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Abortion and Its Moral Status

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During our life, we constantly have to encounter challenging circumstances that create dilemmas and demand difficult choices. Sometimes, our decisions inevitably affect other people’s lives and therefore involve a wide range of moral issues. This is the case with abortion. Modern medical equipment makes it possible to detect health abnormalities in a fetus. Yet, it cannot guide them to the right decision concerning the course of action in case severe conditions are diagnosed. However, there is a great number of theories concerning the moral aspect of the issue that can help with this difficult decision (Sumner, 2014).

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The present case study, would-be parents Jessica and Marco receive horrible news from Dr. Wilson, who tells them that their unborn child is unlikely to develop arms and can even have Down syndrome. Thus, they have to decide whether they want to keep the baby, make an abortion, or give it up for adoption if the prognosis turns out to be true. It is hard indeed for each party involved to reach consensus as each of them is guided by different moral status theories.

Aunt Maria, who is clearly against abortion and persuades Jessica into keeping the baby, represents views shared by two theories: the theory based on human properties and the relationship theory. The first one relates to the fact that every being conceived by humans and having a human genetic code already has a full moral status (DeGrazia, 2014). It is also connected with Christianity and stresses the sanctity of life in any of its forms while admitting moral obligations towards this life. Aunt Maria believes that even a fetus has a moral status, which means that it would be totally inhuman to kill it as all life has value. As far as relationship theory is concerned, she establishes a link between Jessica and a fetus claiming that she is already responsible for the future child as a mother.

Jessica is torn between her desire to reach financial well-being and her belief that life is sacred and cannot be terminated. Thus, she also supports the theory that any human being has a right to be accepted as God’s creature. However, her husband does not seem to share her views as he is mostly concerned with his social and economic status. Although the case study does not specify his ideas on the topic, it is clear that he shares one of the three theories that do not acknowledge that a fetus can have a moral status: these are a moral agency, sentience, and cognitive property theories (Watt, 2016).

Dr. Wilson, who is convinced that Jessica should have a right to decide whether she wants to give birth to a baby with abnormalities, suggests an appropriate abortion plan reasoning this option by the fact that life would be full of suffering for the child. He seems to support the theory based on cognitive properties, which means that he does not admit the presence of moral status in someone who does not have rationality, language, memory, perception, or self-consciousness (Sumner, 2014). He may also share the ideas expressed by the sentience theory since, being a man of science, he is unlikely to believe that a human fetus may have feelings, even of pain or pleasure.

Each recommendation for action is predetermined by the theories that these people share. For Aunt Maria, there is no other option than keeping the baby since it is already human and abortion would mean killing a God’s creature. For Dr. Wilson, on the contrary, it is evident that defective life should not be preserved as it will bring about deplorable consequences: this child is going to have a very low quality of life unless the pregnancy is terminated. The fact that he relies on self-awareness and reasoning as the major properties of a human being makes him insensitive to the religious and moral aspects of the issue. Marco and Jessica are border cases: it is quite obvious that both of them are eager to have a child; at the same time, both future parents realize what consequences this decision may bring about. In the end, they are likely to be guided by the same theory as Aunt Maria and keep the baby. Perhaps, giving it up for adoption would be the perfect option for them.


The controversy of supporting abortion arises from the fact that this medical interference involves the sacrifice of human life without any possibility of receiving the consent of all the parties involved in the process. Therefore, communication with would-be parents might be difficult in this case as ethical issues often prevail over health concerns. However, a lot of experts are convinced that every woman should be able to exercise total control over her body and fertility. In this case, no pressure can be put on the patient in order to make her change the decision as it goes beyond professional ethics. However, if Jessica opts for abortion, she must have access to safe operation regardless of her social and financial status.

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DeGrazia, D. (2014). On the moral status of infants and the cognitively disabled: A reply to Jaworska and Tannenbaum. Ethics, 124(3), 543-556.

Sumner, L. W. (2014). Abortion and moral theory. Princeton: NJ: Princeton University Press.

Watt, H. (2016). The ethics of pregnancy, abortion and childbirth: Exploring moral choices in childbearing. London, UK: Routledge.

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