Debate on abortion has been in the public domain for quite some time. On one side is a group opposed to legalizing abortion, arguing that legalization of abortion would make people more irresponsible. Irresponsibility would lead to more unwanted pregnancies, and the rate of abortion would soar up. Proponents of a legal abortion feel there are instances when a pregnancy puts the life of the mother in danger and should, therefore, be terminated.
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Opponents, on the other hand, look at the issue from a moral and a religious point of view. They argue that life is sacred and God-given. Only God can take away life and not a human being. For these religious-oriented thinkers, life begins at conception, and the fetus should be viewed as a human being with a right to life (Wells 223).
This paper relooks at the debate surrounding the topic of abortion to the extent that when views on either side are considered, then whose right should be used to make a ruling. Should the judgment be based on the rights of the fetus to live or the right of the woman carrying the fetus?
The fetus has a right to life, and the mother to has a right to live and live comfortably. While abortion is killing the unborn, mothers have a right to choose to terminate a pregnancy as long as it threatens they’re well as individuals.
Legislators have been at pains trying to explain when life begins. Biblically, life begins at conception i.e., the moment the ovum is fertilized. According to religious pundits, termination of a fertilized ovum is tantamount to murder and is a sin. Parallel arguments hold that life begins at birth, implying that termination of the life of a fetus may not be equated to murder. This paper will review both views and draw a conclusion on this exciting debate.
Politics and Abortion
Muir (58) points out that in the debate on the conservation of trees, trees have no defense of their own. He indicates that ‘any fool can destroy trees’ (Muir 58). This is because trees have not the way of running away, and even if they did, they would still be destroyed anyway. The analogy can be applied to the fetus that has no defense of their own and can not run away. They are entirely dependent on the mercy of their bearers.
The ultrasound bill was introduced in the house if passed into law; the bill will require that before a doctor procures an abortion, they have to let the woman view the ultrasound image of the fetus before going ahead to procure the abortion. This is meant to make the woman rethink the decision she is about to make.
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The bill is designed to reduce the number of abortions by allowing the women to go through a soul searching moment before making the decision. Research indicates that most of the women who intend to procure an abortion change their minds when they undergo a counseling session before the abortion.
The bill has gone through the full senate and two house committees, and what remains now is for it to go through the full house for voting. There is always the right way which is clearly known to us, when we choose the wrong way, we bear the consequences that we come across (Thoreau 19).
Some women’s rights activists and pro-abortion advocates have pointed out weaknesses in the bill. They argue that focusing on the frailty of the fetus does not help the debate. Just as the fetus may need or is at the mercy of the mother, some conceptions threaten or jeopardize the bearer’s life. In such a case, it should be acknowledged that the mother is in a way at the mercy of the fetus, and freedom for her can only result from terminating the pregnancy.
The house bill currently under debate provides for a grant meant to assist teens and women who opt to carry the pregnancy to term. Each year, thousands of women seek to procure abortions. Since abortion is illegal in most countries, the doctors who assist women abort carry out the process secretly. They also charge relatively high sums of money that are relatively prohibitive to many. Most women resort to crude ways of abortion, which often lead to deaths.
Senate and House bills are in line with the amendments that support the views of those opposed to abortion. The bills, however, allow the use of federal funds to pay for abortion cases resulting from rape, incest, or in a case where a woman seeks to procure an abortion based on the grounds that the pregnancy threatens her life (Schmidt & Mack 859).
The health reform is meant to provide health cover to save the lives of the many Americans who lose their lives due to lack of a medical cover. Senate and House bills related to this provision that the federal state sets aside a fund that covers postnatal, prenatal, but not abortion.
Abortion: Moral and Social Considerations
Proponents of abortion have always encountered stun reactions from religious leaders and other leaders. Religion views life as sacred, God-given, and that only God can take life away. They have also maintained that life begins at conception, the moment an ovum is fertilized.
Terminating a pregnancy is therefore equated to murder and going against Gods’ commandment that one should not kill (wells 219). Abortion is a sin from the religious point of view, and those who commit it break God’s commandment (Krook 268).
Applying the analogy of the ‘wilderness’ as discussed by Cronon, one would not help thinking that human beings are naturally afraid, and yet their fear is most destructive. The reality is that human beings create the reality they live (Cronon, 96).
Therefore, in the case of the abortion debate, one would be forgiven thinking that moral grandstanding is based on certain human fears. However, what people have not realized is that the fears are more damaging than empowering.
In a recent case, president Obama was heckled in a graduation ceremony for medical students over his stand on abortion. Just like the obsession to want to save the wilderness, people want to save the unborn babies. However, this is an inclination that is more instinctual than reality or reason drove.
Just as people should realize that wilderness is not what it really seems (Cronon 83), so also should all absolutistic thinkers on abortion realize that all is not what it seems; circumstances are not black or white.
Waller (540) agrees with Cronin that our thinking about wilderness is mired in cultural and historical connotations. Applying the same line of argument on abortion, it is true that much debate on abortion is mired by cultural and historical notions that have been developed by human beings.
However, Waller (548) points out that wilderness poses problems when confused with wildness. Further, Waller (552) argues that the debate is laid to rest when the focus is put on understanding what is natural and conserving whatsoever natural that is remaining; biotic value.
