The legalization of abortion has always been a difficult and contentious topic of discussion, both in the academic field and politics. In a large number of countries, abortion is made legal and is paid for by the government or other associated agencies (Grossman et al., 2016). In Pacific Island countries, and Fiji in particular, however, the topic can be seen as more difficult to approach. Because of a variety of social, cultural and historical circumstances, discussions of female reproductive health and abortion have not yet sufficiently been developed, despite great strides in that direction (Sainath & Shameem, 1993). Family planning and similar programs are also not paid enough attention, meaning that a large number of parents have children while not being prepared to take care of them (Cammock et al., 2018; Harrington et al., 2021).
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Additionally, research notes that there are significant gaps in the data regarding topics of reproductive health in the Pacific Islands, which makes this discussion more complex (Dawson et al., 2021). Due to the health risks and implications involved, it is sometimes medically necessary to terminate a pregnancy, and this fact has been undisputed largely in the medical community. Currently, terminating a pregnancy due to the danger for the mother’s health is one of the only available ways to perform the procedure legally. However, there are also cases where a mother is not emotionally or financially ready to raise a child, or faces a multitude of other issues that could lead her to wanting to end a pregnancy. In this case, there are a lot less safe channels for a person to perform an abortion, meaning that many women in Fiji are subject to unsafe abortion practices. Facing this statistic, it might be reasonable to discuss the legalization of all abortions in Fiji as a way of improving the health and wellness of less privileged women.
Legalization of Abortion in Fiji
Abortion should be fully legalized in Fiji, because it enhances the quality of life for women from marginalized communities, promotes agency and helps the family planning process. Despite possible moral counterarguments, the legalization of abortions can be considered an overall positive influence, as it ensures that more people will be able to perform the procedures in a regulated environment. Currently, a large number of people needlessly receive harm when undergoing an abortion. Many mothers lose their lives in the process, impacting the health of society as a whole (Gaur et al., 2020). The safety of legalized medical procedures and the ability of people to receive care with an assistance from official facilities will be beneficial to reducing the number of unsafe abortions.
Virtue ethics is a way of discussing normative ethics, focusing on the moral character of decisions and their relative “virtue” compared to other alternatives. The particular definition of virtue in this case depends on the direction of virtue ethics and the discussion at hand. The concepts involved in virtue ethics are aimed at cultivating good character and ensuring that people are able to develop morally throughout the course of their lives. The three specific directions of the virtue ethics include eudemonism, agent-based theories, and the ethics of care (Virtue, n.d). This work will examine legalization of abortion through the lens of all three ethical frameworks, and argue for its necessity.
First, eudemonism, which asserts that virtue lies in promoting human flourishing that lets individuals perform their role in society. People should have the ability to realize the distinct qualities and competencies they have, and normative ethics must be used in support of that process. In this case, the discussion concerns the function of women in society and their ability to perform it. Traditionally, women have been relegated to the role of a caretaker in society, where mothers and wives of the house are responsible for such activities as cleaning, taking care of children, cooking and other homemaking tasks. Concerning this set of functions, the legalization of abortion can greatly aid a woman in being a homemaker. The current state of family planning organizations in Pacific Island countries is insufficient at helping young families and mothers in particular be fully prepared for their role in society (Harrington et al., 2021). Generally, women resort to abortions when they are not ready to have a child, or do not possess the necessary material, emotional or physical competencies to adequately provide care for one. This can include not having a source of income, a partner, or stable living conditions. Mental health problems and young age additionally can be an obstacle in forming a family.
In such cases, the ability to terminate an unwanted pregnancy becomes a vital part of promoting women’s flourishing, as it gives them the necessary time and capacity to be prepared for future pregnancies. The use of unsafe illegal channels, in this case, not only affects the mental state of a woman, but also can potentially impede her future ability to have children. It is also important to discuss other roles of women in society, and the increasing support for women that do not want to have children at all. A large number of people in today’s society might want to pursue other passions instead of homemaking, including professional career development of leisure activities. Women, as much as men, find their purpose in the world doing what they find fulfilling, and society should be able to encourage that effort. In this case, the safe and regulated use of abortions can be used to help individuals to focus on what they want to do, and the contribution to society that they want to make.
