The issue of abortion is definitely multivalued. It has demographic sense, as well as political and social importance, and it has a very important ethical aspect. Topicality of the problem in discussing abortion persists despite the fact that it continues for many centuries. Historically, the attitude of doctors to abortion is one of the first and fundamental ethical and medical issues that are still relevant today. This is explained by the fact that the problem of abortion unites the relationship between people at the level of moral, legal, social, political, religious, and scientific consciousness.
Abortion is defined as termination of pregnancy by removal of the fetus from the uterus in the period up to 22 weeks from conception (to the point where there is a possibility to give birth to a viable child) or at a later date. It can be performed instrumentally, and by medication (provoke miscarriage). Medical abortion is the deliberate termination of pregnancy on medical and social grounds (Stockman 19).
Around such a complex and sensitive topic in bioethics literature, there were formed two opposing views. The first of them states that abortion is a purely personal, intimate problem that doesn’t concern anyone but the woman herself. It is just one of the surgeries, and as in the case of every surgical operation, all problems are solved by the doctor and patient. This problem can be expressed in the following way: "Abortion is a medical problem."
The second view is the polar opposite: abortion offends the moral sense, so there is a moral and ethical issue and it is very complicated. After all, before coming to the doctor, the woman decides the moral issue of life or death of the unborn person, and when she goes to the doctor, the ethical sense of the problem not only does not disappear, but it gets even more complicated: it involves another person - doctor and if he does his job, then he becomes a murder accomplice.
In recent decades, abortion has become one of the most intensely and diversely discussed issues of the moral theory (Stockman 20). However, philosophical and scientific sophistication of this discussion does not mean that the issue of abortion is becoming clearer. Experts formulate its content in the following way: defenders of the right for abortion and their opponents do not agree with each other even in the terminology of the dispute. Opponents argue that the problem here is as follows: whether or not the embryos have the right not to be killed, like other human beings? Advocates believe the central question is whether one can force a woman to bear an unwanted fetus even at the cost of her own health and life.
Opponents of abortion feel that the concept of fetus viability is not a tenable justification for abortion (Moss 173). First of all, from their point of view, the embryo has a right to life from the moment of conception. Second, they always emphasize the conditional nature of the viability concept. Third, in the publications of the opponents of abortion there are documented cases of survival of children born with a body weight of 420, 360 g.
They also examine many other aspects of the problem of abortion. For example, the problems of risks accompanying the artificial termination of pregnancy are the following: maternal complications, complications in children born to women who had abortions, psycho-emotional problems, etc. The problem of risk is associated with the problem of adequate informing of women. It is argued that doctors do not inform or misinform pregnant women who decide to go for abortion, on the degree of maturity of the fetus, and even on the very nature of the medical intervention.
Based on these arguments, opponents of abortion as morally permissible intervention insist that abortion is the brutal murder of an innocent human being. In today's world, there are three basic positions people hold in relation to induced abortion (Moss 174):
- Liberal position. Fetus (and especially embryo) to the moment of birth is a part of the mother’s body and do not possess the right to life. Therefore, abortion is morally valid at any stage of development of the embryo and fetus.
- Conservative position. Embryo (and especially fetus) from the moment of conception is a person with the full right to life. Therefore, abortion is a form of murder of a person.
- Moderate position. Abortion is morally permissible only in the early stages of fetal development.
The questions on inadmissibility of abortion are unambiguously solved only by religious denominations. All the major religions of the world are the opponents of abortion. In "Islamic Code of Medical Ethics", in particular, it is said that the sacredness of human life is all-powerful at all stages, starting from the embryo and fetus. The life of an unborn child has to be saved, except in cases of absolute medical need, recognized by the law of Islam. The modern trends of abortion permission are not recognized in Islam. It provides the fetus with certain rights, such as the right of inheritance. If a pregnant woman is sentenced to death, the sentence shall be executed only after she gives birth to her baby.
According to Buddhism, to kill someone means to commit the worst possible thing. The ethics of Buddhism begins with the commandment: "Do not take anyone's life, whether human or animal." Solution of the problem of nature and status of the embryo in Buddhism is the following: the embryo is sacred and has all the potential of a human being. Therefore, abortion is equal to demolition of life irrespective of the stage.
Authorities of Judaism believe that abortion (and in general – absence of the desire to have children) contradicts history and messianic destiny of the Jewish people. At the same time, if pregnancy endangers the physical health of the mother, it should be taken into account.
There is another point which is to be analyzed considering the opponents of abortions: it is the point, which categorically states that it is inadmissible under any circumstances. There are cases when there are medical conditions in which pregnancy and childbirth pose a real threat to the life of the mother. Or in other, less dramatic circumstances, which can also happen: when pregnancy is the result of rape, contrary to the will and desire of the woman.
