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The Need for Abortion and the Moral Status of the Fetus


The case study we are supposed to analyze touches upon one of the topics at the confluence of philosophy and medicine – the moral status of a fetus. Nowadays, the necessity of abortions belongs to the number of the most controversial topics as people who rely on religious postulates are likely to see a fetus as a creature that is supposed to have the same rights as the child that is already born.

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Jessica is an immigrant who works hard; she has just been informed that her future child will be disabled. Marco is her husband who is ready to support his wife in any case but still sees taking care of a disabled child as a burden. Aunt Maria is a relative of one of the spouses who insists that Jessica has to focus on her responsibilities as a mother under any circumstances. Dr. Wilson is a healthcare specialist who does not urge Jessica to make a particular decision but believes that abortion would be a difficult but a wise choice.

Which theory or theories are being used by Jessica, Marco, Maria, and Dr. Wilson to determine the moral status of the fetus?

As for the theory used by Dr. Wilson, it is obvious that he is a person who is closely interconnected with objective knowledge and science, and this is why he must be using the scientific worldview while talking to his patients. Even though religious people suppose that a fetus has feelings and conscience, its excitatory system is extremely different from that of a born child, and it is a great mistake to equate them. More than that, I suppose that both Dr. Wilson and Jessica’s husband rely on utilitarian ethics as they pay increased attention to the outcomes not only for the fetus but also for the mother and the father.

According to this theory, the action that leads to more positive consequences for the majority of participants is always more appropriate (Wagner & Dahnke, 2015). Therefore, if Jessica makes an abortion, her child will not suffer because of his disability and the spouses will have an opportunity to improve their quality of life. At the same time, Aunt Maria seems to rely on religious ethics that considers abortion to be not a choice but a real crime; therefore, she tries to appeal to Jessica’s feelings, and it makes the situation even more difficult (Morgan, 2017). As for Jessica, I suppose that she does not have a clear theory and she tries to synthesize religious understanding and other theories mentioned which is impossible.

How does the theory determine or influence each of their recommendation for action?

The theories supported by the participants define the recommendations that they give to Jessica. At the same time, people who seem to support the same theory do not give identical recommendations due to additional factors influencing their attitude to Jessica. As for Dr. Wilson who tries to be polite but informs Jessica that abortion would be the wisest choice, he acts as an uninterested person who can analyze the situation as it is. Marco appears to support the same theory based on the supremacy of utility but his point of view is also influenced by his unwillingness to hurt Jessica’s feelings. Realizing that a woman should make such decisions herself, he shows that he will support his wife in any case.

The recommendation given by Aunt Maria is also defined by the theory she lives by; thus, she urges Jessica to resign with “the Will of God” and accept the situation. As for Jessica, she seems to be in two minds about the situation – she also believes in God but her plans will become impracticable if she gives birth to a disabled child. As it can be seen from the case study, she does not consider herself as a deeply religious person; at the same time, it is difficult for her to prefer abortion as Christian ideas are still important to her. Therefore, it is clear that all the characters from the case base their recommendations upon the theories they support.

What theory do you agree with? How would that theory determine or influence the recommendation for action?

I support the theories used by Dr. Wilson and Marco (utilitarianism and a scientific approach to facts about abortion) and I would also use them if I were supposed to develop the recommendation for Jessica. It is quite difficult to have a conversation with a person in such a situation. Understanding that it is a very traumatic experience for any woman, it is necessary to strike the right balance between providing her with emotional support and describing the situation as it is (Kose et al., 2015). Thus, using utilitarian ethics, I will describe here two possible variants of her future and the future of her husband to let her decide if she is ready to become a mother of a special child who will always differ from his peers.

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In the end, there are a lot of theories that can be applied in a case when a woman does not know if she is ready to become a mother. As is clear from the case, the moral status of a fetus is a disputable question but the final decision should always be made by a mother.


Kose, S., Altunyurt, S., Yıldırım, N., Keskinoğlu, P., Çankaya, T., Bora, E.,… & Özer, E. (2015). Termination of pregnancy for fetal abnormalities: Main arguments and a decision – Tree model. Prenatal Diagnosis, 35(11), 1128-1136.

Morgan, L. M. (2017). The Dublin declaration on maternal health care and anti-abortion activism: Examples from Latin America. Health and Human Rights, 19(1), 41.

Wagner, J. M., & Dahnke, M. D. (2015). Nursing ethics and disaster triage: Applying utilitarian ethical theory. Journal of Emergency Nursing, 41(4), 300-306.

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