In regards to the agent-based theory, it proposes that virtue is determined through common sense, and people should strive to cultivate admirable features in themselves and others. Following this principle, one could also argue for the legalization of abortion, as enhances the mental and physical health of the population. It also reduces mother mortality among the pregnant population (Latt et al., 2019). The performance of safe abortions helps women to protect their bodies from possible surgical harm, and reduces the mental harm done during the procedure. Using common sense, one can determine that the happiness and agency of women are both respectable virtues worthy of cultivation, meaning that the process of legalizing abortion should be performed.
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The last branch of discussion concerns the ethics of care, which considers that consideration of justice and autonomy should be accompanied by more traditionally feminine traits as well. This means that the question of legalizing abortion must be accessed through the feminine virtues of caring and nurturing. Both of these qualities play an important role in society and in the lives of women as well. In Fiji, questions of female autonomy and living have always been difficult to consider, with a large degree of nuance and critique needed to access the situation (Mishra, 2021). As it pertains to this discussion, women that want to have an abortion are also a demographic worthy of care and compassion, meaning that the procedures they partake in should be made as safe and quick as possible. The virtues of care dictate that individuals making a risky and potentially harmful decision to their life and wellbeing must be cared for and supported in the best way possible. If the discussion is started from the angle of raising and birthing a child, similar considerations can also be identified. Women cannot fully display personal virtues of care, compassion and nurturing to children they did not want to have, meaning that the necessary good qualities of these individuals are not uplifted by banning abortions. In giving women the ability to choose their actions, their capacity for future care is enhanced.
There are, of course, possible counterarguments to this position, and they are mostly centered on the moral implications of abortion as an act and its impact on a woman. Many consider non-medically necessary abortions to be immoral, as the act of terminating a pregnancy can be viewed from an angle of killing a future human being. Furthermore, the importance of family as a unit and a consideration in daily life is very high in Fiji, which makes the discussion even more charged (Schoeffel & Meleisa). In this case, it can be said that women do not act within the human virtues of care, compassion and nurturing, and the role they play in society is partially being left unfulfilled. As an answer to this counterargument, one can suppose that the relative harm and moral impact of illegal abortion is much greater that performance of legal abortions. It has been proven by research that the number of abortions in a country is not increased by legalization, but the process is made more safe and regulated for every party involved. This means that practically legalization of abortion helps social institutions to make the procedure that will inevitably be performed safer.
It should be said that while discussions of abortion legalization are a difficult and nuanced topic, it is crucial that the wellness and health of women are protected. By legalizing abortions in Fiji, the country can help its population to act in a more virtuous manner when raising children, while also having the mental and financial capacity to give children the attention and resources they require. Process of legalizing abortions is in line with virtue ethics and their core principles, as it promotes human flourishing.
Cammock, R. et al., 2018. Awareness and use of family planning methods among Itaukei Women in Fiji and New Zealand. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, 42(4), pp.365–371.
Dawson, A. et al., 2021. How do Pacific Island countries add up on contraception, abortion and reproductive coercion? guidance from the Guttmacher Report on investing in sexual and Reproductive Health. Reproductive Health, 18(1).
Gaur, S.S. et al., 2020. Consumption of financial products amongst vulnerable Pacific Island people in New Zealand. Journal of Consumer Marketing, 37(7), pp.833–842.
Grossman, D., Grindlay, K. & Burns, B., 2016. Public funding for abortion where broadly legal. Contraception, 94(5), pp.453–460.
Harrington, R.B. et al., 2021. Family Planning in Pacific Island countries and territories (picts): A scoping review. PLOS ONE, 16(8).
Latt, S.M., Milner, A. & Kavanagh, A., 2019. Abortion laws reform may reduce maternal mortality: An ecological study in 162 countries. BMC Women’s Health, 19(1).
Mishra, M., 2021. ‘Emancipated Women’: The Adis of Fiji and their ‘Native Sisters’. Journal of International Women’s Studies, 22(5), 161-174. Web.
Sainath, M. & Shameem, N., 1993. Abortion trials in Fiji: No protection for women. Reproductive Health Matters, 1(2), pp.116–118.
Schoeffel, P. & Meleisa, M., Pacific Island Polynesian attitudes to child training and discipline in New Zealand: Some policy implications for social welfare and education. Ministry of Social Development. Web.
Virtue. Internet encyclopedia of philosophy. Web.