Utilitarianism and Abortion

Table of Content

Abortion is one of the most debated issues across the globe. People from different sects of the society have their own perception on the abortion. Some try to prove it morally wrong and illegal while others justify abortion on several grounds. There is no need to say that people have their arguments in favor as well as in against the abortion and both the views seem to be right in specific circumstances. Apart from different opinions, law of a society has its own views on the issue which cannot be ignored. This paper intends to discuss the issue of abortion along with examining what utilitarian scholars think on the abortion and several other related issues. Utilitarian view on abortion

While examining the utilitarian’s view about abortion one should mull over the ethical aspect of the issue with perspective of greatest happiness. Utilitarian view believes that ethical value of any act is determined by the maximum amount of happiness of biggest quality for hugest number of general population which it creates. John Stuart mill on abortion

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John Stuart mill is known as father of utilitarian view and it is not possible to understand the issue in Toto without seeing his view on the issue of abortion. John Stuart mill in his book utilitarianism, writes “Utility, or the Greatest Happiness principle, holds that actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness. By happiness is intended pleasure, and the absence of pain; by unhappiness, pain, and the privation of pleasure”. The idea given by John Stuart mill is popularly known as principle of greatest happiness. Right and wrong aspects of any action are decided on the basis of pleasure and pain in this principle of john Stuart mill. Happiness and pain are determined as per quality and amount in every incident though it is not that for easy to test the things unless someone has tested the amount of both pleasure and pain. John Stuart mill says that it is good to be an unsatisfied human being rather than a satisfied pig and it is good to be unsatisfied Socrates than a satisfied fool. If a fool or a pig has different opinions, it is just because both of them know only their own aspects of the issue but others who are there for the comparison are acquainted with both the sides. In the light of above findings, it is difficult for the john Stuart mill to take any firm position on the issue of abortion because he, on no account experienced the excellence and amount of happiness which comes from every one situation. Though it good to suggest that mill would have made his stand by analyzing it and comparing the same with the principle of greatest happiness. Application of utilitarian theory

We analyze the issue of abortion in different situations and the first one is extreme pro life position which says that abortion is unethical and should be considered illegal in all the situations. People who believe in this theory endorse the opinion that fetus is a human being irrespective of its development. Greatest principle of happiness suggests that utilitarian theory does not endorse this view because as per this principle many people may be happy or unhappy by the decision of abortion but it is the mother whose opinion or pleasure matters. Another scenario suggests that abortion is immoral but when life of a mother is in danger, it should be allowed. This view suggests that a mother’s life is more valuable because of her future ability to bear the child. Utilitarian theory does not endorse such theories because greatest principle of happiness suggests that abortion does not make most people very happy. In the third scenario, abortion is considered illegal because except in the exceptional situation of rape. When a female is raped and becomes pregnant then she should be allowed to abortion because sex was not pre planned. Utilitarian would probably grant their consent for abortion, considering the exceptional situation of such cases. People who consider abortion illegal forget about the rights of the women who are pregnant. They may consider it offending and unnecessary interfering in their personal life if they are prevented or advised to not receive abortion. Utilitarian theory also supports this view on the basis of greatest happiness principle. A complete different scenario on the abortion is that it is absolutely moral and legal because it is the discretion of the woman to decide about her body and she should have the right of abortion if she considers it good for her. Utilitarian theory would probably have no any problem with this view because of the greatest happiness principle. Mill believes in individual’s rights and advocates for such discretions upon own life.


After having observed the above mentioned detailed analysis of the subject, it is good to conclude that utilitarian theory advocates for the individual rights and further believes in the principle of greatest happiness. Utilitarian view criticizes abortion in very rare and exceptional cases where this is sheer wrong. Utilitarian point of view endorses abortion on the basis of personal life, individual rights and principle of greatest happiness. John Stuart mill opinion about abortion is based on the principle of human’s greatest happiness. Mill suggests that an individual should always be at liberty to decide the things that give him greatest happiness. Abortion or any other issue should be decided by the individuals according to their own situation and interests, mill suggests. Mill’s opinion is widely appreciated and followed in North American countries in modern times as his views advocate for the human rights and liberty in a greater amount.

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Utilitarianism and Abortion. (2016, Jul 13). Retrieved from


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