Applying such an argument to the abortion debate, one would argue that although cultural and historical connotations drive the abortion debate, what matters is the sense in their arguments. The sense should be hinged on why society needs to prohibit abortion anyway.
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The main reason why most women seek to terminate a pregnancy is the fear of the responsibilities that come with the child. Childcare is involving and requires responsibility and financial base to support. Women engage in sex without expecting the outcome to be a pregnancy. Often it occurs when they are least prepared for this responsibility forcing them to seek ways of terminating the pregnancy.
Talking about nature and wilderness in ‘Walking,’ Thoreau (8) points out, that sticking to natural ways rather than accepting to be sucked away by society and its artificial constructs is what we should yearn for. Applying Thoreau’s ideas on the abortion debate, it should be clear that unwanted pregnancies are our own responsibility.
Pregnancies are occurring when we least expect due to not tuning in and appreciating our nature. If we understood and appreciated who we are, we would know that sex at given times would result in pregnancy. Further, even when using contraceptives, we would understand the associated risks or limitations. Thoreau (16) urges that we need to walk on the path that respects and shows concern for nature.
Those proposing abortion claiming that the babies born when unprepared are unwanted babies have been encouraged to give out their babies for adoption rather than kill the innocent fetus. Many American families are willing to adopt children and provide them with care.
Women who are not ready to take the responsibility of taking care of the children can carry the pregnancy to term and take the children for adoption. From a humanitarian ground, bearing a child and giving it out for adoption would be a more appropriate action to take rather than “kill.” Church leaders urge the faithful to fight this temptation the same way Jesus struggled and endured the devil’s temptation in the wilderness (Moseley 168)
Some pro-abortion campaigners have indicated that they do not support the legalization of any abortion. However, certain cases, such as rape or incest, warranty abortion. Anti-abortionist agrees that such cases warranty special attention. However, such women who conceive as a result of ugly happenings such as rape and incest can be assisted medically a few hours after the act to prevent implantation.
This is a much acceptable way to prevent “unwanted pregnancy.” It is morally wrong for one to wait for the pregnancy to advance and then plan to procure an abortion. The fetus is innocent in this case and should not be subjected to unfair punishment. Only perpetrators of such actions e.g., rape and incest, should be punished and not the fetus resulting from the act.
Most of those who seek to procure abortion are young teenagers who, by trying out sex, probably for the first time, end up pregnant. Abortion has very severe psychological impacts on the person who goes for it. It causes trauma to the mind of the woman (Wells, 279).
Many women who procure abortion are forced to go for counseling to lead a normal life again. The act is haunting on the mind as it is related to the murder. The situation is even worse if it leads to complications; many women end up childless in the future as a result of the complications resulting from abortion.
What Scientists Say on Abortion
Scientists pose a different argument in support of abortion; the first argument posed is related to the period that most of the abortions are performed. It is argued most abortions are procured within the first three months, also referred to as the first trimester.
At this stage, the fetus is dependent on the health of the mother for its survival. The mother and the fetus are the same entity, and the fetus can not be treated as different from the mother since it can not survive out of the womb (Wells 39).
Science challenges the religious argument that life begins at conception. Human life is distinct from personhood, according to the argument. It is argued with an example of the ova used in vitro fertilization. These ova are said to be human beings as well if life indeed begins at conception, yet the fertilized ova that is not implanted is often discarded by throwing away. When this is related to abortion, the question that arises is whether this is also murder.
By going for proper medical procedures, abortion can be procured with a high rate of success. Only those who use unapproved methods of abortion are likely to enter into the complications related to abortion. Contraceptives sometimes fail even with proper use; in this case, a woman should be allowed to get rid of the unwanted baby rather than being forced to carry the pregnancy to term (Krook 35)
Abortion is morally wrong because it involves terminating life prematurely. If indeed, life is given by God, then human beings have no power to terminate it but God himself. It is clearly hard to convince either side of the debate from the views they hold.
The best way forward would be to create awareness, pointing out the moral aspects of procuring an abortion. If every woman is sensitized and made aware of how bad procuring an abortion is, abortion cases are more likely to reduce. Men equally should be responsible; they should accept and bear responsibility in case they make a woman pregnant. Good ethics should be the principal guide in our life, and the same for everybody.
Cronon, William. “The Trouble with Wilderness” The best American Essays, 1996. Ed. Geoffrey, C. Ward. Boston. Mifflin Company. 1996, 83-109
Krook, Mona. Women, Gender, and Politics: A Reader. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.
Moseley, William. The Introductory Reader in Human Geography: Contemporary Debates and Classic. Malden: Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 2007.
Muir, John. Our National Parks. Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press, 2008.
Schmidt, Steffen & Shelley, Mack. American Government and Politics Today – Texas Edition, 2009-2010 Boston: Wadsworth, 2010.
Thoreau, David. Walking. Rockville: Arc Manor, 2007.
Waller, M. Donald. “Getting back to the Right Nature”: a Reply to Cronin’s “The Trouble with Wilderness”. 1998.
Wells, Samuel. Christian Ethics: An Introductory Reader. Malden: Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 2010.