The discussion of abortion has always been an acute and controversial one. As an ethical dilemma, the decision of whether to permit or forbid abortion deals with a variety of justifications grounding on several arguments.
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The debates between the opponents and supporters of abortion are characterized by the utilization of proves and facts from legal, healthcare, moral, religious, or human rights spheres. Indeed, the decision of whether to terminate pregnancy might be made based on a wide spectrum of reasons. Often, women choose abortion due to some economic difficulties or health problems and potential medical complications. One of the frequently occurring situations, when a woman gets an abortion is when she has been a victim of rape or incest.
However, many people argue that abortion, for reasons other than a threat to life and well-being to a mother or a child, should be recognized as illegal. The opponents of abortion regard this procedure as killing because, in their opinion, a fetus is a human organism that has the right to life.
The dilemma is extensive and cannot be quickly resolved by providing one solution. Overall, despite the scope of mild and severe reasons for such a procedure, the justifications offered by religion and ethics serve as a basis to claim that abortion is impermissible. Therefore, this paper will provide the reasoning of the opposing and supporting views within legal, medical, moral, human rights, and religious considerations. It will justify that abortion cannot be permitted unless severe threatening conditions are making it a moral choice to terminate a pregnancy.
Abortion is considered to be an issue of legal consideration where the state decides whether to permit or to restrict this procedure and how to regulate it on the territory of a country. Since the early 20th century, the restriction of abortion was a worldwide tendency (Marecek et al. 5). Some countries are highly restrictive of abortion when others do not imply any legal limitations to the procedure of pregnancy termination. Such a disparity in opinions depends on a variety of factors, including the religious environment in which the society of a particular state lives or the level of development of a country.
Indeed, from a legal perspective, underdeveloped countries that lack population should restrict abortions to increase the number of citizens. However, the unstable economic situation the majority of people encounter in such countries forces them to seek pregnancy termination solutions even if they need to act illegally. As stated by Marecek et al., the World Health Organization “estimated that of the 21.6 million unsafe abortions that took place globally in 2008, 21.2 million took place in “developing” regions” (6).
Thus, legal implications concerning abortion contain threats to the right of choice, limiting women to the only variant of illegal termination if her reason is other than a threat to life. According to Marecek et al., the growing number of states which permitted abortions on specific grounds in the second half of the 20th century was caused by the intensifying movement for women’s rights (6). Therefore, the controversy of the dilemma of abortion overlaps with the question of the human rights of both mothers and unborn children.
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Human Rights Issues
The aspect of human rights related to abortion concerns two parties: a pregnant woman and a fetus. Continuing the discussion of feminism started in the previous section, it is relevant to state that the possibility of getting an abortion is the preservation of women’s right to choice in life. According to the opinion of the supporters of such a position, a female has to have a right of choice regardless of the reasons why she decides to terminate her pregnancy. On the contrary, the opponents of such a perspective claim that if a woman “engages involuntary sex, don’t use contraceptives and gets pregnant,” she bears responsibility for the fetus (Badruddin 1). Under such circumstances, the pregnant woman has to act to preserve the rights of the child and cannot terminate her pregnancy.
The question of the human rights of a fetus is one of the most frequently discussed and characterized by the highest level of controversy. Overall, it is claimed that “every human has the inherent right to life” (Patil et al. 545). The main problem within this framework is the consideration of when a fetus becomes a human and how to determine if it has any rights or not. On the one hand, some people consider that the embryo is a human organism starting from the moment of conception (Badruddin 1; Patil et al. 545).
On the other hand, the opponents of the opinion that abortion is a murder claim that a set of human cells that have not yet developed into an independent organism cannot be regarded as a person. As a part of such considerations, a fetus is thought to be a part of a woman’s body, about which she has a right to make voluntary decisions (Patil et al. 545). Therefore, the termination of pregnancy cannot be classified as murder, like an amputation of a body part cannot be classified as one. Thus, the question of human rights within the dilemma of abortion is highly controversial and is being developed continuously to find consensus.
Every human has a right to a healthy life, and the decision to terminate a pregnancy should be made with regard to this idea. In the medical context, abortion is viewed as a procedure that is applicable only as a way to save a woman’s life. When conducted in an appropriate setting and within legal conditions, it is a safe procedure that might be beneficial in case when a woman was impregnated as a result of rape or incest (Badruddin 1). In this case, the woman makes a decision and chooses how to act.