So, in the general position against abortions there are certain internal differences of opinions. Extreme position against abortions does not recognize any exceptions or mitigating circumstances (Sedgh et al. 341). Proponents of the position assert that abortion is unacceptable, even if the pregnancy and childbirth are dangerous to the mother's life, such as heart, kidney disease, etc.; abortion is also not allowed if pregnancy is the result of rape. The argument for this is simple: the child is not to blame in either case, and he does not have to suffer. How can you kill an innocent creature that has no conscious intent to kill his mother and is not implicated in the circumstances of conception, and therefore, does not bear any responsibility, and certainly does not deserve this punishment in the form of deprivation of life?
Anti-abortion relaxed position is the one, in which generally abortion is unacceptable, but as an exception, in cases where there are medical conditions, or in the case of rape, it allows it (Major et al. 875). The admissibility of exceptions is explained as the necessity to take into account the interests of the mother. In the first case – with medical contraindications – the mother's right to life (and health) can be violated. In the second – the rape – there is no voluntary agreement by women. After all, mother is a human with the right to life, health, freedom.
Thus, two positions against abortions – extreme and moderate – are quite different from one another. However, both of them they leave the main source thesis the same: embryo is a human being. It has the right to life. It is innocent. Conscious killing of innocent human being is murder. So, abortion is the murder, and it should be banned as morally unacceptable. In support of this basic argument there are a number of additional ones.
Among them, there is indication that the mother is biologically and socially responsible for the baby, because it is a helpless creature in need of mother (both parents), non-autonomous, i.e. it cannot survive otherwise (Major et al. 877). The mother (both parents) have a special responsibility for this creature, because it is not strange to her, but is the flesh of their flesh, blood of their blood, so here there is not only biological but also a moral duty – the duty of the strong to protect and take care of the weak.
Supporters of abortion have in their hands a very powerful weapon – the main their argument is that fetus is a human being. In fact, it is not the mere statement that matters, but rather understanding of the sense that is meant by human being. Supporters of abortion, as well as their opponents, also agree that embryo is a human being. But they offer to answer the question: does this mean that the human fetus and human is one and the same thing.
Supporters of abortions have several arguments:
1. Even if the fetus is a human being, one cannot disregard the difference between an embryo and a person. This distinction is recognized even for plants: the difference between the seed, germinated seeds and an adult plant. Even in the case of plants it is recognized that acorn and oak are not the same.
2. Even opponents of abortion agree that the fetus needs mother biologically and socially, because it is not itself independent, autonomous, and cannot develop outside the mother's body, but it should be within her for nine months. So, before it is born, it is not independent and the act of birth determines precisely the moment when it becomes such. That is why the birth is the beginning of human life.
These two arguments are particularly important in two cases. First is the case of pregnancy resulting from rape. And second is when pregnancy was not consciously desired. People have quite different opinions regarding contraception and infanticide. If the first admissible and legally permissible, the second is a crime. Recognition of the fact that the fetus acquires full moral status in the second trimester provides a completely different assessment (moral) of abortion in the early and late stages of pregnancy.
If the early abortion is morally closer to the use of contraceptives, later can be considered almost like killing a newborn creature. It is impossible not to see the huge difference between infanticide and the loss of life of the unborn fetus. The latter sometimes may be caused by such factors as the risk to life and health of the mother or a good chance that the child may be born terminally ill, doomed to suffering and death. Therefore, the legal permission for abortion in the later period can only be based on the same principles as the recognition of killing in self-defense or euthanasia.
Supporters of abortions claim that a woman has the right to be completely independent in decision-making on the use of contraceptives, and the early termination of pregnancy (Macleoda, Sigcau, and Luwaca 240). And from the point of view of social and legal policy it must be concluded that there is no need for a law regulating the issue of abortion in the early stages, and that therefore, they are morally and legally permissible.
Macleoda, C., Sigcau, N. and Luwaca, P. “Culture as a discursive resource opposing legal abortion.” Critical Public Health 21.2 (2011): 237-245. Web. 29 Mar. 2013.
Major, B., Appelbaum, M., Beckman, L., Dutton, M.A., Russo, N.F. and West, C. “Abortion and mental health: Evaluating the evidence.” American Psychologist 64.9 (2009): 863-890. Web. 28 Mar. 2013.
Moss, K. “Do No Harm - Unless She Wants an Abortion or Birth Control: The Conscience Movement's Impact on Women's Health.” Texas Journal of Women and the Law 19 (2010): 173-195. Web. 29 Mar. 2013.
Sedgh, G., Singh, S., Shah, I.H., Ahman, E., Henshaw, S.K., Bankole, A. “Induced Abortion: Incidence and Trends Worldwide From 1995 to 2008.” Obstetrical & Gynecological Survey 67.6 (2012): 341–342. Web. 29 Mar. 2013.
Stockman, J.A. “Induced First-Trimester Abortion and Risk of Mental Disorder.” Yearbook of Pediatrics (2012): 18-20. Web. 28 Mar. 2013.