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Reflections Ethical Issues On Abortion Philosophy Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Philosophy
Wordcount: 1683 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Society has been up in arms over the issue of abortion for years, and will continue to be for years to come. There are those who defend the laws against abortion and those who believe that abortion is perfectly within a woman’s right to have the procedure performed. What then is hubbub about? It all boils down to what is morally and ethically right. There are those who argue that abortion is morally reprehensible and should be prohibited; and those who try to abstain or avoid casting any judgment on the morality of this practice.

There are those who say the laws are just because they prohibit actions that are morally permissible; others oppose these laws without thought of the moral issue at all and argue that the individual have a right to choose for themselves whether or not to indulge in the practice.

Abortion, as we all know, is the unnatural termination or an end to a pregnancy before birth that results in the death of a fetus. The question then becomes how is it determined how abortion can be morally right or wrong if it cannot be determined when the essence of personhood begins, and is abortion in fact murder (Warren)?

Some abortions occur spontaneously or naturally because the fetus does not develop normally. Others occur because of a trauma or injury to the mother which prevents the pregnancy from developing full term. Also, there are those that are clinically induced because either the pregnancy presents a risk to the woman or is unwanted.

An induced abortion is one of the most ethical and philosophical issues of the century. In the United States, the debate over abortion has brought about many legal court and state legislative battles. These battles have also been the source of violent confrontations at clinics and anti-abortion rallies.

There are also several other methods used in the abortion process: the morning after pill that is taken within seventy-two hours of unprotected sexual intercourse and another pill taken twelve hours later. The purpose of this pill is to prohibit the fetus from further development at the early stages of conception, or at the point where the sperm fertilizes the egg (Schmidt).

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So, when does the fertilized egg become a fetus? Is it when the fetus can react to pain? Is it at conception, or, is it when the actual birth occurs? Evidence conflicts, with several physicians holding that the fetus is capable of feeling pain sometime in the first trimester (Schmidt, 1984), and medical researchers, notably from the American Medical Association, maintaining that the neuroanatomical requirements for such experience do not exist until the 29th week of gestation. Pain receptors begin to appear in the seventh week of gestation (Schmidt, 1984). The thalamus, the part of the brain which receives signals from the nervous system and then relays them to the cerebral cortex, starts to form in the fifth week. However, other anatomical structures involved in the nociceptive process are not present until much later in gestation. Links between the thalamus and cerebral cortex form around the 23rd week. There has been suggestion that a fetus cannot feel pain at all, under the premise that it requires mental development that only occurs outside the uterus

Some of the most common arguments abortion supporters use when confronting abortion opponents is when does a life begin? When does a fertilized egg become a fetus? When does a fetus become a baby? Since there is no scientifically provable answer, it boils down to religious beliefs and not scientific proof.

Don Marquis argues that abortion is wrong and immoral. That the killing of a fetus is equivalent to the killing of any human being is morally wrong (Marquis). Marquis argues, is that abortion destroys one’s possible future. It is for this very reason that it is morally wrong to take our lives. All our activities, enjoyments, etc., are suddenly non-realizable because someone has taken our lives. This is, he says, the “natural property” that explains why it is wrong to kill humans

Singer states that arguments for or against abortion should be based on utilitarian calculation which weighs the preferences of a mother against the preferences of the fetus. In his view a preference is anything sought to be obtained or avoided; all forms of benefit or harm caused to a being correspond directly with the satisfaction or frustration of one or more of its preferences. Since a capacity to experience the sensations of suffering or satisfaction is a prerequisite to having any preferences at all, and a fetus, at least up to around eighteen weeks, says Singer, has no capacity to suffer or feel satisfaction, it is not possible for such a fetus to hold any preferences at all. In a utilitarian calculation, there is nothing to weigh against a mother’s preferences to have an abortion. Therefore, abortion is morally permissible (Singer, 1993).

An individual’s position on the complex ethical, moral, philosophical, biological, and legal is-sues is often related to his or her value system. Opinions of abortion may be best described as being a combination of beliefs on its morality, and beliefs on the responsibility, ethical scope, and proper extent of governmental authorities in public policy. Religious ethics also has an influence upon both personal opinion and the greater debate over abortion.

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Let us, as an example of an ethical dilemma, consider Shauntay. Shauntay is a soon to be graduated senior at the New York School of the Arts. All of her young life has been struggle. Hungry, and sometimes near homeless, she’s lived for eighteen years from one project to another. Shauntay knew the only way out of this situation was through hard work and dedication. Fortunately for her, there were those who believed in her as much as she in herself. Dance became her escape. Her hard work and determination finally paid off. Upon graduation, Shauntay was to receive a full ride scholarship to Julliard in the fall.

All her life, it has been her dream to become a professional dancer and get away from the life of poverty to which she had been born. She has long had the desire to travel and see the world, an opportunity that her parents had never been able to give. However, just after her senior prom, and before graduation Shauntay received what to her was the most devastating news imaginable. You see, for several mornings she had experienced bouts of nausea and weakness. At first, not thinking much of it, she thought it was the flu or a stomach virus. Also, in reflecting she remembered she had not had a menstrual cycle this month. Concern that the virus would not go away, Shauntay went to the doctor. After her examination, the doctor returned and told her that she was going to be a mother.

In the blink of an eye, all of her hopes and dreams seemed to fly out the window. What was she to do? How could she tell her parents? How would she tell those parents, whose dreams of her having a chance to grow were just as vivid as her own that, she was pregnant? How could she give up what she had worked so hard to achieve? How could she keep, love and care for this child that would have taken so much from her, and possibly condemned her to a life of further impoverishment? How would she take care of a baby? Where would she live? What could she do? What should she do? She had been taught that abortion was morally wrong. She had been taught that abortion was in the eyes of God, the same as murder. This was her dilemma.

The idea of liberalizing abortion laws became culturally salient during the late 1960s, and several state legislatures passed relatively permissive abortion laws during this period. The trend toward gradual liberalization was interrupted by the Supreme Court’s landmark 1973 decision Roe v. Wade, which held virtually all state abortion laws to be unconstitutional.

Although public opinion generally moved in a more prochoice direction following Roe, the decision mobilized opposition from several, often religious, sources. Many cultural and religious conservatives opposed legal abortion because legal abortion was thought to encourage sexual promiscuity by reducing the risks of sexual activity outside of marriage. Another early source of opposition to legal abortion came from the African-American community. Several African-American leaders denounced legal abortion as “genocide” and suggested that easy access to abortion would ultimately be used by whites to limit societal responsibility to care for children born into poverty.

When engaging in culturally and ethically controversial topics like abortion, it has been found that most people latch onto a specific idea and use it to counter every argument offered against their view. For example, one in favor of abortion might be unwilling to question the “fact” that a woman has a right to her own body, (which means that a fetus has no such rights). On the other hand, one who is against abortion might be unwilling to go beyond the claim that abortion is simply murder (Warren; 1973). It may well be that abortion is murder, but the debate will not be won by simply asserting that such is the case. The reason for so much of the confusion on the issue is our human tendency to accept or reject basic moral principles without adequate examination all boils down to agreeing to disagree. Failure to conduct such an examination means that we improperly accept or reject principles that ultimately determine the direction of life.

One need only look at the radically different presentations regarding human nature found in Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Hobbes, Locke, Freud, Marx, Hegel, Hume, Sartre, Kierkegaard, and a host of others to see the importance of this issue.

In the final analysis, who stands to judge what is morally right or ethically wrong? Is not killing by any other name still killing?


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