For any years there has been disagreement over abortion. Two schools of thoughts are involved: those for and those against abortion. Earlier, the schools of thought were grouped into anti-abortion and pro-abortion. As controversial debates continue, anti-abortion group adopted the term ‘pro-life’ to signify their support to life while pro-abortion group refers itself as ‘pro-choice’(Reiman 2007). Whether to allow abortion or not is a major moral and ethical issue in the world. Debates over the issue are in most cases divergent.
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Each school of thought on the issue provides arguments to support their case and counter arguments to opposing school of thought. Currently abortion is legal in some countries. In Australia, abortion is subject to state laws varying from one state to the other. This essay analyzes pro-abortion arguments over abortion. In the essay, I will try to look into pro-choice arguments from a philosophical perspective and provide my position over them.
Abortion has attracted divergent debates for many years. The debates have surrounded ethical, moral and legal status of abortion. In United States abortion was legalized in 1973 (Colker 1992, p.27). In spite of abortion being legal, pro life and pro choice debates seem to heat up year after year. In Australia abortion is subject to state laws. In Australian Capital Territory abortion was allowed in full after Crimes Act 2002 was passed. In New South Wales, Levine ruling of 1971 is used as the framework in judgment over abortion. This ruling found abortion to be legal when a doctor found substantial medical, social or economical reasons. In South Australia abortion is allowed when procured to safeguard physical or mental health of a mother. Variation in the stand over abortion is also common in other regions in the country.
Pro life and pro choice differ on the way they view facts and surrounding issues about abortion. Pro Life group considers abortion unethical and morally wrong; they equate abortion to killing. To Pro life, the foetus is not just a foetus but a human being. They therefore seek to protect and defend the ‘child’s’ right to life.
On the other hand, pro choice holds a belief that the individuals involved should have right to choose to procure abortion or not depending on their beliefs and values (Baird and Rosenbaum 1993). Hence they advocate abortion to be legalized in order make it available to all. Pro choice provides various arguments to support their stance over abortion. Top in their difference with Pro life is when life starts.
While pro life claim that life starts at conception, pro choice propose that the time when life starts is not clear and therefore individual involved should have freedom to allow a pregnancy to continue or terminate it. Other arguments for abortion include a woman having right to control her body, cases of ‘unwanted children’, risk of back-alley abortions and hard cases such as when life of a mother is under threat (Johansen 1996).
One of the major issues that pro abortion and pro life differ is when life begins. Pro abortion refute pro life’s claim that life begins at conception. They question the time when life begins by claiming that the sperm and egg that join at conception could also be considered to be living (Cline 2010). The foetus is therefore considered as body mass rather that a living being. To pro choice, abortion is not killing but removal of a foetus, a body mass.
Though the time when life begins is questionable, it should not be used to justify abortion. Without regard for the time when life begins, a mother is naturally happy when she learns for the first time that she is pregnant. Such a mother considers herself to be carrying her baby rather than a foetus.
She takes care of the baby in all manners possible including attending pre-natal clinics. What changes when a pregnancy is unplanned? Outright, the issue is not when life begins but the willingness of a mother to carry a pregnancy. Pro abortion cannot therefore justify their stance by claiming that life has not started before birth.
Pro abortion considers abortion as a reproductive right. They claim that an individual should have freedom of choice over their fertility (Bose 2009). They emphasize that an individual should freedom to choose the number to children to have and when to have them. To pro abortion, a woman has freedom to carry a pregnancy or termination it depending on her discretion. They emphasize that denying an individual this right is tantamount to violating her fundamental freedom.
Right to choice is a fundamental human right; no individual would be happy when they’re not able to make free choices in their lives. In addition reproductive rights are important for the health of people. With regard of right to choice and reproductive right, which are important fundamental rights, the argument is not convincing.
The freedom to choose to obtain abortion is mainly placed on the pregnant woman without regard of other parties involved. Other individuals such as the partner, parents in case of an underage, and the doctor should be involved. Assuming that the foetus is part of the woman’s body and therefore prerogative to her decisions is morally wrong. Ethically, any choice made by an individual, choice to procure abortion involved, should be evaluated against the common good.
The choice should not just be expedient but also be ethically and morally good. It should lead to the good not only to the mother or her partner but also to the society. In most cases the choice to abort in made is an egocentric manner (Marquis 1989).
The choice is tagged to education progress of a teenager, work, body shape and other factors. Although these issues are important, they do not necessarily justify procuring abortion. For instance, although abortion may allow a teenage continue with her studies, it may lead to undesired psychological issues in the long run.
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Unplanned pregnancy has been the main motivation to abortion. Pro Choice claims that a mother should not be forced to keep an unplanned pregnancy. They advocate for abortion where a mother is not prepared to keep the pregnancy or bring up the child. Most of abortion cases in fact result from unplanned pregnancy. Pro abortion justify their stance by claiming that it’s not fair for a mother to bring up a child she will not love or a teenage bearing a child that she cannot support.
Unplanned child can become a burden to an individual. A teenage that gets pregnant and goes ahead to have the child may not be able to complete her studies and therefore be disadvantaged in life. However, abortion shouldn’t be considered as a solution to unplanned pregnancies.
A more comprehensive solution to unplanned pregnancies should be considered instead of abortion (Alcorn 2000, p. 57). Besides, preventive measures such are contraceptives are available to majority of people. For example, thorough education in sexuality can play a significant role in preventing unplanned teenage pregnancy rather than subjecting the teenagers to post-abortion trauma.
Pro Abortion claims that abortion is unavoidable in some circumstances. Such hard cases include when life or health of a mother is under threat, in case of rape and other sexual abuse, severe deformity to a child, and when survival of a child is minimal (Jotkowitz and Zivotofsky 2010). Some hard cases such as threat to life of a mother can justify abortion. In such cases abortion is procured as a last resort and can be considered unavoidable. However, hard cases constitute less than two percent of all abortions.
Back-alley abortion cases have been the main motivation for legalizing abortion in most countries. The pro choice claims that individuals would procure abortion whether legal or not. Back-alley abortions are risky to individuals that procure seek them. Pro abortion therefore advocate for abortion to be legalized in order to protect mothers from the risks involved in back-alley abortions.
Abortion will continue to raise controversy as long as pro-life and pro-choice groups remain. While pro life considers abortion as morally and ethically wrong, pro choice leaves the decision to the individual involved. They claim that legalizing abortion helps protect mothers from risks involved in back-alley abortions, allow teenagers continue with education and enable individuals plan their families.
Not all pro-choice arguments are convincing despite of need to plan families and prevent back-alley abortions. Abortion should be considered only as a last resort for health related issues. Unlike pro choice advocacy, the decision should not be left to the mother alone but also to other involved parties such as the partner, parents and a doctor.
Alcorn, R. 2000. ProLife Answers to ProChoice Arguments. New York: Multnomah Publishers.
Baird, R and Rosenbaum, S. 1993. The Ethics of abortion: pro-life vs. Pro-choice. New York: Prometheus Books.
Bose, D. 2009. Arguments for Pro Choice Abortions. Web.
Cline, A. 2010. Ethics of Abortion: Is it Moral or Immoral to Have an Abortion? Web.
Colker, R. 1992. Abortion & Dialogue: Pro-choice, Pro-life, and American Law. New York: Indiana University Press.
Johansen, J. 1996. A Summary of Pro-Choice Arguments. Web.
Jotkowitz, A and Zivotofsky, A. 2010. The ethics of abortions for foetuses with congenital abnormalities. European Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology and Reproductive Biology Vol. 152 No. 2, pp 148-151.
Marquis, D. 1989. Why abortion is immoral. The Journal of Philosophy Vol. 22, pp 183-202.
Reiman, J. 2007. The Pro-life argument from substantial Identity and the Pro-choice argument From Asymmetric Value: A Reply to Patrick Lee. Bioethics Vol. 21 No. 6, pp 329-341.