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Abortion and Moral Theory


Healthcare professionals have to face numerous ethical issues each day. In many cases, there are certain guidelines and principles shared by practitioners and patients that help in making moral decisions. However, some issues are still debatable, and no single opinion exists on the matter. Abortion is one of such issues associated with various positions and viewpoints. Hewitt (2013) notes that the three central positions associated with the moral status of the fetus include liberal, moderate, and conservative. The case under analysis is an illustration of some of the major views and paradigms. This paper includes an analysis of the case with the focus on theories used by the stakeholders and the outcomes of each theoretical frameworks.

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Theories Applied by the Stakeholders

Jessica is the one to make a decision in terms of the US legislation, so her opinion will matter most. The patient seems to follow the conservative paradigm focusing on the belief that every life is sacred (Hewitt, 2013). Jessica is likely to choose the deontological position of moral absolutists who stress that abortion is a form of murder that is not permissible. At the same time, she seems to have doubts and apply some concepts that lie within the boundaries of utilitarian approaches. Utilitarian views are associated with considering the outcomes of people’s actions (Sumner, 2014). Thus, Jessica also considers the possible effects of her decision on her future life. In the first case, she views the fetus as a person while, in the second case, the patient accepts that personhood begins at later terms of the fetus development. It is difficult to foresee Jessica’s choice as the two theoretical paradigms are characterized by different outcomes. If the conservative views prevail, the patient will choose to keep the child and hope for better. If Jessica chooses to apply the utilitarian approach, she can agree to have an abortion.

Marco follows a moderate standpoint and does not view the fetus as a person. This moral status of the fetus makes abortion an appropriate and legal alternative for parents (MacKinnon & Fiala, 2016). The man concentrates on the outcomes rather than absolute views on abortion. He considers the prospects of having a disabled child, which is associated with substantial financial losses. Clearly, the quality of life of the future child is also considered. The mentioned theoretical paradigm is associated with a positive view on abortion, so Marco is likely to apply the utilitarian approach and favor the idea of abortion.

Dr. Wilson tends to apply the relational concepts when determining the moral status of the child. In other terms, the doctor believes that the fetus can exist in the relationship with a specific female, which has an impact on the balance between the rights of the fetus and the mother. The relational approach is utilitarian in nature as the focus is on possible outcomes of the decisions that can be made (Hewitt, 2013). The doctor recommends abortion as the most appropriate solution in this case. The healthcare professional considers the quality of life of the child, as well as emotional, psychological, and physical outcomes for the mother. Since the concept of personhood is not applied to the fetus, Dr. Wilson sees abortion as a viable option.

Finally, Maria can be regarded as a moral absolutist who sees abortion as an unacceptable option. The patient’s aunt follows deontological views and sees the fetus as a person. In this theoretical paradigm, abortion is seen as a form of murder that is morally wrong and cannot be considered as an option (Hewitt, 2013). Maria will recommend her niece to keep the child and try to live the life that is given to them.

The Most Appropriate Theory to Apply

The relational autonomy approach, used by Dr. Wilson, is the most appropriate alternative in Jessica’s case. The moral status of the fetus is regarded in relation to the mother’s rights and outcomes. At this stage (approximately 20 weeks), the fetus is not regarded as the person, so the focus on certain biological aspects is possible. At the same time, the utilitarian view should also be applied as the outcomes of the mother’s decision for the baby should be considered. The child’s quality of life will be low, which will cause suffering to the child that can die in infancy or be a disabled person. Both options are unacceptable, so abortion is the only viable recommendation to make and follow.


On balance, the case in question is an illustration of the way different theoretical paradigms can determine people’s decisions. Although the deontological approach and the moral status of the fetus as a person can be considered, it is advisable to apply the utilitarian approach. The focus on outcomes is essential since the patient’s decision not to terminate her pregnancy can cause significant suffering to both mother and child. It is noteworthy that in the case under analysis, the moral status of the child is less relevant than the possible outcomes. When regarding the fetus as a person, it is possible to justify the abortion (utilitarian views) or see it as murder (deontological standpoint). In the given case, abortion seems the most appropriate solution with the most favorable outcomes for the stakeholders.

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Hewitt, C. M. (2013). Ethics and women’s health. In A. G. Peirce & J. A. Smith (Eds.), Ethical and legal issues for doctoral nursing students: A textbook for students and reference for nurse leaders (pp. 221-236). Lancaster, PA: Springer.

MacKinnon, B., & Fiala, A. (2016). Ethics: Theory and contemporary issues (9th ed.). Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.

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

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