Should Abortion Be Illegal?
Abortion is murder and should be illegal.
This statement is likely a Q1 violation unless you consistently treat an unborn child as morally equivalent to any other child.
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.
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?
- An abortion would save the mother’s life and the fetus would not survive in any case.
- The fetus might or might survive, but attempting to bring the baby to term would definitely kill the mother.
- An unusual multiple pregnancy makes it unlikely that any of the fetuses will survive unless selective abortion is used to reduce their number.
- The fetus is the product of rape or incest and only a few weeks old.
- The fetus is the product of rape or incest and only a few hours old.
- A birth-control device failed, but a "morning after" pill can be used to make sure that no pregnancy will result.
- The fetus has a condition that would render it incapable of living for more than a short time outside the womb even if brought to term.
- The fetus has a condition that is not immediately fatal but would doom it to a short, pain-filled life.
- A couple decides to start a family, but changes their mind after the woman becomes pregnant.
- A couple decides to start a family, but breaks up after the woman becomes pregnant.
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:
- Under what conditions can an individual be morally compelled to care for another individual?
- Are there any conditions under which a woman is free from responsibility to her fetus?
- If abortion is murder, should the parties involved (mother and physician) be treated as murderers?
- Should the father of the fetus have a moral right to take part in the decision of whether the mother should have an abortion?
- Do the desires of a mother who wants an abortion trump those of a father who thinks abortion is murder? What if the situation is reversed?
- If someone under the age of majority wants an abortion, should she be allowed to make her own decision? If so, should she be allowed to keep it a secret?
- If someone under the age of majority doesn’t want an abortion, should she be allowed to make her own decision? If so, should she be allowed to keep it a secret?
- Is it better for a woman to have an abortion, put a child up for adoption, or keep an unwanted child?
- If you think a single person shouldn’t be allowed to adopt a child, should a single woman be required to keep a child she doesn’t want?
- If eggs are fertilized in a laboratory (for example, because the father is terminally ill but the mother wants to have their child some day), do they have the right to life? What should be done with them if they are orphaned? If the mother decides not to have children or becomes pregnant naturally by her husband, is she morally required to bring these eggs to term some day?
- Is this subject too complex for blanket answers?
*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.