For a long time now, the debate in the moral status of abortion has been raging. Anti-abortionists and pro-choicers have held and argued for different premises, each armed with relevant moral principles to collaborate their positions. The moral principles that have been used to advance these arguments among others include the principle that only persons hold the right to life and the principle that it is immoral to end the life of a human being. Other arguments towards the moral status of abortion are influenced by religious dogma. The common ground for many anti-abortionist arguments is that it is immoral to kill a human being.
This brings forth the ever winding debate in when life starts. Some philosophers posit that human beings are characterized by rational thought among other biological characteristics. This begs for the question whether in applying the principle that it is immoral to kill a human being, and applying the thought that human beings are rational beings, is it immoral to kill severely retarded people or children? By raising these issues, this paper does not intend to provide answers but only help build perspective.
In writing this paper, I reckon that killing for certain reasons and circumstances is already accepted in the society. This is not to justify every reason that is cited for procured abortions. However, in order to gain more perspective on this matter, this paper will ignore religious dogma and consider philosophical underpinnings. Even in making these considerations, I find that abortion is morally unacceptable with the exception of certain instances where its procurement is justifiable.
It should be understood that the position of the paper is that abortion for all intents and purposes is immoral, although with some exceptions. One would imagine that his position is in contravention of the primary standard for evaluating the appropriateness of a moral position. The primary standard posits that a good ethical theory should be generalizable to all populations without contradiction. An important part of ethics and morality is also good reasoning (MacKinnon 23). As such, it is important to apply good reasoning and rational thinking on this matter. In this respect, it is important to put the concept of abortion to perspective. Abortion is the termination of gestation by expelling the embryo or fetus from the womb before it reaches its viability. It is also important to note that abortion can be induced or occur spontaneously.
Induced abortion is a deliberate act to end the life of a fetus. According to (Marquis 183) abortion is morally akin to killing a human being with the exception of very rare instances. This position is also held by anti-abortionists who believe that life begins at conception. A class of scholars argues that life begins later after conception when the fetus begins its development. On the contrary, it is my belief that life begins after conception. This is because after the fusion of the gametes, the embryonic cells begin to multiply as dictated by the genetic code. It is this growth that eventually leads to the infant being born. In this respect, removing the embryo from the uterus, which would lead to its death, is not any different from taking the life of the baby when it is born.
It is also important to examine the intent that motivates the procurement of abortions. The intent behind an action is very important when determining the moral status of an action. Intent is a very prominent factor in the primary standard used to evaluate ethical theories. For a long time, the relevance of intent to morality and ethics has been the subject of debate. This debate pits the relevance that one’s intention in carrying out certain actions. Choices that are the result of deliberate thought are immoral, when they cause harm or inflict injury to other people. Any omissions on the part of the doer have as much bearing on the moral status of an action as the action itself. As such, abortions that are procured through deliberate thought are immoral (Geirsson 56).
As earlier espoused abortion is not an immoral act in certain circumstances. On this perspective, it is important to look at the intent behind such circumstances. Sometimes, an abortion may be recommended by a physician in order to preserve the life of the mother. This is because of unusual fetal conditions that may put the life of the mother in jeopardy. Additionally, pregnancy may be as a result of unfortunate actions like rape or child abuse. An abortion procured under these circumstance is aimed towards ridding the prospective woman or child the emotional trauma involved. When coupled with counseling, this serves to alleviate the suffering for the victims. When procured under such circumstances, abortion is not immoral.
Another aspect of the primary standard is the consequences that result from a given action. This aspect is particularly popular with the proponents of consequentialist ethics. Theorists of the Consequentialist persuasion hold that the moral status of someone’s action is determined by the outcomes of the said actions. From this standpoint, moral actions are those that result in good outcomes. On the other hand, immoral actions are those that result in bad outcomes. While I agree with these sentiments, I reckon that one should use this school of thought carefully. It is the tendency of people to define things conveniently in order to justify their actions. For instance, an individual might procure an abortion because they do not feel ready for parenthood.
According to them, the outcome of such an action is good because they do not suffer the agony of raising a child under meager means. However, this action cannot be generalizable when it is seen under the microscope of the primary standard for ethical theories. On the contrary, such an action causes consequences that are not only abhorred by the society but also castigated by the laws of the land. It is this kind of reasoning that Barcalow encourages in her book. The author holds that in evaluating an action for moral status, that one applies ethical theories. She also cautions against using certain theories in isolation. This is exemplified by the illustration above. Using the Consequentialist theory without submitting it to the primary standard test can be misleading. It is this practice that Barcalow warns philosophy students against (Barcalow 85).
Abortion is the termination of a pregnancy before it is viable. While it can be induced or spontaneous, induced pregnancy is of particular concern. The intent behind induced pregnancy determines whether the actions are morally acceptable. Most induced abortions are done with selfish intent. This is usually because people want to rid themselves of the responsibility of raising a child. However, some abortions in rare cases, abortions are procured with good and genuine intent.
More often than not, it is to save the life of the mother. Under such circumstances, an abortion is not immoral. Additionally, the consequences behind the act of abortion make it immoral from a consequentialist perspective. When the primary standard is applied on this issue, abortion is a vice and an immoral act that is abhorred by the society, with the exception of a few rare instances.
Barcalow, Emmett. Moral Philosophy: Theories and Issues. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 2006. Print.
Geirsson, H., & Holmgren, M. R. Ethical theory: A concise anthology. Peterborough, Ont: Broadview Press. 2000. Print.
MacKinnon, B. Ethics: Theory and contemporary issues, concise edition. Belmont, Calif: Wadsworth/Cengage Learning. 2012. Print.
Marquis, Don. Why abortion is immoral. Journal of Philosophy, 86, 1989: 183-202.