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Abortion Morally Permissible

Essay by   •  March 31, 2011  •  Research Paper  •  2,431 Words (10 Pages)  •  1,215 Views

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Roe v. Wade was a United States Supreme Court case that determined that laws against abortion violate the constitutional right to privacy. The decision overturned all state laws that banned or restricted abortion. (About.com) This case is one of the most controversial decisions in US Supreme Court History, it also became one of the most politically significant Supreme Court decisions in history, reshaping national politics, dividing the nation into "pro-choice" and “pro-life" camps, and inspiring grassroots activism. (wikipedia.org) Abortion is always a very controversial subject; it is a very political subject, religious subject and a personal subject all at once. By examining and contrasting the positions of the conservative, liberal, and moderate, I will show when abortion should be morally permissible.

Conservatives emphasize the idea of “pro-life,” that the fetus has a right to life from the moment of its initial conception, because they consider it to be a person of moral status equal to that of all other human beings. For a conservative, abortion is almost never morally permissible, whether it is an early abortion in the first trimester, or a late abortion in the third trimester. The only circumstances in which conservatives might permit an abortion as morally permissible are in the situations of a rape or incest.

On the opposing end of the moral spectrum is the liberal position. Liberals express strong views towards their “pro-choice” position and believe that abortion is morally permissible at all stages of pregnancy, whether in the first trimester or a late abortion in the third trimester. Liberals justify this conviction on the basis that they believe that the fetus is not yet a person and does not have rights until its birth. Resulting, the fetus has no right to life at any point during the pregnancy and it does not obtain the right to life until it exits the mother’s womb.

I believe that abortion is morally permissible when it is performed before the threshold stage of pregnancy, as the fetus does not become sentient until the sometime in the second trimester, which marks the beginning of the threshold stage. My position does hold some leeway in the case of abortions taking place after the fetus becomes sentient, but only in certain case-by-case situations. The position I am arguing for, that of a moderate, adopts a position somewhere in the middle ground between the two extremes of conservatism and liberalism. In the early stages of pregnancy, my position is wholly similar to that of a liberal, believing that abortion is morally permissible so long as it is done at the wishes of the impregnated woman. Essentially, early abortions have the same moral status as contraception. (Sumner 348) Except in special circumstances, in the later stages of pregnancy, I view abortion in much the same light as a conservative; morally equivalent to infanticide. (348)

Although the moderate position dictates the necessity of abortion occurring before the threshold stage, there are some exceptions to this rule in which the woman can have an abortion at a later period and not be considered morally reprehensible. A scenario to illustrate such an exception would be if the pregnant woman were to find out that by continuing through with her pregnancy, she would be putting her health in serious danger. In this particular scenario, it is morally permissible for the woman to abort her child, even after the threshold stage and into the third trimester of her pregnancy.

Another case in which I believe that abortion should be morally permissible after the threshold stage is when there is a high risk of a fetal deformity or disease for the fetus. If there is something that can be done to help the fetus to allow it to have a chance at life after it is born than the mother should not abort, however, if the deformities are severe it may be in the best interests of the fetus to not be born and live a miserable life filled with constant suffering. Also, there would be many problems which the mother and any other family members would have to suffer through, such as the stress of watching the tiny infant struggle for life, and the deformities would probably cause a severe drain of the parents money and time. In these cases, it is it is morally permissible for the woman to abort the fetus, even if it is in the third trimester.

A conservative would attack this argument by stating that abortion is always wrong because it is the killing of an innocent person, morally on a par with infanticide. The only difference between the two is the physical connection the fetus has with the woman, and this distinction means nothing from a moral standpoint with regards to abortion. (Sumner 348) As well, it can be argued that the act of abortion is morally impermissible as it views a fetus as the property of the woman, to which she can decide its fate, just as how slave masters controlled the fate of their slaves. (Paul 14)

I would respond to this objection by discussing the issue of a woman’s right to self-defense. She should have a say where her health and well-being may be at risk. Sumner notes that, “therapeutic grounds for abortion follow from a woman’s right of self-defense. The threat however must be serious in two different respects: the injury in prospect must be more than trivial and the probability of its occurrence must be greater than normal.” (Sumner 354) So, as long as the injury to which the woman is likely to occur is of great severity and it is more probable to happen then in most pregnancies, it is morally permissible for the woman to have an abortion. As well, in the case of a deformed fetus, “a rough rule of thumb is that late abortion for reasons of fetal abnormality is permissible only in those cases in which euthanasia for defective newborns would also be permissible.” (355) In these circumstances, it would not be morally wrong to have an abortion as it would be the most rational and humane decision to make.

A conservative would argue that by accepting abortion in any circumstance as morally permissible, the use of abortion could develop as a common and accepted form of contraception. A general devaluing of human life would result and people would become sexually irresponsible as abortions become a regular and accepted occurrence. People would no longer attach the same special feelings towards the miracle of childbirth, as they would see it as something that can easily be eliminated if it is not completely “convenient” for the impregnated woman. Thus, by allowing any acceptance of abortions in any circumstance, our society as a whole would be morally irresponsible and condemnable.

The reply to this argument is that

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