Over the years, a number of ethical theories have been utilized to analyze human behavior. These include consequentialism, Aristotelian and deontological approaches as well as Utilitarianism, Kantianism and Virtue theory. Ethical issues, such as abortion, capital punishment and animal rights, among others, have raised debates on how to address and approach them.
While some people have gone for Utilitarianism, others have gone for moral theory in dealing with these issues. On the other hand, others have chosen to stick to Kantianism. According to Mill’s Utilitarianism, an action is considered right if it brings about happiness or results in the consequences that are considered best.
On the other hand, from the viewpoint of Kantianism, an action can only be considered right in cases where it agrees with the moral principles. Moreover, the moral theory can only be considered right in cases where a virtuous agent also takes a similar action. This paper will consider the case of abortion and relate it to two ethical theories namely, Utilitarianism and Virtue theory (Arthur and Scalet 112).
Abortion is a medical procedure that is done on pregnant women with a purpose its (the pregnancy) safe ending. According to statistics, over 40% of women are believed to abort once or more in their lives. This is quite surprising given the huge ethical debate that surrounds this procedure.
Moreover, it has been found that abortion is done by women irrespective of their races or social classes. However, it is also important to note that the women who are most likely to undertake an abortion are over the age of 40, the young, the poor, and the unmarried. In the United States alone, an annual record of abortion cases comes nearly to 1.2 million. It was legalized in the country after the famous ruling Roe vs. Wade by the Supreme Court in 1973.
However, in other parts of the world, this case has been received with skepticism. This is especially true in Africa and the Middle East, where religious influence is still considered strong.
However, most Western and Asian countries have embraced it. In fact, it is believed that between 20 and 30 million legal abortions are performed annually (Abortion par. 1). Moreover, the statistics also shows that there are between 10 and 20 million illegal abortions per year (Abortion par. 1).
This reflects how crucial this topic is in ethical perspective. The medical standpoint attracts the public attention to the complications caused by illegal abortions. This is mainly because of the rising number of deaths due to unlawful procedures. It has also been noted with great concern that a lot of women die due to the poor quality and performance of illegal abortions.
This is quite crucial as compared to few cases in Western countries where legal abortion are allowed. This raises the question whether the other countries in which illegal abortions have led to serious complications should legalize it to save lives or they need not to do it. In addition, ethical theories have also been applied to try to resolve the issue to no avail (Trupin 1).
One of the ethical theories mentioned above is utilitarian standpoint. This theory considers an action valid or right if it results in the best consequences. In essence, it focuses mainly on the results of an action. That is why, the consequences of actions are implied before making a decision on something. Utilitarianism is, therefore, focused on maximizing overall happiness and satisfaction. It looks for the best consequences of actions. In essence, Utilitarian view point uses means-ends as its model of reasoning.
The individual, therefore, works to get what he/she wants for the main object of evaluation as a consequence. It is also important to note that the end result is considered good if it enhances one’s life. Furthermore, it ensures that a person maximizes utility to achieve better results. Therefore, Utilitarian viewpoint searches for the actions that promote happiness to the highest number of people. In this regard, it can be considered as an act preferred by the majority.
Therefore, if what brings happiness is wrong, they will go for happiness. In this case, the course of action does not matter. Instead, the result matters. Measuring happiness is quite difficult. This is mainly because people are unique and react differently in different situations (Arthur and Scalet 114).
The next ethical theory is Virtue ethics. This theory is based on Aristotle’s moral ethics, which focuses on virtuous agent’s course of action at any given circumstance.
In essence, it considers one’s action based on another, considered as virtuous. In this regard, a virtuous agent is taken as the one that acts virtuously in every decision. That is a person that exercises the virtues which human beings hold dear. Virtues that are valued touch upon love, care and the right to life for everyone, among others. People love to see character’s traits that flourish in virtuous acts.
In this regard, every action is compared to virtues. It takes into account the kind of habits one should develop as a model of reasoning. Moreover, it tries to determine the desires which such reasoning model considers best. In this regard, one does his/her best to become a better person. Moreover, this can only be done by comparing one’s habits to that of another individual considered virtuous. Therefore, actions are only considered right if a virtuous agent considers them such in the given circumstances (Arthur and Scalet 115).
