Abortion is an ethical dilemma wherein no conclusive position has been reached as of the time being. However, the social stigma that surrounds abortion is very strong as to make the topic a taboo that those who are pro-abortion would have second thoughts in expressing their opinions. The implication of this social stigma on abortion was captured perfectly by Sherman in saying that, “You have to decide whether or not to get an abortion. Then you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t”. For the same reason, it is very difficult to argue for abortion rather than against it since people who do so are stereotyped as unethical and immoral. In the United States, abortion was not prohibited when the constitution was drafted. However, due to social pressures, the states began to consider prohibiting abortion in the 1800’s. Despite the ban, abortion increased indiscriminately, which led to further scrutiny of the law against abortion. Despite the legal triumph of pro-abortion in the U.S., abortion is still considered as a moral and ethical issue. As argued by Marquis, abortion is morally wrong because it is comparable to killing an adult while it takes away the chance of having a future for the fetus, which is perceived as the victim. Marquis’ arguments are an attack to the common intuitions and principles, which is largely based on society’s long-held perception of the fetus being a person, who must rightfully enjoy the things that a person does. Unfortunately, there are circumstances that make anti-abortion ideology illogical and equally wrong in moral perspectives.
Reasons Why Women Perform Abortion
In order to argue for abortion, it is quite implicit to discuss why women submit to abortion. Studies reveal that unintended pregnancy is the major reasons why women decide to undergo abortion. Pregnancies become unintended for a wide variety of reasons such as being too young to bear and raise a child, financial issues, parental concerns and other legitimate reasons why the pregnancy is unwanted. On the other hand, rape and incest constitute a very small portion of women who wish to get abortion at only 1% or less. Wanted pregnancies, on the other hand, gets terminated primarily because of medical issues either of the fetus or of the mother or both. Still, wanted-pregnancies that end up in abortion are a small fraction of the total abortion cases. Apparently, the argument of abortion must be taken on the common cases in order to be philosophically sound. This takes back the argument to those who have undergone abortion because of unwanted pregnancies, which can be reminiscent of irresponsible sexual activity. One of the major implications of arguing for abortion is that it can be easily mistaken for advocating unplanned pregnancies. It should be noted though that planned pregnancies are few as compared to unplanned pregnancies, which implies that sexual activity, by nature is unplanned. For the same reason, advocating abortion does not mean advocating unplanned pregnancies since most pregnancies are not based on planned measures. Rather, abortion is providing a choice for women who are caught under such circumstances that against all odds, does not stand a chance in living a normal life if pregnancy is pushed through. Examine a financially constrained individual, for example. By pushing through with pregnancy, it is not only the mother that is about to suffer but the child that would be born from poverty stricken families as well. Discrimination aside, people who are raised in impoverished societies are at high risk of being delinquent. The chance for a future therefore is quite dim for children who are allowed to be born under such circumstances. America being a welfare society can make programs to intercept abortion measures. But should a person be forced to bear a child that she has mistakenly conceived? Perhaps yes since she would have to contend with the consequences of her actions. However, people under such circumstances feel helpless and when faced with the hopelessness of their situation, a decision to terminate pregnancy is quite automatic. Legal or not, abortion becomes an obvious choice.
Legality of Abortion in the United States
Abortion has been defined as “the termination of pregnancy by various methods, including medical surgery, before the fetus is able to sustain independent life”. Based on this legal definition, it should be noted that the phrase, ‘able to sustain independent life’ is quite problematic. Apparently, a fetus, regardless of age, is dependent upon the mother for sustaining life unless by some artificial method, the fetus is taken from the womb and allowed to develop outside the woman’s body. Although, the technology is possible, the availability of such technology is problematic especially in rural areas where advance medical practices are limited. For the same reason, mothers who are faced with a crucial decision of whether or not to retain their pregnancy would have no technological option. The ability of the fetus to sustain life is also a medical argument that is far from conclusive. For the same reason, perceiving a fetus as a person is quite confusing. In 1973, the case of Roe vs. Wade revealed the weak argument of accepting the fetus as a person for doing so would extend to providing the same legal rights on the fetus as that of the mother. Such right would then come in conflict with the mother’s right when circumstances wherein it is determined that only one should live. As a result, the court ruled in Roe vs. Wade that “a woman’s personal autonomy and reproductive rights extend to her decision to terminate her pregnancy”. Prohibiting abortion would therefore, place power on the hands of the state to intervene with personal decisions. This intervention would not only prevent an individual to decide but would also place a person’s privacy at stake since it would give law enforcement access to her medical and personal records. It should be noted that American culture places high regards to privacy. In fact, Americans would go to great lengths just to protect their privacy. One particular example is the case of Kaci Hickox who has been placed under quarantine and monitoring due Ebola measures. Apparently, Hickox is willing to risk her health and those around her just to enjoy her privacy wherein her actions clashed with New Jersey public health policy.
