Should Abortion Be Illegal?

Statement

Abortion is murder and should be illegal.

Q1 Analysis

This statement is likely a Q1 violation unless you consistently treat an unborn child as morally equivalent to any other child.

Q2 Analysis

This statement does not seem to be a Q2 violation, but it may be so if your argument for a fetus being an individual is based on opinion or non-global assumptions.

Discussion

This is a very touchy subject, so please feel free to skip this section if you do not feel comfortable discussing it.

It should be clear that if a fetus is an individual human being, then killing it is murder. The questions, then, are whether or not a fetus should be treated as an individual human, and if it is whether or not there is ever morally justifiable homicide of a fetus.

Let’s start at the beginning. In order for all abortion to be murder, a fetus must be a human individual from the moment of conception. Whether or not a fetus is an individual human being depends largely on one’s definitions of "individual human being" and "life." If you believe that life begins at conception (the moment sperm meets egg), then do you believe that medication and devices that stop a fertilized egg from implanting in the womb are immoral? Do you consider any action that causes a miscarriage (such as hitting a pregnant woman) to be murder? Do you consider a spontaneous miscarriage to be involuntary manslaughter?* Stepping back a bit, do you consider it immoral to not give sperm and egg a chance to meet in the first place (by using contraception)?

If you believe that a fetus is not a human individual at conception but becomes one later in its development, where is that point? Is it definable? Does the mother’s acceptance of the child have moral weight (for example, is it less moral to have an abortion if you were trying to get pregnant in the first place but change your mind)? Does the baby’s ability to live outside the womb deserve consideration? If it does, then what if medical science progresses to the point that a fetus can be saved at any point after conception?

The question of whether or not there is ever morally justifiable termination of a fetus may be difficult to answer, regardless of how you define your terms. In which (if any) of these situations would abortion be morally allowable?

If you are against abortion, is your argument strong enough that you think other people should not be able to make up their own mind on the subject? If you are pro choice, is your argument strong enough that communities should not be allowed to decide whether abortion should be legal or illegal?

Abortion and the concept of life beginning at conception bring with them a large number of related moral issues. These include:

*I am not, of course, trying to imply that anyone believes a woman should be punished for having a miscarriage. This question may sound flip, but I think it is a worthwhile point to consider.

You are encouraged to leave your answers to the questions posed in this post in the comments section. This post is based on an excerpt from Ask Yourself to be Moral, by D. Cancilla, available at LuLu.com and Amazon.com. See the 2Q system page for details of the philosophical system mentioned in this post.

Posted on December 14, 2010 at 9:48 pm by ideclare · Permalink
In: 2Q

3 Responses

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  1. Written by Hugo
    on December 15, 2010 at 7:37 am
    Reply · Permalink

    Would it be more moral to save 10 (20,100…) fertilized eggs from a fire while letting a single 1 day (hour, minute) old baby die?

  2. Written by Lara
    on December 29, 2010 at 10:37 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    Thank you for a reasoned and intelligent set of arguments. I have enjoyed reading a few on your site.

    Your discussion of abortion is focussed on the issue of whether or not it is murder, in fact your choice of question posed for this topic comes from a point of bias towards the rights of the fetus vs the rights of a woman to determine her future.

    As a person with a reasonable understanding of biology I do not think that a fetus is a human being. It is not a human being in it’s own right until it is viable outside the womb. Until that point in time (in the last trimester) I am strongly of the opinion that every woman has the right to determine her own reproductive timetable and that no one ever has the right to enforce pregnancy upon her. That’s what limiting access to abortion does. RU486 would avoid late abortions in all but the most unusual cases, this would allow safe early abortion long before a fetus had any viability outside of the womb. To refuse this to women is to insist that ones beliefs are more important than a woman’s right to her future.

    How about you try rephrasing the question as “Is it allowable for anyone to force a woman to bear a child?” and see how your discussion is framed from that starting point.

    • Written by ideclare
      on December 29, 2010 at 11:48 pm
      Reply · Permalink

      I agree that the discussion would be different if the question was rephrased. Abortion is a complex issue, and I chose this particular statement for analysis because it could be fairly easily phrased and discussed without giving away too much of my own opinion on the subject.

      Whether or not a fetus is a human being is a large area of discussion. You imply that you do not consider the fetus a human being because of your “reasonable understanding of biology.” However, many abortion opponents use arguments purely based on biology to make a case that a fetus is fully human from conception.

      In my personal opinion, both extremes in this case are incorrect. I don’t believe that a fertilized egg is a human being in any ethically meaningful sense, and I don’t believe that passing through a birth canal confers moral status on a fetus. Humanity lies somewhere in-between.

      While I agree with you that nobody has the right to enforce pregnancy upon a woman, I do not think that a woman necessarily has complete moral freedom after she becomes pregnant. For example, I think it would generally be unethical to have an abortion solely because you found out that your child was going to have your husband’s red hair instead of your blond hair. I also think it would be unethical for a woman who only realized she was pregnant after eight months of pregnancy to opt for an abortion.

      In any case, I appreciate the comments and topic suggestion. I’ll consider putting together a post on the ethics of forcing a woman to have a child.

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