Abortion is a significant ethical issue which had been widely debated for the last couple of decades. Some people believe that abortion is impermissible under any circumstances, even if the child is ill or if it was conceived as a result of rape. Some, on the other hand, argue that, since pregnancy and childbirth are extremely challenging and pose risks to health, every mother has a right to choose abortion. The third group of people, however, believe that the righteousness of abortion is determined by the moral status of the fetus. In the proposed case, all four characters rely on different ethical theories to determine the moral status of the fetus and the permissibility of abortion.
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One of the popular theories that are used to oppose abortion is Don Marquis’ theory of a “future like ours.” Marquis argues that the primary feature that makes killing wrong is that the victim is deprived of a future that adult human beings experience (BBC, 2014). Thus, the moral status of the fetus is determined by whether or not it will be able to live a fulfilling life as a human. According to Marquis’ theory, killing a healthy human fetus is ultimately wrong, even it was conceived as a result of abortion, as it deprives it of the right to live.
On the other hand, killing older people may be more permissible, as they do not have an entire life ahead of them. Marquis’ theory is used by Dr. Wilson, who argues that in this case, abortion would be a responsible alternative, as the child would have a low quality of life. A low quality of life here means an absence of a “future like ours,” which makes abortion appropriate by Marquis’ theory.
Another theory that is applicable to the proposed case is the theory of utilitarianism, which was developed by Jeremy Bentham. Bentham believed that the moral status of a being was determined by its capacity to experience pleasure or suffering (Hancock, n.d.). Moreover, the philosopher argued that whether an action is morally right or wrong is determined by the ratio of pleasure and suffering that it entails: “An act is right in proportion to the tendency it has to maximize the pleasure and minimize the pain of all those whose interest is in question” (Hancock, n.d., p. 6). This principle is used by Marco and Jessica, who both struggle to identify abortion as right or wrong.
On the one hand, having a disabled child would lead to suffering both of the child and of the family; on the other hand, it is unclear whether abortion would bring any relief or pleasure to Jessica and Marco. It is also unclear whether the fetus can be considered a moral being: since it is about four months old at the moment, it cannot experience pleasure yet; however, he or she may be able to overcome the disability and live a pleasurable life in the future. Here, the theory of moral standing offered by Bentham does not help to reach a conclusion easily, instead supporting the moral debate.
Finally, another theory that applies to this case is the biblical theory. According to the Bible, God gives life to human embryos, and only God can decide to take that life away (Saunders, 2017). The Christian tradition also argues that embryos have souls even before birth, which supports their moral status as a human being (Saunders, 2017). Finally, embryos are considered to be ultimately innocent being, which is why abortion is perceived to be morally wrong under any circumstances.
Aunt Mary clearly relies on the biblical theory in her defense of the embryo’s moral status. Similarly, she argues that the parents should refuse abortion, instead allowing God to fulfill his intentions regarding the future child. The biblical theory opposes abortion under all circumstances, including in the cases of fetal abnormality or rape. In Christianity, every human life belongs to God, and killing is only justified if the God has abandoned the person due to his or her sins or immoral actions.
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For instance, by the Bible, killing a criminal is appropriate and justified; killing an innocent embryo, on the other hand, is not. The disability of the future child and his or her suffering does not play an important role: if God’s intention is to let the child have a significant disability, the parents should not oppose God’s intentions by taking the embryo’s life away.
Personally, I agree with Marquis’ theory of “a future like ours.” To me, the value of life is determined by the activities and positive emotion that the person could potentially experience. Although there are certain individuals, who enjoy their lives despite having a significant disability, is it far more likely that the future child will have a low quality of life and will not have the same future as healthy people. Moreover, due to the parent’s unstable financial status, it is unclear whether or not they would be able to provide the disabled child with all that is needed to live a fulfilling life. Therefore, by Marquis’ theory, abortion, in this case, would be a justified and morally correct decision.
BBC. (2014). Future like ours. BBC Ethics Guide. Web.
Hancock, N. S. (n.d.). Theories of moral standing. Web.
Saunders, P. (2017). The moral status of the embryo. Christian Medical Fellowship. Web.