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NDU Term Paper | Human Though - Morality Of Abortion


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NDU Term Paper | Human Though - Morality Of Abortion by Naja Faysal

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NDU Term Paper | Human Though - Morality Of Abortion

  1. 1. M O R ALI T Y O F AB O R TIO N Prepared for: Dr. Clovis Karam HUT 306 Prepared by: Naja Faysal 2002-8058 Notre Dame University Spring, 2006 June 6, 2006
  2. 2. Introduction: Abortion is still one of the most debatable issues ever. Cases vary, and arguments also do. My study mixes the scientific-social aspect of the issue with the religious-ethical ones, to prove that each case should be dealt with separately and objectively. The conclusion this study demands are: 1) Abortion is a complex topic with reasonable arguments to both sides; 2) we should respect both sides of the argument; 3) it is impossible to hold a standard pro-choice or pro-life position. Besides, abortion debates pertaining to the legal ramifications of abortion laws, are often spearheaded by advocacy groups. These groups tend to fall into one of two camps, with people in favor of legal abortion describing themselves as pro-choice, while those against legal abortion calling themselves pro-life. Both "pro-choice" and "pro-life" are loaded terms designed to make the opposition unappealing (anti-choice and anti-life). Individuals are also usually classified as either pro-choice or pro-life, thus reducing what may be complex views to slogans. Body: To start with we have to see the moral status of the fetus, if the fetus has no rights, then abortion is a non-issue, it is as easy to justify as an appendectomy. But, if the fetus has rights, then abortion doesn't solely concern the freedom of women, since personal freedom is constrained by the rights of others. The most prevalent argument that the fetus has a moral status disallowing abortion is: • A fetus is a member of the biological species homo sapiens (i.e., a human being). • To destroy a human being deliberately is unethical (it's murder). • Therefore, abortion is unethical (murder), since it constitutes the deliberate destruction of a human being. However, there are still doubts that this being has no sense of being a member of a society, or person with rights. They argue that the fetus is just a living organ inside the body that needs years and years to be a part of the society and has rights. This being is also dependant on the mother for living, so she has the right to do whatever she wants with her body and her organs inside her body.
  3. 3. Implicit in the claim that it is unethical to kill a human being deliberately is the idea that we have rights because we are human beings. Therefore, the reasoning goes, a fetus has rights, since a fetus is a human being. This idea has been rejected by some philosophers (especially Michael Tooley, in Abortion and Infanticide). The alternative view is that membership in a biological species is not morally significant in itself; that is, if most human beings have rights, it isn't because they belong to a biological species that is innately morally privileged, but because of some other feature or features that human beings typically possess. Such features are usually held to be mental: self-awareness, self- determination, etc. Exactly which features, and to what degree, a being needs in order to have rights seems very complex, but it is reasonable to attach them to a capacity for self- determination, on the grounds that self-determination is the individual right from which others (such as the right not to be murdered) derive. Such features would be mental then, e.g., a capacity for acting by choice (as opposed to reflex), for sustained interests and thought, for having goals, and so on. In any case, the collective of mental capacities needed to endow a being with rights is typically called "personhood"; the position that mental capacities rather than biological specieshood determine an entity's rights is sometimes called the "personhood" argument. We are thought to have rights not because of our biological species, but because we are persons. The personhood argument has some results that are intuitively appealing to many: • It justifies letting a human being in a persistent vegetative state die, which is difficult when the relevant moral criteria derive from being a homo sapiens rather than being a person. • It would explain the feeling that an animal's moral status varies according to its typical ontological status: that it is more wrong to kill a dog for no reason than a fly, that whales and other primates (but not shrimps and ants) deserve humane treatment because they are "intelligent," and so on. • It would explain rights in a way that avoids "speciesism." It seems true intuitively that a non-human species that could talk, laugh, cry and aspire with us would have the same rights that we have--a result not produced by the theory that being a human is what causes these rights.
  4. 4. • It explains why spontaneously aborted zygotes (usually never even detected) are not a great loss. So according to the personhood view, the morality of abortion depends on the mental capacities of the fetus. In normal human beings, none of the mental capacities generally referred to as "higher" capacities, e.g., thought, are detectable until after birth. So it is unlikely that a fetus or a neonate is a person, even granting considerable uncertainty over which capacities, exactly, personhood requires. Pro-life advocates make the point that brain activity occurs in fetuses, but their point has problems. The conventional pro-life view needs to account for the zygote, not the fetus, and there is no brain activity in zygotes; in fact, there is no brain in zygotes. So the conventional pro-life view can't incorporate personhood criteria at all. A popular justification for intentionally destroying a human being is self-defense, and the principle of self-defense is widely advanced on behalf of abortion. But it doesn't justify abortion. A claim of self-defense doesn't defend against a criminal charge when it comes from the party who brought about the conflict. For example, parents can't invoke self- defense and treat their (minor) children as trespassers, because parents bring it about that there are children needing shelter. Parents also bring about pregnancy, so self-defense can't justify ending pregnancy in ways that are normally criminal, such as killing a human being. An occasional rebuttal here is that parents aren't responsible for the pregnancy if they didn't intend it. But, responsibility for the consequences of one's actions isn't limited to intended consequences. Causing accidents and gambling are two examples of how we can be responsible for unintended consequences. Unintended, unwanted pregnancy due to consensual sex is merely a lost gamble (or maybe an accident, if the possibility of pregnancy was poorly understood). So in general, when liberties are in conflict, the rights of the party that brought about the conflict--intentionally or not--give way. If it is granted that fetuses have the "basic human rights", then the rights of the mother must defer to those of the fetus, and the principle of self-defense doesn't justify abortion. Even murder can be justified; for example going to war and shooting people around and killing innocent people can sometimes be justified, thus aborting an unwanted baby can also be justified under certain circumstances.
