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Abortion Facts

Essay by review  •  March 19, 2011  •  Research Paper  •  2,211 Words (9 Pages)  •  674 Views

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Susie Wright is a college bound senior in high school. She lives with her mom, because her dad died of prostate cancer when she was five years old. With seven brothers and sisters, of whom Susie is the oldest by eight years, it is hard for Susie's mom to support her whole family, so she has unfortunately turned to prostitution. This does not make for a very wonderful family setting. They live in the Projects and basically struggle to get by week to week, paycheck to paycheck, and the hopes are that Susie will get in to a good college and be able to come back and support the family.

One day--one fatal day, it happened. Susie had celebrated her one-year anniversary with her boyfrien, and things had gotten a bit passionate. She had been feeling a little weird lately, and after conducting some tests, she was hit with the harsh reality that she was pregnant. She was then told by the doctors that the fetus had experienced an oxygen deficiency somewhere along the line and that the baby was guaranteed to be mentally retarded.

Now Susie faces a very tough decision. If she keeps the baby, she will be forced to drop out of school and take care of it, ruining the chances of helping support her family later on. Her family certainly cannot take care of the baby--her mom can barely support the rest of them, and her oldest sibling is ten, not to mention her mom earns her living through prostitution. Both Susie's and her family's future is on the line if she keeps the baby, and she would be much better off if she did not have to deal with it. Should Susie get an abortion? The answer is yes.

First, to provide a bit of background information, an abortion is a removal or expulsion of an embryo or fetus from the uterus, resulting in its death. This can occur spontaneously as a miscarriage, or be artificially induced through chemical, surgical, or other means (Hughes, 1). For Susie, getting an abortion would therefore mean for that the life that was conceived inside of her that one fateful night will be ended. This is where the argument for abortion starts. Where does life begin?

By law, in the United States, personhood begins at birth (Hughes, 2). This implies that an unborn baby is not a human life, and is therefore disposable. Those who are pro choice argue that the very essential elements of life begin within the first couple of months inside the womb. However, the unborn baby's heart begins beating on the twenty-first day after conception, electrical brain waves in unborn babies have been recorded as early as forty days after conception, and babies can survive outside the womb as early as twenty weeks after conception (Hughes, 2).

Many people argue therefore that all of these facts mean that the abortion of this baby would mean the termination of something that is living and being. The definition of alive is when a "being is growing, developing, maturing, and replacing its own dying cells. It means not being dead."(Hughes, 3). If this is true, Susie's fetus is a live being in the mother's womb as soon as it is conceived because it is growing and building cells. The termination of this being would be murder, and murder is illegal. By the transitive property, one would logically come to the conclusion, then, that abortion should be illegal.

This is faulty reasoning, however and is not the case in the United States. The problem with the argument above is the definition of alive. It uses the word "being". The definition of a "being" can be very murky. A "being" is a fully functioning human body, in which all of the parts work together and are all there, not just the heart after twenty one days, or the heart and parts of the brain by forty days (Ethical Aspects of Abortion, 2). This implies that before the baby is born, it is not a true "being" and is therefore disposable, and if need be can be done away with.

Other experts on this subject, such as Peter Singer who has exhausted all of the different views of abortion, have come to the conclusion that a being is a body that is "self-aware and has temporal awareness"(Singer, 47). Therefore, he would argue that abortion is morally acceptable because a fetus does not meet this definition of personhood. Singer also concludes that infanticide, the killing of new born babies, would be permissible until the third month after birth. This is because at that point self-awareness has still not been acquired (Singer, 48).

In accordance with the above arguments for abortion, the famous Utilitarian thinker Jeremy Bentham makes this statement regarding abortion: "The question is not can they reason nor can they talk, but can they suffer?"(Curran, 18) He would agree that under the ethical theory of utilitarianism, people must consider the happiness of all those involved; decisions must be made which will result in the greatest amount of good for the highest number of people (Curran, 18). Although utilitarian thinkers need to do what is best for the largest number of people, it needs to be taken into account when the fetus is actually able to feel pain and suffer, as Bentham talks about. It is theorized that the infant is free of suffering until about the twenty-third week inside the mother (Curran 19). At the same time however, some sources say that although the thalamus, which is the part of the brain that receives signals from the nervous system and relays them to the cerebral cortex, has formed and is relaying signals to the brain, the fetus still cannot feel pain because in order to be felt there needs to be a certain mental development outside the womb (Hughes, 39).

As the issue of abortion in the United States grew throughout the decades, it eventually culminated in the 1973 United States Supreme Court case Roe vs. Wade, in which Norma L. McCorvey, under the pseudo name of "Jane Roe", argued that she should get and abortion because she had been raped. In response Justice Wade struck down all the laws in every state which protected the lives of unborn children, legalizing abortion in all fifty states for the full nine months of pregnancy (Abortion, 2). Both economic and social reasons were cited for this. This decision created a new, basic constitutional right for women in regard to the right to privacy which the Supreme Court had created only a few years earlier. This right to privacy was "broad enough to encompass a woman's right to terminate her pregnancy" (Abortion, 3). As I stated earlier, the law against murder protects only "legal persons" and that "legal personhood does not exist prenatally".

Roe vs. Wade also authorized no legal restrictions on abortion in the first three months, as well as legalizing it up until birth if one licensed physician judged it necessary

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