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Moral Status of a Fetus with Abnormalities

Technological advancements in the healthcare industry have made it possible today to detect abnormalities at the earlier stages of fetal development. The given technologies were primarily designed to assist families in staying informed and making the right decisions should one face the problem of a difficult choice related to a child’s birth. There are currently numerous theories concerning the moral status of the fetus that attempt to answer the question of how to behave when the mentioned abnormalities occur.

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The case study of a fetal abnormality issue that Marco, Jessica, Maria, and doctor Wilson face touches upon various options that tend to influence the decisions of these individuals. The present paper will uncover the backgrounds and theories each of the four people is guided by when planning his/her further actions.

Applied Theories and Their Influences on the Individuals’ Actions

Every decision a person makes is conditioned by the set of moral principles this man/woman relies upon in life. These principles may echo from ethics, culture, personal relationships, religious values, and other factors. Depending on a situation, some individuals may think and act differently compared to others due to the unique and inimitable mindset they possess. Regarding the women with prenatally diagnosed abnormalities, Cole et al. (2016) admit that above 23% of them start experiencing a major depressive disorder once the diagnosis has been announced. Jessica’s case confirms that depression is the only possible woman’s reaction to the scenario.

From the case study, one discovers that she is torn by both the desire to stay financially independent and her beliefs that no life can be interrupted. Judging by this inner conflict, one may conclude that the woman’s opinions are determined by the self-affirmation theory, which makes a focus on how individuals adapt to changes threatening their self-concept (Greiner & Conklin, 2015). Nevertheless, her moral values will not let Jessica terminate her pregnancy simply because any life is the gift of God and has its rights.

Marco, although expressing concerns regarding his wife’s emotional state, is more inclined to think that fetus is not yet a human being. His judgments are based on the theory of moral agency, which comprises the ability to decide whether one’s actions are right or wrong (Schmitz, Clarke, & Dondorp, 2018). The fetus, however, does not possess a consciousness and cannot judge which decision is the only right option to choose in the occurring situation.

The fact that it lacks a moral status forces one to take firm and decisive measures at times to care for the wellbeing of others. Marco’s thoughts are also supported by the idea that the fetus has not yet developed sentience due to a low pregnancy term. Considering that it cannot feel pain or pressure, he might find it morally easier to discuss the need for an abortion with Jessica.

Judging by the case study scenario, doctor Wilson shares the thoughts of Marco as related to the moral aspect of the matter. The doctor’s worldview is grounded on naturalistic theories and the principles of scientism in particular; he states that the fetus has no moral status. His arguments are based on the facts he acquired from the test results: the fetus has rare conditions and shows a 25% probability to develop Down syndrome. However, his further decisions contradict Marco’s views and opinions about how to represent the information to his wife, as they seemed to provide no alternative. The mentioned theories forced doctor Wilson to immediately deliver the news to the patient and recommend her to terminate the pregnancy regardless of her opinion.

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Maria, the aunt of Jessica, appears to be a follower of conservative Christian ideology. She is adamantly opposed to any mentioning of abortion. Her theological theory is based on the need to follow God’s will, and thus, she reminds Jessica of her responsibilities as a mother. These responsibilities strictly prohibit pregnancy termination since it is equivalent to murder (Schmitz et al., 2018). Therefore, the woman insists on the process to continue no matter what the doctor’s suggestion is.

Personal Judgments

Regarding my opinion about the moral status of the fetus, I strongly believe that no life process can be interrupted. My beliefs, to a greater extent, are influenced by the Christian views and coincide with those of Jessica and Maria. In addition, they are supported by the theory of sentience rejecting any harm dealt with a living being or carrying a threat to its existence (Schmitz et al., 2018). Thus, my theory determines that the pregnancy must not be terminated, and the process should take its natural course.


The given case study introduces various theories influencing the thoughts and actions of its participants. The research findings show that Jessica’s decisions are based on the self-affirmation theory concepts that contradict Marco’s moral agency theory and doctor Wilson’s principles of scientism. Maria’s theological doctrine supports the views expressed by Jessica and makes a primary focus on her responsibilities as a mother. It is evident that the participants are divided into two parties, with Jessica and Maria in one group and Marco and doctor Wilson in the other. The latter opts for the pregnancy interruption, while the former insists on the process continuation. My opinion in this situation is that no life can be taken, and Jessica should carry the fetus to term.


Cole, J. C., Moldenhauer, J. S., Berger, K., Cary, M. S., Smith, H., Martino, V., & Howell, L. J. (2016). Identifying expectant parents at risk for psychological distress in response to a confirmed fetal abnormality. Archives of Women’s Mental Health, 19(3), 443-453.

Greiner, A. L., & Conklin, J. (2015). Breaking bad news to a pregnant woman with a fetal abnormality on ultrasound. Obstetrical & Gynecological Survey, 70(1), 39-44.

Schmitz, D., Clarke, A., & Dondorp, W. (Eds.). (2018). The fetus as a patient: A contested concept and its normative implications. London, UK: Routledge.

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