Abortion as a Clinical Issue
Most decisions to abort come under circumstances of having health risks. Some women are quite unaware of their physical condition and their ability to bear a child that they become pregnant before realizing their health conditions. Examples of such are women who are not aware that they have “potentially serious systemic autoimmune diseases” as well as rheumatic diseases are advised against pregnancy. Also, diseases that affects the kidneys such as lupus and ant phospholipid syndrome would create unfavorable health conditions for pregnant women with such conditions. In other words, some women become pregnant before they realize that their life and the life of the fetus are at stake. However, it could not be denied that some women although they are aware of their medical condition, would still pursue pregnancy yet in the end, before the baby is born, decides to take an abortion. Some, perhaps under moral pressure, would pursue their pregnancy despite of their medical condition until someone, a physician or family member, intervenes. Whether or not a woman is aware of her medical condition, it is only logical that the woman should be allowed to choose for herself whether she pushes through with the pregnancy or not since it is her life that is at stake. Stringent anti-abortion activists believe that human life starts at conception. Anti-abortionists argue that abortion is immoral because it terminates the life of a person. However, this argument is quite illogical when the life of the mother is also at stake. By prohibiting abortion, a medical dilemma is created on who’s life is more precious, that of the mother or that of the fetus. Assuming that the fetus can sustain life independently although it would place the life of the mother at risk, it is only logical to choose what is already certain, which is the mother, and not that of the uncertain future of the embryo. Doctors, on the other hand, are faced with an equally daunting scenario. In an abortion documentary ‘After Tiller,’ the struggles of four doctors in the U.S. as they perform what other doctors choose not to reflects the ethical dilemma and social responsibility that doctors like George Tiller, has to go through. It should be noted that Tiller was assassinated in 2009 allegedly because he performed late abortions. Apparently, performing abortion is not as easy as it seems as it exposes not only patients to potent risks but also doctors and medical professionals who are instrumental in doing so.
The Morality of Abortion
The role of the church as a standard setter of morality is noteworthy in the issue of abortion. In fact, most of the conscientious view on abortion being an immoral act was forged due to religious beliefs. Catholics, for example, are very stringent on abortion issues that even the use of contraceptives is deemed as a sinful act. Accordingly, “sons of the Church may not undertake methods of regulating procreation which are found blameworthy by the teaching authority of the Church in its unfolding of the divine law”. In this argument, it is apparent that the moral fabric of society can be wrongfully based on assumptions and religious traditions that have no scientific or even sound philosophical basis. Apparently, the policy makers of the church, or the Catholic Church to be exact, does not take into account that inherent capacity and desire of normal human beings to procreate. Unfortunately, by stigmatizing contraception, the church is advocating unwanted pregnancies by which they have no apparent solution. Similarly, outlawing abortion would not prevent unwanted pregnancy. Rather, it only worsens the problem of illegal abortions, which could greatly contribute to the crime rate. A study made by Donohue and Levitt revealed that the sharpest decline in crime in 1991 was, in effect, due to the legalization of abortion. Evidently, banning abortion does not solve the issue since it only increases delinquency as women are forced to perform such actions illegally. As observed, the annual illegal abortion in the U.S. has risen from 200,000 to 1.2 million in the 1950’s and 1960’s although it is very much possible that the number have been grossly understated because abortion are mostly unreported. It has been argued that abortion is tantamount to killing an adult human being, which by any means, is morally and legally wrong. By saying thus, abortion is placed on the same level with socially unacceptable acts such as murder. Also, by saying that abortion is tantamount to killing an adult would imply that the fetus, regardless of his clinical state, is considered as a person. Accepting a fetus as a person, regardless of whether or not he can sustain independent life, does not only pose legal complications but also moral confusion as well. This paper does not necessarily contend that fetuses are less than being human for even medical experts are undecided. However, it is quite noteworthy of how the ‘person’ notion of a fetus can significantly change an individual’s perspective against abortion. For the same reason, whether society accepts it or not, abortion creates moral constraints. Also, pre-natal studies of fetal development, which implies that fetuses have cognitive abilities, reinforce the feeling of guilt that during abortion, fetuses can feel pain as much as a normal person does. However, it should also be noted that mothers are experiencing mixed emotions, especially on unwanted pregnancies, as well. When influenced by these overwhelming emotions, the welfare of the fetus is of lesser importance wherein a mother decides to terminate her pregnancy due to emotional pressures. For most mothers who have undergone abortion this way, the after effect of such actions is guilt feelings and remorse. In the context of morality, the mother who has undergone abortion is as much paying for the moral implications of her actions wherein applying anti-abortion laws would be tantamount to adding insult to injury.
Despite the legality of abortion in the U.S., arguments against abortion are still persistent. Among the reasons why it is so is the notion that fetuses are persons and, by all means, killing them is morally unacceptable. Anti-abortionists also believe that abortion deprives fetuses from the chance of having a future. Despite the soundness of such arguments, prohibiting abortion is not a solution to amend the moral and ethical dilemma of abortion. As history suggests, prohibiting abortion did not curb the incidence although it only increased the instances of delinquency. Abortion should be a choice and whatever the reason for deciding against pregnancy, bearing a child should be left at a mother’s discretion. As long as the mother is mentally capable of making decisions for herself, abortion should be left at her prerogative primarily because it is her life that is at stake. It could not be argued that unwanted pregnancy is already a problem yet adding another problem to an already existing problem does not help at all. Still, a child can take his chances and perhaps live through poverty and do well in his life. Evidently, pursuing pregnancy despite all odds is of no consequence to pro-abortion since the basic argument of abortion is to provide a choice and leave the decision of rearing the child to families and parents especially the mother who has to have the last say. In fact, even under extreme circumstances, a mother would freely give her life for the sake of childbirth while others consciously decide to become pregnant despite the health risks associated with it. As much as a mother is responsible to a fetus’s life, she is primarily responsible for her life as well. Whatever a person does, unless she is constrained with mental incapacities, she should be given a chance to decide for herself without sanctions, especially legal ones.
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