  5. 5. In reality, both pro-choice and pro-life are too simplistic to encompass the full complexity of the debate. A person may be personally uncomfortable with, and morally opposed to, abortion (thus being pro-life) while believing the option of abortion should remain legal (thus being pro-choice as well). Furthermore, individuals often place different value on the lives of zygotes, embryos and fetuses at different points in gestation, putting different methods of abortion in different moral lights. Pro-life The "pro-life" argument is that an embryo (or, in later stages of development, a fetus) is a human being — entitled to protection — from the moment of conception and therefore has a right to life that must be respected. According to this argument, abortion is homicide. Many take it a step further and say that, unless this homicide is somehow justified, perhaps because it is necessary to save the life of the woman, then abortion is murder. Pro-life advocates often argue against comprehensive sexual education on the grounds that it encourages extramarital sex and thus sends mixed signals to teens, especially girls. Some pro-life advocates also say that there is a positive correlation between widespread comprehensive sex education in schools and an increase in teen sexual activity. While there is some scientific research to support this, claims that sex education results in a rising rate of teen pregnancies, abortions, and sexually transmitted diseases are not supported. Pro-life advocates also promote maintaining strong families and community advocacy of abstinence until marriage. Pro-choice The "pro-choice" argument is that a woman's right to control her pregnancy outweighs any right claimed for the embryo or fetus (which pro-choice advocates do not see as having the full rights of a person). This was the essential holding in the landmark Supreme Court of the United States 1973 decision, Roe v. Wade, and it is accepted by most in the pro-choice community.
  6. 6. Pro-choice advocates regularly argue in favor of comprehensive sex education in high school, contraceptive use, and greater involvement by parents in the lives of their teens as the three best ways to reduce unintended pregnancies and therefore the need for abortions. They may not necessarily endorse teen sexuality, but pragmatically recognize that it will exist even under "abstinence-only" sex education. They also note that teens taught only abstinence are less likely to use forms of contraception should they have sex, and therefore are more likely to become pregnant and develop STIs. Religion: Most orthodox religious groups are opposed to abortion, some viewing it as murder. • Christians, including both the Catholic Church and evangelical Christian churches, usually hold this position. Some Christian churches that have become more theologically liberal in the last century hold a pro-choice stance. • Buddhists also usually take an anti-abortion stance, citing the Pali Canon which states that life begins at conception. Moreover, in Buddhism killing of, say, a mosquito, would be a direct breach of the precept which forbids destruction of life. However, they also consider that abortion is preferable if the woman's life is at risk. • Islam generally has the stance that if the woman's life is at stake, abortion is permissible under the principle of Shari`ah, the lesser of two evils. Moreover, there are a number of traditional scholars which state that quickening is a sign that the soul has entered the fetus. Otherwise, there is a wide range of positions within Islam. Abortions are usually not prohibited through the fourth month. • Judaism traditionally holds life (including the life of a fetus) as sacred, and does not permit abortion on demand. However, it sanctions (or mandates) abortion under some circumstances, namely when the woman's life is threatened. A number of churches and religious groups in the United States of America support the limited right of women to obtain a safe, legal, medically supervised abortion. A partial list of those organizations.
  7. 7. History Historically, it is unclear how often the ethics of induced abortion were discussed, since few ancient writers wrote about childbirth. Abortion and infanticide are thought to have been commonplace. Among ancient writers opposed to abortion are Hippocrates of Cos and the Roman Emperor Augustus. The early Christian churches generally opposed abortion, drawing upon early Christian writings such as the Didache (circa 100 A.D.). Since ignorance about pre-natal development prevailed, bans against abortion were in many western countries directed only to the period after "quickening" (the time when the fetus begins moving around, approximately the second trimester). By the mid 19th century, abortion was illegal in the US and much of Europe. In the 1960's, laws against abortion began to change in some parts of the world, but in Germany and Spain abortion is still illegal even in the first trimester, although prosecution is rare. Abortion is legal, and even sometimes encouraged in China and India. In a few countries, such as China, the government sometimes forces women to have abortions. Conclusion: It is not easy for most people to reject the standard pro-life argument without rejecting other beliefs they have, such as the belief that infanticide is wrong, or murder isn't justified to serve society. Most people cannot disprove the pro-life position without also disproving some other strongly held belief. Personal Opinion: Pro-life people has there valid arguments but I personally go with the Pro-choice. There is no fixed rule that apply to everything. In law there are always exceptions and special cases, and I guess in this issue its all about dealing with each case separately. I say that a fetus sometimes may be like a cancer that will hurt the body if it is not cured and the only way to cure it is by abortion. I know this might seem horrible, but if you think about it in the way that this cancer will hurt your body mentally, socially, and economically sometimes, then its better to save the patients life from a complete mess. Remember that
  8. 8. the major role of doctors is to protect the life of their patients, that means that if your arm will hurt you for ever just because it exists, then its better to take it out of your life. Same logic applied on abortion. If you don’t want the baby, if the baby will mess up your life, and if the baby is still in your body and you control his life then it’s a part of you. It’s an organ like any organ in your body, and if you feel that this organ will ruin your life, you should demand the right to abort and save your life a big trouble. References: