The argument of abortion has been raging since the Supreme Court case, Roe vs. Wade, in 1973. This court case has divided the country into two factions: pro-choice and pro-life. Pro-life advocates argue that abortions are murder and extreme levels of child abuse. While pro-choice advocates believe abortions are a justifiable means to end pregnancies. The pro-choice argument is that the fetus is not yet a human being and its rights should not override that of the mother’s.
The importance of what defines a human is very important. Is a human the result of sperm fertilizing an egg? At this point of fertilization, the human is composed of a single cell with a unique DNA structure. Killing this unique cell would be wrong, however, does this single-cell constitute for a person? If being human is defined through having a certain level of self-awareness and acknowledgement of your person, then the fetus is not yet a human being so aborting it would be as immoral as destroying a malignant tumour (Shrage 127).
Should the emphasis be placed on intelligence and awareness when interpreting what a human being is? A fetus is not a form of intelligent life because it has not yet had any experience, so therefore probably hasn’t had thoughts. In his essay, Rene Descartes, argues that we truly exist because we can doubt our existence. He states, “If I completely stop thinking, I would completely cease to exist”. In this sense of existence is it possible for an unborn child to doubt their existence, or truly think? (Kessler 325).
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“It could be said that a person should have an interest in their own future before they earn the right to it” (Shrage 8). Even if a fetus is defined as a human being because it has a potential life if the fetus does not yet aspire to live. It is impossible to argue that the fetus values its future yet, so why should it have a right to it?
It could be argued that as the child could not possibly survive independently of the mother, at least before approximately four months into the pregnancy, it is not yet an independent human being, but an attachment of the mother, therefore she should be allowed to terminate it, if this is what she wants to do to herself, as opposed to when the child is physically independent of the mother when any potentially life-ending action against it would be inflicted upon the child directly, not its mother (Kellough 35).
Based on the view that the fetus is already a small baby, some extreme anti-abortionists would maintain that abortion is impermissible even to save the mothers life. The rationale behind this view would be that the child is innocent, and killing the child would be active, on the other hand, letting the mother die would be passive. This introduces two new concepts, the first being the mother’s rights in competition to those of the fetus and the second being the question of innocence and how we would define this (Langley).
The majority of abortions, however, are not performed in the interests of saving the mothers life, but to deter inconvenience and difficulty on either her part or the children. For example, the mother may feel she is unable to raise a child in her current situation or the child may be born severely disabled. It may be acceptable to some to sacrifice the fetus in order to save the mother, but not to abort the fetus in order to please the mother.
If a fetus is aborted because the mother does not view it as the potential child she had hoped for, this is effectively grading human life. Even though the fetus is partly a product of the mother, does this give her the right to decide whether it should live, because in truth the fetus is a separate life form from the mother- whereas a different type of cell cluster (like skin cells) are part of her (Shrage 56).
Many people claim that the mother should have a right to choose what happens to her own body, but this does not take into account that she is also choosing what happens to another person’s body, even if it is not yet fully formed. On the other hand, the fetus is within her body and she produced it, she should have the right to terminate it as she does to remove any other part of her body.
The case of Roe vs. Wade made the option of abortions legal to women across the nation. The struggle still remains on the moral ethics behind it. Is abortion the murder of an unborn child? Many argue that the rights of the mother exceed the rights of the fetus and that while the fetus is a living organism it does not constitute a human being. With these aspects in mind, the concept of abortion is justifiable.
Kellough, Gail. Aborting Law: An Exploration of the Politics of Motherhood and
Medicine. Buffalo: University of Toronto Press, 1996.
Kessler, Gary E. Voices of Wisdom. California: California State University, 2001.
Langley, Sharon. “Pro-Choice and Proud” http://www.irish-times.com/irish%2Dtimes/paper/1997/0512/fea1.html 11/20/01.
Shrage, Laurie. Moral Dilemmas of Feminism: Prostitution, Adultery, and Abortion.
New York: Routledge, 1994.
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