Relation of abortion to Utilitarianism
As it has been stated above, Utilitarianism focuses on the consequences of an action. That is why, if the end results bring happiness to the majority, then that action is considered right and best. Abortion has brought about huge debates worldwide. This is mainly because religious influence has taken center stage on the matter. However, it is important to note that Utilitarian viewpoint has prevailed over religious one in most Western cultures.
Most women prefer abortion if pregnancy is unwanted. These affect mostly teenagers, old women as well as poor and unmarried ones. Considering teenager’s situation, her main goal is to study and get an appropriate education to achieve progress and happiness in life. In this case, having a baby will not be among her main goals. This means that abortion brings her happiness as a way of dealing with future problems.
This is the same with unmarried women, who may not need children in such circumstances due to various reasons such as public pressure, financial issues, among others. Moreover, older or poor women may feel that they do not have enough time, finance or health to support or raise children. This, therefore, means that their decision is based on their needs and on what makes them happy.
In essence, if one feels that abortion will be a benefit for her (or at least deal with possible troubles easing the life), then she will take such course of action. Most women have considered the results of possible decision to abort with regard to what will make them happier. This is the reason why most women are for abortion. It saves them from parental issues that bring about financial constraints at a time when they are not prepared (Trupin 1).
Relation of abortion to Virtue theory
Concerning Virtue theory, it is important to consider religious influence. Human beings believe in virtues which they would like to have and stand up for with the cost of their lives. However, some circumstances may not allow them to do so.
For instance, most women in China would wish to have more than one baby, but the one child policy makes it impossible. It is also the fact that people derive their virtues from spiritual world. That is why religion influences society norms and virtues. Moreover, cultures and traditions also affect virtues.
Nonetheless, it is important to mention that almost all viewpoints concur with one point a child, even unborn, has also the right to life. In this regard, a virtuous agent will not abort a child in normal circumstances. In fact, this is considered a murder since life begins at conception. However, it also important to consider what a virtuous agent would do in case the mother’s life is in danger. In such a situation, abortion would be done to save the mother’s life since she can still have another child.
Moreover, a child has a long way to go if it is delivered and has no mother to care for and raise it. Therefore, its chances of survival are small. In essence, Virtue theory considers abortion only in circumstances where it cannot be avoided. However, if there is an alternative, then abortion should never be chosen (Trupin 1).
On the one hand, Utilitarian theory emphasizes the consequence of an action. It, therefore, justifies the means by results. In essence, it is for democracy and the will of majority. This is why abortion has been accepted in most Western cultures. Utilitarian theory justifies abortion in such a scenario.
However, it may be considered wrong because happiness cannot be measured. Moreover, it encourages people to go on satisfying their needs without control and to unlimited extent. Due to such a viewpoint, people will consider their desires without making an allowance for what others want. Every child would wish to be born; however, its mother may decide not to give it birth (just to ensure her happiness). This is unfair to the unborn baby. Therefore, Utilitarian theory should be ignored when it comes to abortion.
Abortion is a common debate in most countries. In fact, its legal issue has been questioned by various religious confessions. This is mainly because it goes against their beliefs and virtues. Human beings have a right to life. In this regard, Virtue theory should preferred over Utilitarian one when approaching this issue.
Abortion denies a child this right; that is something that has caused concern, given the figures recorded annually on it. In essence, abortion should not be legalized since it goes against human virtues. In addition, it denies the child an opportunity to live. Another reason for this is that an abortion is considered a murder. Since life starts at conception (this has scientifically been proved), it is not within the mother’s right to kill her child. Therefore, under no circumstance, abortion should be conducted.
However, an exception can be made when the mother’s life is in danger. This should be determined by a doctor who has the skills and necessary information to determine the chances of saving both the mother and the child. In this regard, Virtue theory prevails over the Utilitarian as it considers action in accordance with a virtuous agent at some particular circumstances (Trupin 1).
Abortion. n.d. Web.
Arthur, John and Steven Scalet. Morality and Moral Controversies: Readings in Moral, Social, and Political Philosophy (8th ed.). New York: Pearson, 2008. Print.
Trupin, Suzanne. Abortion. 2012. Web. <https://www.emedicinehealth.com/abortion/article_em.htm>.