Abortion is one of the most polarizing issues among people, even in modern times. There is a vast range of perspectives on the topic making it all the more difficult for people to agree and find a common grounding. Many people that believe abortion is akin to murder. Others believe it is an innate human right for women to decide whether or not they want to carry a pregnancy to full term. Some even believe that at the time an abortion is performed, the collection of cells is not yet even a living thing. One of the most unique factors in the argument regarding abortion is that there is little agreement upon what the definition of life is in the first place. Where an individual falls on the spectrum of support for abortion heavily relies on his/her beliefs about life and death (Countryman, 2015). As such, for some people the issue becomes case-by-case specific. And, for others there is an all out stance that is either in support of or staunchly against abortion.
There are many considerations that are in support of abortion. For example, there are cases in which a pregnancy is highly dangerous to the mother. In some extremely dangerous pregnancies, surgeries might even be required to remove the child resulting in such trauma and loss of blood on the part of the mother that she would surely die (Thomson, 1971; Houston, 2012). Even performing these risky procedures does not ensure that the child will survive making consideration of these cases even more important (Lyus, Robson, Parsons, Fisher & Cameron, 2013). From a moral standpoint, it is important to determine whose life demands the ethical support? Is it the fully alive and human mother or the child who has not yet developed memories, breathing, consciousness or responsibilities in society? (Countryman, 2015). Ultimately, it is question of the mother’s human rights. She should have the choice to save her own life. In reality, it should always be the parent who determines such important life decisions as these. Society has no real right to get in the way of such family matters.
The above example is, of course, an extreme one. Certainly with better medicine there are fewer cases where a mother’s life is at risk (Lyus, Robson, Parsons, Fisher & Cameron, 2013). However, there are other medical issues to consider. For example, with better science, doctors are now able to predict when a child is going to be born with a serious medical problem that might make the rest of their lives difficult to say the least. Serious diseases such as Downs Syndrome, Cystic Fibrosis or many others can devastating problems for the rest of the child’s life (Thomson, 1971; Houston, 2012). It should be up to the parents to determine whether or not they wish for their child to undergo such terrible problems for their entire lives. Quality of life for the potential infant is one of the moral considerations associated with abortion.
Not only should the quality of life for the infant be considered and protected, but the quality of life of the mother should be protected. There are for instances, cases in which a child is conceived via a violent or tormented way such as in cases of rape. A mother who raises a child that was not planned in the first place and then serves as a reminder of the trauma on a daily basis can suffer a considerable amount of depression. It is unlikely that a mother who feels forced to have the child without the option of abortion available to them will have an easy time bonding with her child (Thomson, 1971). This is a situation that is far less than ideal for both the mother and the baby. As such, it should again fall to the parent to make this decision. Allowing the pregnancy to continue if the mother expressly wishes against it would be protecting the rights of the rapist and not the rights of the mother. While not all unwanted pregnancies are due to rape, it is still extremely important to consider the fact that babies should be brought up in loving homes for them to have the utmost potential for happiness. A baby born into any home where they are unwanted would grow up surrounded by festering resentment and this is not something that anyone should want for a child.
While there are many reasons why abortion should be supported there are certainly valid arguments for the other side of the issue as well. For example, while extreme examples were noted above, there are many times in which the circumstances are much less extreme. People feel that it is wrong to use abortion more like a birth control method, which certainly is true. Access to condoms and other forms of birth control should reduce the need to pursue an abortion. In addition, in the case of many religious groups, simple remaining abstinent is an important consideration. These points of criticism are certainly valid ones. In fact, since the potential life is never the one at fault for the way he/she was conceived it is important not to forget the rights of the infant, should one believe that the fetus is in fact a life. While some people believe that a human is born at the point of conception, others suggest that life does not happen until there is a heartbeat or until the baby moves. Some even argue that it is not until the baby is officially born and leaves the mother’s womb (Thomson, 1971).
Certainly, there are signs of life before the baby leaves a mother’s body, it may be a stretch to consider he collection of cells present at conception as a life form. Because human rights only apply in the context of a living human being, this argument requires consideration of when a baby is truly alive. Once the body structure begins to form and the baby has a heartbeat it is safe to assume that there is life present in the fetus. Perhaps this can be one of the metrics in determining whether or not it is too late to have an abortion performed. Of course, it is still important to have individual considerations for every case because later term abortions have even been deemed reasonable if the mother’s life is at stake (Lyus, Robson, Parsons, Fisher & Cameron, 2013).
That being said, there is a middle ground between the two sides of the argument. No one should be in support of late term abortions when there is a greater risk to the mother and more life in the child. Unfortunately, there is a limited time in which to make the important decision of whether or not a mother wishes to carry a child full-term. While this is something that should be regulated by the government to some degree, the matter of abortion in general should be the right of the mother. It is she who will have to face the physical, mental and environmental results of having a child (Thomson, 1971). Mothers should be supported in their parenthood to make decisions about what is best for their children no matter what that decision might be. Every mother should have access to safe abortions and the right to make that decision for herself. No one else’s opinions should be able to outweigh the inherent rights that mother has as a human being in this modern society.
- Countryman, J. (2015). Virtue Ethics and Abortion. CedarEthics: A Journal of Critical Thinking in Bioethics, 14(1), 1.
- Houston, M. (2012). Investigations begin into death of woman who was refused an abortion. BMJ, 345.
- Lyus, R., Robson, S., Parsons, J., Fisher, J., & Cameron, M. (2013). Second trimester abortion for fetal abnormality. BMJ, 347.
- Thomson, J. J. (1971). A Defense of Abortion, Philosophy & Public Affairs, Vol. 1, no. 1.