However, if there is a potential threat to the life quality of either a child or a woman after giving birth, it is a responsibility of a medical professional to detect such conditions and recommend abortion as a solution. The burden of the moral decision lies on the provider of aborting services who considers all the aspects of a case and act in the interest of a patient prioritizing her life (Patil et al. 545). Bioethics applied to the issue of abortion is also a controversial aspect of the problem due to the complicated decision-making processes in which a doctor and a patient are engaged.
For example, the advancement in genetics allows for the early identification of abnormalities or complications in the development of a child. If any genetically transmitted conditions that might place the life of a child in danger are identified, there is a place for moral reasoning. However, if couples use medical termination of a pregnancy as a family planning technique, it is immoral and should not be permitted (Patil et al. 546). On the other hand, if completely forbidden to get abortions without specific indications, women could seek illegal methods of pregnancy termination, thus placing their lives at risk. Nevertheless, the overall ethical implications of abortion are connected with philosophical ideas and their role in the social life of a particular society.
The morality of abortion was at the center of discussion in all previous sections of the paper. However, it is essential to provide specific considerations concerning the roots of the ethical dilemma. Non-therapeutic abortion (the one that is done without serious medical indications) is considered to be a murder in many countries (Badruddin 1). However, similar to the considerations about the human rights of a fetus, the opposing sides argue about whether an embryo is a human or not. According to Patil et al., “there is a difference between killing or destroying something and preventing something from coming into existence” (545). Indeed, when considering a set of cells in a woman’s body as a non-person, abortion cannot be regarded as killing.
However, it is immoral to cause suffering to any living creature. The latest findings in the medical sphere have shown that “even a 12- week fetus feels terrible pain during the process of suction evacuation” (Patil et al. 546). Therefore, even a set of cells that some people do not consider to be a human being is capable of feelings of pain. The procedure of pregnancy termination causes a severe level of suffering for a fetus and has to be considered immoral and impermissible. The main and most important claim is that abortion cannot be classified as a moral action under any circumstances. It is immoral in its essence and should only be used only as a last resort in a hazardous medical situation or as the only solution to help a victim of rape.
Religion and faith are great influencers of people’s worldviews and decision-making. For religious people or for those whose societies are marked with religious affiliation, abortion deals not only with mind and body but also with spirituality. Indeed, there is a wide spectrum of psychological and mental implications viewed by healthcare professionals as a post-abortion stigma that impairs a woman’s life (Frohwirth et al. 381-382).
All religions consider abortion as an issue dealing with good and evil, life and death, thus connecting the idea of the soul to the unborn child (Badruddin 1). American society, as a highly religious one, perceives the problem of abortion very acutely. Being a moral choice, the cases of abortion show that women are severely stigmatized by the burden of spiritual responsibility for deciding to kill their unborn child (Frohwirth et al. 382-383). Therefore, religion provides a single, strict view that prohibits pregnancy termination, but at the same time, threatens the mental and spiritual life of those affected by abortion within social and legal circumstances.
In summary, the opponents of abortion consider this procedure murder and thus impose a variety of responsibilities and restrictions to the life of a pregnant woman within their value system. On the one hand, it is immoral to terminate a pregnancy and kill a fetus regarded as a human being. On the other hand, a woman has the right to choose, especially if the issue of health and medical complications connected with pregnancy occurs.
Thus, the legal, medical, human rights, religious, and moral aspects of abortion all demonstrate the collision of two opposing views. It is impossible to find one universal solution that could satisfy either one or the side of the debate. However, the rational analysis of the reasons for abortion presented in this paper allows for concluding that despite immorality, abortion should be permitted only as a medical measure in specific cases. In such a way, the quality of human life will be prioritized.
Badruddin, Shirin. (2016). “Abortion and Ethics.” Journal of Clinical Research and Bioethics, vol. 7, no. 6, pp. 1-2.
Frohwirth, Lori, et al. (2018). “Managing Religion and Morality Within the Abortion Experience: Qualitative Interviews With Women Obtaining Abortions in the U.S.” World Medical and Health Policy, pp. 381-400. Web.
Marecek, Jeanne, et al. (2017). “Abortion in Legal, Social, and Healthcare Contexts.” Feminism and Psychology, vol. 27, no. 1, pp. 4-14.
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Patil, Alka B., et al. (2014). Medical Ethics in Abortion.” Indian Journal of Clinical Practice, vol. 25, no. 6, pp. 544-548.