The availability of abortions and morality of this operation are recurring themes in the American society and many countries around the globe. While some people support abortions as an effective mean of controlling the demographics and prevention of particular diseases, others protest and vote for the complete prohibition of this procedure. From a historical point of view, abortions were not available in the majority of countries out of religious and moral grounds. With the development of medical techniques, induced termination of pregnancy started to become increasingly popular in the middle of the XX century.
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The women’s movement changed the opinion that the birth of a child is a holy duty of any wife. Common people ceased to consider abortions as a failure and shame for a family. Young couples started to include induced termination of pregnancy as a possible course of actions in their plans for the future. Profound research activities helped doctors to change their views on the procedure, and they began to provide qualified help for women in need. The purpose of this paper is to analyze moral issues of abortion in the U.S. and prove that people should not prohibit this procedure because it is the only course of actions in some cases.
The development of surgery and medical research activities supported by the women’s movement revolutionized the approach to abortions in the 1970s. Medical institutions in the USA had to revise their attitudes to this procedure because new surgical techniques helped to destroy safely an embryo or fetus and prevent the attempts of women to cause a miscarriage on their own. The previous prohibition of abortions in the society did not stop women from taking poison or jumping from bridges to get rid of their unwanted child.
Such attempts often led to the death of pregnant women. Therefore, medical workers decided that it was in their best interests to provide help for those who could not carry a child. According to the books Abortion and the Private Practice of Medicine by Imber, “epidemiological studies of the morbidity and mortality associated with legalized induced abortion all but replaced the previous sixty years of medical discussion about how the practice might be discouraged” (54).
A multitude of works provided evidence to the necessity of abortions in a number of cases. Surgeons and gynecologists presented a list of medical justifications for abortions. According to Imber, “life-threatening harm to the physical or mental health of the mother, grave physical or mental defect in the unborn, and pregnancy as a result of rape, incest, or other felonious intercourse” were considered as justifying reasons for an abortion (60).
Contemporary Status of Abortions
Nowadays, abortions are allowed in the U.S., but they are still viewed as a failure and shame for families in many states and communities. The access to abortion is often limited by the lack of financial support and insufficient number of medical facilities providing this service. Anti-abortion campaigns and a negative attitude to the women who have agreed to the procedure create barriers for the induced termination of pregnancy in a number of states.
The majority of women express a negative attitude to abortions. Nevertheless, this procedure can be necessary in the number of cases. As mentioned, pregnancy as a result of rape may serve as a proper reason for an abortion. Particular medical conditions of a mother or an unborn child can create hindrances to the birth. The answers to questionnaires from female patients in hospitals present evidence that women understand the necessity of abortions. According to Çakmak et al. “about the prohibition of abortion, 82.4% of women said that “it may be performed under necessary conditions”, 9.6% “it should be completely forbidden”, and 8% stated that “it should never be forbidden” (170).
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The prohibition of abortions on the state level creates harmful conditions for the health of women, and they are well aware of it. Moreover, no law can stop women from the termination of pregnancy if they do not want to carry a child.
The prohibition of abortions will lead to the new wave of miscarriages due to the use of poisons or physical methods of birth prevention. It should be taken into account that women who do not want to carry a child try to terminate their pregnancy during the last months of it what can lead to various harmful effects on their bodies. In addition, they do not destroy a fetus but kill an unborn child what can seriously damage their mental health.
Medical facilities help women in need to get rid of unwanted pregnancy at an early stage when an embryo is not developed. Abortion can be conducted by medication or surgery. Doctors control both of the processes eliminating the possibility of harmful effects to the health of patients. Nevertheless, many women in various communities around the globe tell that their religions prohibit abortions and the society considers this procedure morally wrong. These facts present evidence to the fact that modern global society is reluctant to accept abortions as a normal event in the life of families.
The main ground for anti-abortion campaigns in the modern society is the arguable moral status of the procedure. Many people act against the procedure believing that pregnant women must not try to kill their unborn children. Nevertheless, they do not take into account that a fetus on early stages of its development can hardly be considered a human being. According to Warren, “it is possible to show that, on the basis of intuitions which we may expect even the opponents of abortion to share, a fetus is not a person, hence not the sort of entity to which it is proper to ascribe full moral rights” (1).
The moral aspect of access to abortion remains under question because supporters and foes of the procedure find their point of view self-evident. Anti-abortion activists do not see possible outcomes of the childbirth in every single case. They are not familiar with situations when the development of a fetus might lead to the death of a mother. For them, abortion is just morally wrong. The supporters of abortions show low awareness of what arguments exist in the society referring to the termination of pregnancies. They pay special attention to the cases when an abortion is needed for the salvation of a woman.
Nevertheless, they fail to address the proposition that a fetus is a human being and has the same moral rights as the other members of society. This is the main hindrance to the acceptance of abortions in many communities around the globe.
Warren claims that it is necessary “to define the moral community, the set of beings with full and equal moral rights, such that we can decide whether a human fetus is a member of this community or not” (4). The concept of being a human is closely connected to the idea of personhood. A living being should possess several traits to be considered a person and have moral rights: to be conscious of the surroundings, to have reasoning, to have self-motivation for actions, to communicate using any means, and to be self-aware (Warren 4).
A fetus lacks these traits and cannot be considered a proper human being and a person. Warren claims that “since the fact that even a fully developed fetus is not personlike enough to have any significant right to life on the basis of its personlikeness shows that no legal restrictions upon the stage of pregnancy in which an abortion may be performed can be justified on the grounds that we should protect the rights of the older fetus” (6).
The debates about the morality of abortions have never stopped in the world community. Historically, termination of pregnancy was prohibited out of religious and moral grounds. Moreover, even medically assisted abortions presented some risks to women. Nowadays, modern procedures allow for safe medication or surgical interruption of pregnancy and doctors speak about the necessity of abortions in some cases. Nevertheless, the society is still not ready to accept abortions as a common procedure because many people consider human fetus to be a personality with moral rights. The main issue in this situation is to identify particular traits of a person and compare them to the features of a fetus.
Çakmak, Bülent, et al. “Opinion of Women about Elective Abortion.” Journal of Turkish Society of Obstetrics & Gynecology, vol. 11, no. 3, 2014, pp. 170-175.
Imber, Jonathan. Abortion and the Private Practice of Medicine. Transaction Publishers, 2017.
Warren, Mary Anne. “On the Moral and Legal Status of Abortion.” The Monist, vol. 57, no. 4, 1973, pp. 1-9.