every human being from the moment they are conceived to the moment they die.
‘A fetus’s right to life is debatable. A woman’s is not’ (Wright). It is universally morally accepted that people possess the right to life, however, this does not equate to the right for another human to live inside someone else’s body. A woman’s body, and all of the parts that belong to her anatomy, belong to her in perpetuity until the day she dies. This means that ultimately it is the woman’s decision according to her situation, whether it be social circumstance or a health concern, because the mother’s life is superior to a fetuses’ life due to the fact the fetus is inhibiting the mother’s body. This is vital in further understanding that raising a child is not a simple and smooth process. In fact, deciding to carry a baby to term and have a child not only means being financially stable, but also demands emotional and social responsibility. In fact, 73% of women who seek an abortion do so because they are not financially ready to take on a child (Wright). According to a study conducted by Childbirth Connection, an advocacy group, it was uncovered that the cost of raising a child through the age of 17 is an estimated $200,000. This excludes the cost of an average hospital birth, which is $10,000, and that is if the pregnancy goes perfectly and smoothly (Wright). If one is not graduated from school and established in their career, and simply put financially unready, these numbers can be horrific and consequently will lead to a child not having adequate medical care and the basic needs it requires to survive.
Financial instability is one of several reasons that a majority of women give for aborting a pregnancy, meaning women who decide to go through the procedure have a good intent and have given the morals of the situation a lot of thought. Preventing a potential child from growing in a destructive environment that lacks the love, stability, and care in which is vital for a child’s needs and the mother’s right to her body and life cannot be seen as immoral. If the mother decides that, morally, it is not right for an unwanted child to be brought into this world, then it is her moral decision and should not be judged by anyone uninvolved in her situation. Conclusively, it is not selfish for a woman to have an abortion due to the negative impact it will have on the Mother’s life, whether it be a social or health factor, or even just an unwanted pregnancy, because the mother’s life is ultimately superior to the fetuses.
Opponents of the belief that abortion can be moral would argue this and tell proponents for the morality of abortion by declaring that women can avoid this entire hassle by using contraceptives or just abstaining from sex as a whole. The reasoning behind this argument is if someone is consciously agreeing to act in a way that can promote the creation of a fetus, then they should be held responsible for caring for this life. Mona Charen asserts the belief that abortion is immoral if the mother took part in intercourse utilizing her free will by stating, ‘Sure a woman has the right to choose whether or not to become pregnant. She makes that choice before engaging in sex. To make that ‘choice’ after a pregnancy is underway, merely as a matter of birth control, is an immoral act’ (Charen). Well, this argument quickly becomes invalid because people who are sexually involved do not always know what they are getting themselves into because sex education is lacking and lots of teens become sexually active before fully understanding what is going on. Let’s say there is a woman did not know what she was doing by engaging in sexual intercourse, and simply was irresponsible and made a mistake, and this leads to a pregnancy.
Well, let’s compare this woman’s situation to someone who is careless and does not understand how a gun works but they accidentally shoot themselves. We can agree that it was stupid for this person to be messing with a gun, however, we will pay for their medical care and help them heal. This disproves the argument that one who engages in sexual intercourse is fully responsible, because like the person who was simply careless and clueless with the gun, mistakes can happen, and when they do happen, serious measures may need to be taken. In fact, no contraceptive out there is 100% effective, and it has been proven that 54% of women who seek an abortion took action prior to engaging in intercourse to prevent a pregnancy (King). Instead of pointing fingers at who is at fault for an unexpected pregnancy, we should begin to educate people, have back up plans that reduce harm, and then require responsibility to those who fall into tricky situations. If a woman’s life will be stricken with chaos after contracting a pregnancy, her solution might have to be abortion, and this is moral and disproves the counter’s argument because this woman may have been uneducated, or simply taken all the steps that were necessary to prevent a pregnancy, and still fallen into an unwanted pregnancy.
Judith Jarvis Thomson in her ‘A Defense of Abortion’, makes the argument that abortion has the potential to be morally permissible in cases such as contraception failing, rape, or when a pregnancy has the potential to pose a threat to the mother’s life. Her argument is vital because of its’ unique ability to challenge those whom are opposed to abortion utilizing very effective analogies that allow everyone, men and women alike, to put themselves in the shoes of someone coping with an unexpected pregnancy. Ultimately, a mother’s choice as to whether or not she wants to continue or terminate a pregnancy is severely personal to her and her circumstances, and cannot be declared as immoral, because it is only moral to recognize that a woman’s body is her own, and it is conclusively her right what she chooses to do.